A career counselor is a teacher, confidant, parent, and advisor to his clients. He helps people examine their interests, their styles, their abilities, and their levels of satisfaction to find and enter the profession which best suits them. Much of this is done through exploring histories and behavior of the client, so a career counselor has to be sensitive to the different ways the human mind and the human psyche work. Most career counselors have degrees in psychology or are licensed therapists. The two most difficult things about the profession, our surveys indicated, was the frustration associated with most counseling, and the general problem of paperwork that nearly all medical professionals said they hated. Therapists and counselors alike are facilitators–the client must be an active and important part of the process. It is difficult for career counselors not to invest part of themselves in their clients, sharing their joys and sorrows.
A career counselor spends most of his day meeting with clients and helping them progress to greater levels of personal awareness. These meetings are usually in the form of sessions where through interactive exercises and personality assessment tests, the career counselor helps the client understand her motivations and desires more thoroughly. This process can be hard work. “People expect to come out a week later, with a perfect understanding of what job they should do for the rest of their life,” said one career counselor. “It’s not that simple, and it’s not that quick.” They must carefully listen to what their clients say and be able to elicit information from them. The best counselors help clients understand the forces within them and figure out ways to channel those forces into productive career choices. They can be helpful both to those who have yet to choose a career and those who are unhappy with their choice.
How to Become a Career Counselor
A Master’s degree is the norm for career counselors, preferably in career counseling itself, but more often in a related field, such as mental health counseling, psychological counseling, or community counseling. Familiarity with basic personality, interest and skills tests, such as the Holland Code, the Myers-Briggs Analogy Test, and the Birkman Personality Assessment (a customized version of which appears in this book) are invaluable aids in assessing your clients’ occupational possibilities. Usually, a successful career counselor works as an independent counselor but gets references from other services, therapists, or agencies. This entails long hours, intense listening, and assessment skills, and the ability to think objectively without being swayed by emotion. Your job is not to tell everyone that their career (perhaps one they’ve spent considerable time and money on) is the perfect one for them. Your job is to help them discover what careers allow the possibility of greater fulfillment.
Careers Related to Being a Career Counselor
Career counselors have an instinct to help people and the energy and organization to follow through on their instincts. Many continue these impulses into the realm of teaching, vocational counseling in school, and social work. Others become therapists with further educational pursuit. A minority go into corporate recruitment and professional head-hunting agencies; the business world is a much more results-oriented, commission garnering occupation which doesn’t satisfy the same needs or desires that career counseling does.
What Does the Past And Future Look Like for Being a Career Counselor?
As a discrete profession, career counselor is a relatively new creation. Many occupations used to have career counseling as part of their job description, as vocational counselors in high school, job retrainers in other professions, and psychotherapists all took on part of that role.
Career counseling is a rapidly growing field. Many therapists whose clients have included people with career issues are crossing into the field, and still there is adequate demand to support nearly twice the number of career counselors. Certain careers are glutted with people who put serious time and effort into achieving success, but feel unhappy with their lives in general. These people benefit most from career counseling as the root causes of their dissatisfaction are addressed.
Quality of Life
Two Years Out
Many two-year career counselors work with established professionals who have an existent client base. Many are still moving through training programs associated with established testing authorities, such as the Holland Code test or the Birkman Personality Assessment test, and spend significant time attending professional seminars and keeping up with professional reading. A number of career counselors come to the profession as psychotherapists, and many make the transition to career counselor gradually. Expect few dramatic success stories in these early years–an understanding of the length of the process is important.
Five Years Out
Most successful practitioners have seen progress among their clients, with many shifting jobs in these first five years. Reputations have increased, as have client bases. Salaries have gone up, hours are significant, and satisfaction is strong. Those who began with other more established counselors break off between years four and seven to begin their own practices. Marketing skills become important. Many career counselors have become involved in the professional community. A number travel frequently to professional education seminars, conferences, and other professional establishments to train in cutting-edge counseling services and learn new methods of aiding clients.
Ten Years Out
Those who’ve survived ten years in the profession have solid reputations and have many clients who have passed to new occupations. Education continues, much as it does through the entirety of the profession. Many begin scaling back hours and professional commitments during these later years (except those who have achieved the highest positions of authority in these organizations) in order to increase their quality of life and devote more time to professional writing. Ten-year veterans are prolific members of this profession, contributing to professional journals and mainstream publications regularly. Hourly wages increase but salaries remain constant as professionals spend less time working with clients, and more time tending to themselves.
|# of people in profession||15,000|
|average hours per week:||45|
Adventures in Education (On-line)
NCS Career Magazine
National Business Employment Weekly
Books, Films and TV Shows Featuring the Profession
What Color is Your Parachute?
Do What You Are
|Birkman & Assoc., Inc.
3040 Post Oak Boulevard
Houston, TX 70056
Contact: Patti Corbett
|International Survey Research
303 East Ohio Street
Chicago, IL 60611
Contact: Human Resources
|Career Advisory Services
501 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016
You’ll Have Contact With
Vocational Testing Consultants
|American School Counseling Association
5999 Stevenson Avenue
Alexandria, VA 22304
|New York State Education Department of Professional Services
89 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY 11230
|National Board for Certified Counselors
3 Terrace Way
Greensboro, NC 27403