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Molding the Path: How to Become a Career Counselor

July 8, 2016

Two women in business attire discuss careers

An estimated 20 to 50 percent of students enter college as “undecided,” and 75 percent change their major before graduating, according to Virginia Gordon in her book The Undecided College Student: An Academic and Career Advising Challenge. Many students do not receive proper guidance on education and career decisions, and as a result, they end up working in a job unrelated to their major. Only about a quarter of college graduates in the labor force work in a job that is directly related to their major, Jaison Abel and Richard Deitz write in Liberty Street Economics.

On top of this, less than half of U.S. workers are satisfied with their jobs, according to eight consecutive years of results from The Conference Board Job Satisfaction survey. Career counselors can make a difference in people’s lives and hopefully reverse these trends by pointing clients to the right education and career path for them.

Career Counselor: Job Description

A career counselor helps people make decisions that impact their careers, such as choosing a profession or degree program. Career counselors base their advice on the following.

  • Education and Training: A career counselor uses a client’s current and desired educational level to develop realistic career goals. Additional education or training may be possible or recommended.
  • Personality and Interests: Questions and assessments help a career counselor determine how a client’s personality type and interests relate to career choice. Considerations might include work engagement, environment, flexibility and salary.
  • Skills and Abilities: Aptitude and achievement assessments can help define a client’s skills and abilities. Interviews and tests can help pinpoint the careers where the client is more likely to be successful.

A career counselor works with clients at various stages of their careers, including those in college and people who have already entered the workforce. Roles and responsibilities largely depend on the client and work environment. More than 90 percent of career counselors work at higher education institutions and public and private schools, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A small portion of career counselors work in government agencies and career centers.

The median annual wage for school and career counselors is $53,660. Employment is expected to grow 8 percent by 2024.

Career Counselor: Education and Training

Some employers prefer that career counselors have a master’s degree. Licensure is also preferred by some employers, but it is not required in all states.

Aspiring career counselors can complete their education in counseling or career counseling programs. Depending on their intended work environment, they can pursue degrees in fields like psychology and education.

Those wishing to work as a career counselor at a Christian college or university can consider the fully online M.S. in Higher Education from Grace College. This faith-based program prepares graduates to help students as a career counselor or in other administrative positions. Job opportunities include dean of students, resident director, student affairs administrator, campus ministries director, learning center coordinator and more.

This is the only M.S. in Higher Education offered exclusively online, providing students with a flexible and convenient learning environment that accommodates work and personal schedules. The program is taught by professors who all have terminal degrees and extensive experience in higher education.