Career counseling is one of the most essential professions needed in the world. It is no news that the world is changing. As it is changing, so are career choices.

New careers are being established while some old ones have gone into extinction. As technology is still advancing, some jobs are no longer needed as much as they used to. Recent statistics show that an average person changes their job about 12 times in their lifetime.

However, one career that will not go into extinction anytime soon is career counseling.

This article shows you what it takes to become a career counselor and How to begin your journey to becoming a certified professional in career counseling.


Being a career counselor is more than just helping people decide what career path to take. The position is so vital that most employers require you to have a master’s degree on the course.

Career counseling, sometimes also known as career coaching, is a professional service rendered that guides various people on their career paths.

In all honesty, choosing a career is one of the most challenging decisions young people (and even adults) have to make. About 50% of working-class adults have said that they hate their jobs. Either the job isn’t satisfying, they are bored, or their career is too tricky.

What makes you unsatisfied with your job

Source: Zippia

Because they are unhappy in their jobs, these employed people are more likely to feel detached and become less productive.

The clients of a career counselor vary from career professionals to high school students and even veterans who are looking to change their career paths.

How Important is Career Counseling?

According to Boise State University‘s take on career counseling, the profession can benefit anyone — anyone looking to enter the workforce or who wants to either change their career path or develop the current one.

People need career counselors to help them understand and navigate their various career options. There are various reasons why a person changes his job, including new interests, geographical change, knowledge advancement, and the need to earn more.

Many people enter into jobs they are not passionate about. Over the years, they become distant, less motivated, and less productive in their jobs. In the process, these employed individuals lode themselves.

Career counseling aims to help people understand themselves and what career best suits them. Career counselors map the changes of the ever-evolving job industry demands. They use the knowledge they have gathered to teach students and job-seeking candidates.

Source: Statista

Critical Roles of a Career Counselor 

The primary job of a career counselor is to help job aspirants and career professionals to make critical decisions concerning their career paths. A career counselor also teaches job search skills and techniques for resolving conflict in the workplace.

Career counselors also perform other essential responsibilities like:

  • Helping candidates to identify the key factors that influence their career development
  • Educating clients on career opportunities, either in individual sessions or group settings.
  • Assisting clients in handling career issues like job termination and job stress.
  • Providing advice to clients throughout their job search process. Also, providing resources to aid in career development.
  • Teaching clients to set career goals and plan actionable steps in achieving their career objectives.

Every other responsibility of a career counselor revolves around these critical responsibilities.


Career counseling is a highly professional job. It also requires critical skills in psychology and counseling. To become a career counselor, you need to meet specific requirements.

1. Earn a Bachelor’s (and Master’s) Degree

A bachelor’s degree in a related field, like sociology, psychology, social science, or behavioral science, is significant. These fields will take you on human development and counseling methodologies, among other sociological and psychological studies.

Getting a master’s degree in career counseling or any other related field is essential too. Most employers require you to get a Master’s degree to qualify for the position. The master’s degree programs will concentrate on career development and theories, the psychology of human development, and counseling theories.

You can attend classes online, thanks to the digital availability of classrooms, or you can enroll in an offline college.

2. Go for Internship 

The purpose of an internship is to gain work experience. Since career counseling is highly professional, you need some level of practical experience before becoming a certified career counselor. An internship will help you build the critical skills needed in guiding people in their career paths. You become exposed to the nature and requirements of the job.

Various educational institutions offer internship programs for aspiring career counselors. For example, UC Berkeley offers a career counseling internship program that provides training for college students seeking experience in career development and counseling.

Qualifications for Internship 

Internships are usually opened for second or third-year college students interested in career counseling or any related graduate program.

As an interested candidate for the internship, you should possess a basic understanding of career and counseling theories and career testing. You should also know how to use occupational resources.

Most internship programs require you to possess practical counseling skills. However, it is also during the internship program that you develop the critical skills needed in guidance counseling.

3. Obtain a License or Certificate 

After your internship, you need to obtain a license or certificate to qualify as a career counselor. Most states require you to pass the counselor exams to obtain licensure or certification.

How To Obtain a License or Become Certified

Certification exams from the National Career Development Association (NCDA) give you credentials as a certified career counselor. You can also get certified by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC).

Obtaining a credential from the NCDA is only suitable if you have an advanced degree (master’s or higher) in counseling psychology, counselor education, rehabilitation counseling, or any other field related to career counseling. Getting certified by NCDA is an essential certification to get as a career counselor. It is because NCDA recognizes the intersection of career development and counseling.

After successfully becoming certified by any or both of these national boards, you are now recognized and accepted as a qualified member. You can now begin to practice legally. Additional licenses, under NCDA, you can get include:

The required certifications vary in each state. You must do a background check to know which certifications are required in the state you want to work in.

