How to Become a Career Counselor

Career counselor with tablet in hand sitting across from client

A career counselor is a professional who works one-on-one with individuals to help them identify their career aspirations and work toward their goals. Many career counselors work in school systems where they help students explore the jobs that could be a good fit for their personality and interests. Others work with established professionals, helping them navigate career transitions or work through changes in the workplace. If you dream of helping others achieve their dreams, consider becoming a career counselor.

Exploring the Basics of Career Counselor Work

According to a Gallup report made in conjunction with the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and other entities, only 40 percent of Americans were satisfied with their jobs. Additionally, 44 percent considered their jobs “mediocre” and 16 percent labeled them “bad.”This is an alarming statistic, but as a successful career counselor you could help people find careers they enjoy. Professional counseling helps clients develop crucial job skills, explore career options and work toward getting their foot in the door of their dream job. Specific responsibilities include any of the following:

  • Help clients develop organization, time management, conflict resolution and leadership skills.
  • Evaluate the abilities and interests of clients through interviews and aptitude evaluations.
  • Guide clients as they explore potential career fields and specific jobs.
  • Help clients identify and overcome obstacles related to their ideal career path.
  • Provide support as clients deal with job-related stress, job loss or career transitions.

The job outlook for career counselors looks positive. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rate of job growth through 2028 is expected to rise by eight percent. Beginning a career as a career counselor starts with earning a counseling degree or a psychology degree with a relevant focus.2

Earning Your Bachelor’s Degree

To become a career counselor, you will first need to earn your bachelor’s degree in a related field. It may help to choose a baccalaureate program that explores human development or human services. For example, a Bachelor of Science in Psychology degree or a counseling degree provides a strong academic foundation for understanding the needs of your future clients.

Earning Your Master’s Degree

As soon as you have completed your bachelor’s degree, you can begin working toward your master’s degree. Look for a master’s specifically designed for aspiring school or career counselors, such as a Master of Education (MEd) in School Counseling. This type of program will enable you to develop an in-depth understanding of what students and jobseekers are struggling with. It will also help you understand what obstacles they in the path toward a meaningful and rewarding career.

Completing an Internship

Your graduate-level counseling education can be enhanced with a supervised internship experience. This internship enables you to gain real world experience working with students or established professionals. Your work will be overseen by a faculty member and a clinical site supervisor, who will offer guidance along the way and help you learn to become a more effective career counselor. Remember to carefully document your internship hours, as you may require a certain number of them to qualify for state licensure.

Passing Required Exams for Licensure

Aspiring career counselors should become familiar with the licensing requirements for the state in which they plan to practice. If you need to secure licensure, then you can expect to take an examination administered by the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC) such as the National Counselor Examination (NCE). The NCE is a 200-item multiple choice test that evaluates your skills and knowledge in the counseling field. Upon successfully passing it, you will have National Certified Counselor (NCC) certification.3

Earning Advanced Certifications

Although advanced certification may not be strictly required in your state to practice as a career counselor, it will help to establish your professional reputation and enhance your qualifications. After you have passed your licensure exam, consider pursuing certification from the National Career Development Association (NCDA).

The NCDA offers several options for vocational counselors. For example, you may pursue the Certified Career Counselor (CCC) designation. Earning this certification establishes your commitment to professional excellence as a counselor.4 

Other options include the following:

  • Certified Career Services Provider (CCSP)
  • Certified Master of Career Services (CMCS)
  • Certified Clinical Supervisor of Career Counseling (CCSCC)
  • Certified School Career Development Advisor (CSCDA)
  • Certified Career Counselor Educator (CCCE)

Consider beginning your path as a career counselor with Grand Canyon University’s counseling programs. Our degree programs are Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Master of Education in School Counseling degree programs will provide you with the academic and practical expertise you need to guide student, professionals and other clients on the path to their desired career paths. To learn more about the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, visit our website or click on the Request Information at the top of this page.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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