How to Become a Career Development Counselor

What is Career Development Counseling?

Career development counseling is a service that aims to provide coaching, advice and counseling for clients regarding their career. Counselors in this field help clients to make career-based decisions and set goals for career change or progression. They can the help in developing action plans to aid in achieving these goals and putting these plans into action.

The role of career development counseling is to provide a service to help people better organize their thoughts and feelings about their careers options and focus on what they need to do to achieve their career goals. The aim is to help people effectively analyze themselves to make more positive decisions. This often requires in-depth one-to-one interviews and assessments to identify a person’s skills, motivations and goals.

This entire process is carried out in a way which empowers the client to be confident in their decision making abilities and able to make well informed choices for themselves. Career development counseling gives clients the skills to do that successfully. It promotes the ability to identify the factors influencing someone’s career before discussing how to alter them. Counselors will also work with individuals to improve job hunting skills such as interview techniques, networking and negotiation skills to increase the likelihood of achieving their career goals.

Career development counselors can work with some clients on short-term projects and with others on long-term goals and strategies. Either way the aim is the same, to empower people to make the best careers decisions for themselves.

What Does a Career Development Counselor Do?

Career development counselors work with individuals to guide them in making decisions about their career. They assist people with the process of choosing a career or educational program at all stages of their career. Using aptitude and achievement assessments, career counselors help their clients to evaluate their abilities and skills. They then take the client’s interests, background, training and education into consideration, and assist them in developing realistic goals.

Career development counselors also help clients with a career change by helping them choose and transition to a new profession, or conduct a job search in their existing profession after a layoff. Clients can learn skills including networking and interviewing from a career counselor, along with strategies to find job openings.

Career development counselors also help their clients with the application process for educational programs so they can complete the necessary coursework and training for their chosen career. They can help their clients with conflict resolution in the workplace with supervisors or coworkers.

Related Reading: How to Become a High School Career Counselor

High school counselors practice career development by guiding their students in forming career plans and by helping them to choose classes appropriate for their career goals. They provide information about colleges and universities, training programs, internships and apprenticeships, and assist students in obtaining financial aid. They may also hold workshops to teach resume writing and interview skills, as well as job searches.

Where Does a Career Development Counselor Work?

Career development counselors generally work full time in colleges, for government agencies and in career centers. Some career counselors work in private practice where they market their practice and receive fees for their career counseling services.

School counselors can work in either public or private educational institutions. Career development counselors may work for an outplacement firm to assist employees who have been laid off transition to a new position or a new career.

They may also work in a corporate career center, where they help employees make choices regarding their career path with the company.

What are the Requirements to Become a Career Development Counselor?


A career development counselor is generally required to hold a master’s degree in counseling with an emphasis on career development coursework. Educational programs in career counseling provide the student with the opportunity to assess the abilities, skills and interests of their clients. They also learn how to teach career development techniques. Students will typically be required to complete supervised field work in an internship or other setting.

Career development counselors who work in schools must complete credentials mandated by the state. Usually this means that the applicant must hold a master’s degree in school counseling, or in a related field. Educational programs offer students the opportunity to learn how to foster academic development, conduct individual and group counseling sessions, and work with colleagues, teachers and parents. Students enrolled in a school counselor course of study are typically required to complete a practicum or supervised internship to gain hands-on experience.

Licensing and Certification

While a license is not technically required of career development counselors who work for companies, employers may prefer to hire a licensed counselor. However, individuals in private practice typically hold a license. The licensing requirement is a master’s degree and 2,000 to 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience. Counselors are also expected to pass a state examination, and complete annual continuing education credits going forward. The National Board for Certified Counselors provides state requirement information.

Career counselors working in a public school are required to have credentials issued by the state in order to practice. The state may issue a certification, license or endorsement to candidates who hold a master’s degree in school counseling and have completed a practicum or internship supervised by a licensed school counselor. One to two years of teaching experience may also be required by the state, and in some cases, full time teaching can take the place of the supervised internship requirement.

In addition, most states require a criminal background check. The American School Counselor Association provides information about school career counselor requirements.

What Skills and Qualities are Required for a Career Development Counselor?

Career development counselors need compassion to work with people who may be dealing with stressful situations, such as the loss of a job. They will use interpersonal skills to form effective working relationships with clients and other professionals. To understand the issues at stake, a career counselor needs good listening skills. Speaking skills are required to communicate with clients and students.

What is the Salary for a Career Development Counselor?

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median annual wage for career and school counselors in 2019 was $57,40. Those working in schools earned a median wage of $64,060, those in government earned $51,880, and those who worked in colleges and professional schools earned a median wage of $51,120.

What is the Job Outlook for Career Development Counselors?

Employment is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations, 8 percent.

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