4. Seek Employment

Once you get certified and licensed to work, you can now start actively seeking employment. If you want to begin as a freelancer or you want to work in a company fully, it is your choice.

The best places to begin as a career counselor are:

  • High-schools, Colleges, and Vocational Schools: To guide students in getting ready for their chosen career paths.
  • Employment and Staffing Agencies: To help workers in career development and to improve work-related skills.
  • Social services offices
  • Private companies

When seeking employment or landing a good client, you should constantly update your resume. Include your essential skills, past work experiences (including internship programs), educational level, and your certifications. Your certifications are crucial because most employers look out for if you are certified or not.

As a career counselor, you can also work as a therapist, social worker, corporate recruitment staff, teacher, or life coach.

It is not easy to say how long it will take to become a career counselor. The amount of time it takes depends on how quickly and focused you are to meet the requirements.


Not everyone is qualified to become a career counselor. The position requires specific skills if you want to succeed as a career counselor. All other skills are subsidiaries under these top skills.

Communication Skills

Practical communication skills are a must-have for every counseling job, including career counseling. As a career counselor, you must be able to convey your ideas, thoughts, and opinions clearly to your clients.

Communication is vital in every form of relationship, including counselor-client relationships. You are helping your clients make one of the most significant decisions in their lives. Communication involves patience and empathy.

Your clients vary, so their method of communication varies too. You explore various methods of communication to guide your clients in the best possible direction.

Active Listening 

Giving your clients your undivided attention makes them feel heard and important. As a career counselor, you should possess excellent communication skills, including active listening. Communication isn’t only about what you say but also about what you do. Non-verbal communication speaks louder than verbal communication.

In your internship program (and also in your degree programs), you are trained to listen to your clients actively. Active listening is essential for effectively assessing a client’s skills and personality.

Interpersonal Skills

The most prominent job of a career counselor is to match up a client with a suitable career based on the client’s skills and personality. But it doesn’t end there. The career counselor then works with the client to strengthen the skills required for the job by helping the client get the adequate and necessary resources needed.

As a career counselor, you should know how to relate with people effectively. Being able to relate with people through body language, collaboration, empathy, and inquisition enables them to be more comfortable and easily open up to you.

You build strong relationships with your clients. One essential way of building trust and strong relationships is by giving your clients your undivided attention: no phones or any form of distractions. Your clients should be free around you to be able to vent out their fears, anger, and frustration.

Problem-solving Skills

What is the point of counseling if you cannot help your clients realize their problems and solve them? Without being able to solve problems, there is no need for clients to come to you for help.

Problem-solving skills also involve critical thinking. To know how to solve problems, you must be able to analyze situations carefully and thoroughly deeply. You compare and contrast various situations and possible outcomes. Keep an open mind; this means that you should not be biased. As you help your clients solve their problems, you gain their trust even more.

Take practice tests to analyze your skills. You should be able to identify human challenges from what they say (verbal) and what they do not say (non-verbal).

Research Skills

Career counselors know something about almost everything – career-wise. This means that you should be given to research. There is always something to research about, especially if you want to stay updated and offer valuable and accurate information.

You should be curious to know and understand more. The truth is that you cannot help your clients if you know very little. So be prepared to seek out the latest information – theories, data, specific behaviors, and disorders. Also, researching helps sharpen your brain.

Flexibility Skills

Because you will likely have more than one client, you must know how to be flexible. Your clients come from different walks of life, so their challenges, backgrounds, and personalities differ. If you want to develop a

Learn how to adapt to your clients. Develop a unique relationship with each of them. This also includes addressing them based on their individual personalities and backgrounds.

Because your clients differ, your counseling method and relating with them should also vary. What works for client A may not work for client B. This is why active listening and interpersonal skills are very critical to succeed in career counseling.

The skills mentioned above are the most critical skills you must possess as a career counselor. It is possible to have clients of various ages — high-school or college students, middle-aged working-class, and veterans. You need these essential skills to be effective in your career as a career counselor.


The earnings of career counselors vary depending on various factors like level of experience, education, geographic location, or what the employer is willing to pay.

According to, when it comes to the level of experience, junior career counselors earn an average annual salary of about $41,173. However, senior career counselors earn about $80,004 per year. The top 3 highest paying cities for career counseling include:

Salaries also differ based on the employer. For example, government agencies and universities are more likely to pay more.

Career counseling is very lucrative and is fast becoming a top in-demand career. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the job outlook for career counselors is more likely to increase by 8% in the next 10 years. This statistics prove that career counseling is a stable job field to get into with lots of future opportunities.


People have various career options in mind, but they don’t really know which one is best for them. They may want to start a blog, sell online courses, enter into project management, or become an SEO Writer. Not every job is cut out for everybody. In most cases, the people who already have jobs do not know how to develop and reach their career goals.

That is why your job as a career counselor is significant.

Career counseling is a very lucrative job. You get to meet and deal with various people from different walks of life.


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