The Pros and Cons of Becoming a Career Counselor
Career counselors help people figure out their professional callings. Read below about the pros and cons of becoming a career counselor.
|PROS of Becoming a Career Counselor|
|Certain settings have good anticipated job growth (for 2012-2022: 17% for colleges and universities, 25% for healthcare)*|
|Some entry-level jobs are available with a bachelor's degree**|
|Working in private practice may bring higher pay***|
|Helping others with their careers can be satisfying*|
|CONS of Becoming a Career Counselor|
|Some employers require master's degrees*|
|Job outlook is poor in some industries (11% decline in the federal government from 2012-2022)*|
|You must earn a professional license to work in private practice*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ** Various job boards, April 2012, ***Michigan.gov.
Job Description and Duties
Career counselors might help college students decide their majors, advise the unemployed on re-entering the workforce, or help a company's employees determine their career objectives with the company. Some clients face challenges that career counselors must take into account, such as handicaps, lack of education, or criminal records. In private practices, career counselors perform many of the same duties, but they often must implement marketing practices to attract their own clientele; payment collection is also the responsibility of private career counselors.
To help clients realize their career objectives, career counselors often have them perform various aptitude tests. They might also help clients improve their interviewing and networking skills, teach them to conduct job searches, provide career training, and help them resolve workplace conflict. While most career counselors typically work standard 40-hour work weeks, additional hours may be necessary to conduct workshops, attend meetings, or accommodate clients' schedules.
Salary Info and Job Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for career and school counselors was expected to increase 12% from 2012-2022, which is average growth. However, a faster-than-average 16% growth was predicted for career counselors in colleges and universities, and a 26% increase was expected in the healthcare sector. As of May 2014, the average salary for counselors providing educational and vocational guidance was about $56,000, reported the BLS.
What Are the Requirements?
Career counselors generally need a master's degree in counseling or education with a concentration or certificate in career guidance. While earning your degree, you will typically complete field work in order to gain practical experience and complete a thesis based on individual research. Some entry-level positions, such as those in community service, may only require a bachelor's degree.
Licensing and Certification
Private practice counselors are usually required to have a license, according to the BLS. To get a state license, you typically need a master's degree, 2,000-3,000 hours of supervised experience, and a passing score on a licensing exam. To maintain licensure, continuing education is necessary.
The National Board for Certified Counselors offers the National Certified Counselor (NCC) credential. To earn NCC certification, you need a relevant master's degree, 48 credits in required coursework, at least 3,000 hours of supervised experience, and a passing score on the national exam.
Since the thrust of a career counselor's job involves working with others, you must have good interpersonal skills. Compassion for those in complicated situations - like those who are out of work and struggling to find a job - can make you an excellent career counselor. Additionally, you should be able to:
- Communicate effectively
- Listen well
Jobs Posted by Real Employers
Most organizations want you to have a master's degree in career counseling or a related field. However, some entry-level jobs, such as those in community services, may only require a bachelor's degree and 1-2 years of experience. You should be able to conduct testing and analyze results to be able to help clients and students find work or the proper career path. Read here about samples from April 2012 job postings:
- A government vocational center in Milwaukee, WI, sought a career counselor with one year of experience in career development or vocational counseling with young adults. A bachelor's degree in a related field as well as strong problem-solving, computer, management, and communication skills were required.
- A Michigan university looked for an assistant director of student advising with five years of experience in undergrad student career development and a master's degree in education. The professional would work with new students to help them choose majors and develop coursework plans. Previous experience in budgeting, management, and data analysis was preferred as well as excellent leadership and communication skills.
- A university in South Dakota searched for an associate director of career development with a master's degree in counseling or student affairs and 3-5 years of experience in college-level career counseling. The job requirements included promoting and connecting students with career opportunities in the community. Preferred candidates had knowledge of online job searches, internships and job markets.
Standing Out from the Crowd
Since licensure isn't required for all work settings, being a licensed counselor can make you stand out to employers who don't require the license. Having knowledge about a variety of aspects of career counseling, such as local job markets, internship opportunities, labor laws, and employment and industry trends can give you an edge. You can also make yourself a valuable asset by networking with various employment professionals, such as company recruiters and human resources managers, and accumulating a working list of contacts.
Other Careers to Consider
School Social Worker
If career counseling doesn't sound like a good fit, but you want to work with students to help them overcome difficult situations, consider social work. According to the BLS, family, child, and school social worker career opportunities were predicted to increase 20% from 2010-2020. Helping fuel this faster-than-average growth rate are increasing student enrollment rates. However, salaries for these professionals, who typically need master's degrees to work in schools, were rather low; May 2011 BLS data showed an average salary of about $44,000.
Human Resources Specialist
If the average salary for career counselors doesn't make the extra years of schooling worth it, contemplate a career in human resources. Human resources specialists are hired by companies to search out, interview, and train new employees for the company. The BLS stated that these professionals typically need a bachelor's degree. Furthermore, the average salary for human resources specialists was nearly $59,000, and the projected 2010-2020 employment growth rate for these specialists was 21%, according to BLS 2011 data.