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What is a Career Counselor?

While many people are familiar with the role and function of mental health counselors, the counseling profession owes its origins to career counselors. Career counselors work with their clients to assess their interests, identify clear career goals, and explore potential careers based on extensive career interest and personality testing. Often times, career counselors are employed in schools and universities, but may also find employment in governmental agencies, or offer their services via a private practices.

Licensure and Training

Like traditional mental health counseling, career counselors must earn a minimum of a masters-level degree in counseling, career counseling, counseling education, or counseling psychology. While many graduate programs do not specify what type of undergraduate education an applicant must earn, it is not uncommon to see students interested in pursuing a career in counseling to major in subjects such as psychology, sociology, anthropology, business, and gender studies.

Career counselors are licensed to practice in all 50 states, however licensure requirements can vary from state to state. To ensure that you are meeting the licensure requirements of your state, it important that you choose a graduate program in counseling that is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP). After graduation, counseling students will need to pass the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification, register with their state counseling board, and select a counseling supervisor before beginning their practice.

Career Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics career counselors can expect about the same job growth as most other jobs in the U.S. In particular, growth in schools and universities, in addition to employees retiring from the profession, should lead to continued job growth within the profession. Unsurprisingly, career counselors primarily found employment in schools, junior colleges, and universities, though they also found employment working for the federal government, within insurance companies, and vocational rehabilitation facilities. In 2015, career counselors earned an average salary of $56,490, with an upward salary range of $87,640.

Work Environment

Because many career counselors work in school and university settings, they will typically be hired to work traditional work hours, and will typically have an office in which they will meet with students or clients. This is in stark contrast to the work environment of mental health counselors, which will typically work in hospitals and clinics, and may be employed to work late and on-call hours for their facilities. At the school and university level, career counselors may work with students to understand their personality type, how their personality can work in tandem with setting career goals, and finding careers ideally suited for each student’s personal needs and desires.

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Working for a vocational rehabilitation facility involves some of the same techniques as working with students, but also includes working with clients to develop job skills and finding means of gaining meaningful employment. In this setting, you may be working with clients recovering from alcohol or drug addiction, clients suffering from homelessness, or clients with physical or mental disabilities that may have had trouble finding employment in the past.

Making a Difference

Whether you decide to work in a school, vocational rehabilitation facility, or in your own private practice, career counselors make an impact in each of their client’s lives. Finding and maintaining meaningful employment is one of the most crucial aspects of life, and impacts every decision a person will make from where they will live, to what they will eat. As a career counselor, you will play a vital role in helping your clients make one of the most important decisions in their lives.

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