Outlook & Growth
This career is expected to grow 14 percent—faster than average—through 2018. Demand for vocational or career counselors will grow as job changes and layoffs become more common.
In addition, state and local governments will employ growing numbers of counselors to help current welfare recipients and laid-off employees find jobs. Counselors also will find work in private job-training and placement centers.
Salary & Wages
In 2008, career counselors and career life coaches earned an average salary of $51,050. The middle 50 percent earned between $38,740 and $65,360. The highest 10 percent earned more than $82,330.
What is a Career Counselor or Career Life Coach?
Career counselors or career life coaches provide career counseling outside the school setting. Their chief focus is helping individuals with career decisions. They explore and evaluate the client’s education, training, work history, interests, skills and personality traits. They may arrange for aptitude and achievement tests to help the client make career decisions.
Career counselors also work with individuals to develop their job-search skills and assist clients in locating and applying for jobs. In addition, they provide support to people experiencing job loss, job stress or other career transition issues.
Education & Degree Path
Carefully check the education and licensing requirements in your state. Counselors working in certain settings or in a particular specialty may face different licensure requirements. For example, a career counselor working in private practice may need a license, but a counselor working for a college career center or private employment firm may not.
Forty-nine states and the District of Columbia have some form of counselor licensure that governs the practice of counseling. Requirements typically include the completion of a master’s degree in counseling, the accumulation of two years or 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience beyond the master’s degree level, and the passage of a state-specific exam.
Life coaches do not need licensure in most states. Many life coaches practice with only a bachelor’s degree or with private certification. Many private training institutes claim to offer courses and certificates in life coaching online. Be very careful as many of these “institutes” are unaccredited. There is little oversight of credentialing for life coaches as opposed to counselors.
Many professional counselors elect to be certified by the National Board for Certified Counselors, Inc., which grants a general practice credential of National Certified Counselor.
Entering the Field:
A master’s degree is often required to be licensed as a counselor by any state. Some states require counselors in public employment to hold a master’s degree; others accept only a bachelor’s degree with appropriate counseling courses.
If you have no background in counseling services you can begin exploring this field by earning a certificate or associate degree in human services, counseling, psychology or the general social sciences.
Those with training in human resources often choose to specialize in career or life counseling. Anyone who has worked in social services, correctional services or another helping profession might consider this career. Mental health and substance abuse counselors and psychiatric aides sometimes move into career and life counseling to reduce the emotional burn-out that can accompany working with the mentally ill.
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Source for salary and growth data is the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For more information on careers in career counseling and life coaching, salaries, and job prospects visit: U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008-09 Edition, Counseling, at http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos067.htm.