How to Become a Career Counselor

  1. Complete a bachelor’s degree in a behavioral, social science, or human services field
  2. Earn a master’s degree in counseling
  3. Complete graduate and postgraduate internship experience for certification/licensure requirements
  4. Pass any required exams for certification/licensure
  5. Apply for and earn additional certifications
  6. Continue your education and stay up to date on career counseling trends and changes

For vocational and academic planning, some individuals may seek the assistance of a career coach or counselor. By applying career development theories, facilitation skills, informal and formal assessment, and case management, career counselors provide students, job seekers, and professionals with the support and guidance needed to reach their career goals.

Career development can be a lifelong process with ongoing opportunities to improve. Career counseling helps individuals understand themselves and the world of work to make solid occupational, education, and life decisions. Skills that are learned through career counseling can become long lasting tools to help clients make future career and life decisions independently.

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What does a Career Counselor do?

Through the utilization of tools, assessments, and the evaluation of skill levels, career counselors help individuals make decisions about their careers paths, teach job search skills, and work on conflict resolution techniques for application in the workplace. Working with a wide array of clients in various stages of their life, counselors with a career speciality will also provide support to those already entered into the workforce on improving their current career. From the start, career counselors help college students explore their interests, strengths, and skills in relation to academic majors and degree paths. As with any other counseling occupation, career counselors must practice by their own set of professional counseling ethics as put forth by the National Career Development Association (NCDA).

Services that career counselors provide typically involve:

  • Individual and group counseling sessions
  • Promotion of self-advocacy and determination
  • Teaching decision making, conflict resolution and job searching skills
  • Providing support for job stress, conflict, loss, and career transition
  • Making appropriate referrals
  • Engaging in career development issues affecting social policies and legislation

Using assessments and tests, career counselors assess the skills and strengths of clients in relation to career options and pathways.


Career coaches focus on the present and future of their client’s career in terms of advancement in their career or transition to another.

Steps to Become a Career Counselor

Step 1: Complete a bachelor’s degree in a behavioral, social science, or human services field.

Earning your bachelor's degree in a counseling or human services related field can lay the foundation that allows you to learn about human development, counseling skills, and even career development.

Step 2: Earn a master’s degree in counseling.

Career counselors obtain their master’s degree in counseling or career services with coursework concentrations on career theories, career development, counseling theories, and the psychology of human development.

Step 3: Complete graduate and postgraduate internship experience for certification/licensure requirements.

As a crucial aspect of accredited counseling degrees, graduate and postgraduate supervised counseling experience allows students to dive into their future licensed role as a career counselor.

Step 4: Pass any required exams for certification/licensure.

Some states and/or counseling programs require the passing of a counselor exam for graduation or certification/licensure such as the National Counselor Examination (NCE) and/or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE). Check the available licenses and required examinations for counselors in your state through the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC).

Step 5: Apply for and earn additional certifications.

The National Career Development Association (NCDA) offers credentials for traditionally trained counselors and others to pursue education as a career development facilitator, career services provider, master of career services, career counselor, and clinical supervisor of career counseling, and career counselor educator. These certifications fine tune graduate coursework to best assist clients seeking career guidance and planning.

Step 6: Continue your education and stay up to date on career counseling trends and changes.

To maintain state licensure as a professional counselor, career counselors must obtain continuing education credits through workshops, conferences, presentations, and/or research to name a few formats. In addition, those with NCDA certifications are also required to pursue professional development in the field of career services.

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What are the certification and licensure requirements?

Similar to other counseling careers, certification and licensure requirements vary from state to state. Some employers may prefer that career counselors are certified by the NCDA as the credentialing programs provide extended and specific learning on career resources, transferable facilitation skills, providing and evaluating assessments, case management, and job searching skills.

Career Outlook for Career Counselors

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that school and career counselor positions will increase eight percent from 2018-2028 - bringing more than 27,200 jobs. With the increase of student populations at all educational levels, the need for these counselors is also higher. The BLS examines that growth of employment opportunities may be strained by budgets from state and local governments. Universities are increasingly offering onsite career services which paves the way for more career counselor positions.

Career counselors are incorporated with school and educational counselors as described by the (BLS) , therefore employment statistics will not be estimated for just career and vocational counselors. Counselors in the career sector are often employed by schools, universities, vocational rehabilitation services, and individual/family services. Employed most in California, Texas, and New York, career counselors may earn over $78,000 a year.

Learn more about counselor salaries in all 50 states.

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Bellevue University

Program Overview

  • Program Name: Master of Science in Clinical Counseling
  • Program Length: Two to three years
  • Instruction Methods: Asynchronous

Program Requirements

  • 60 Credit Hours
  • 100-hours practicum
  • 600-hours internship
  • Residential and online students are responsible to complete practicum and clinical internship hours under supervision of a licensed counselor.
  • Candidates for the master’s degree program must have completed a prerequisite requirement of 6 credit hours in the behavioral sciences.

Admission Requirements

  • A Bachelor’s or Master’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university, or a U.S. equivalent degree from a nationally or internationally accredited college or university
  • GPA of 2.5 or better from the most recent 60 credits of coursework earned toward the bachelor’s degree OR
  • GPA of 3.0 or better in previous graduate level coursework earned toward the graduate degree
  • May require letters of recommendation and essays in certain circumstances

North Carolina Central University

Program Overview

  • Program Name: Master of Arts in Career Counseling
  • Program Length: N/A
  • Instruction Methods: N/A

Program Requirements

  • 48 Credits
  • 100-Hour Practicum
  • 600-Hour Internship

Admission Requirements

  • Undergraduate degree from an accredited university
  • Minimum GPA of 2.7
  • Completed online application with $40 fee
  • Two Recommendations
  • GRE Scores
  • Application Essay

Western Kentucky University

Program Overview

  • Program Name: Certificate in Career Services
  • Program Length: N/A
  • Instruction Methods: N/A

Program Requirements

  • 15 Credits
  • Career Counseling Internship

Admission Requirements

  • Undergraduate degree and transcripts from an accredited university
  • Admissions Application with $45 fee
  • Statement of Purpose

Last updated: April 2020