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How to Become a Career Counselor and a Life Coach


The average human spends around 30% of their life working. Therefore, career satisfaction is a significant issue because it can affect productivity and general well-being. The desire to have a satisfying, engaging career that meets individuals’ needs explains the rise in the demand for career counselors and career life coaches. Keep on reading as we explore the world of career counseling and life coaching, how to become one, and what salaries to expect.

What is Career Counseling?

The big picture in career counseling is helping people make the right decisions to land meaningful, financially rewarding, and satisfying jobs. There are different ways a career counselor can achieve this. They can identify specific pointers through interactions with clients, like interests and strengths. After all of these, a career counselor works with the client to explore opportunities and seek job openings.

Career counseling doesn’t end with researching jobs and discovering personality types; it goes beyond that. Clients also learn practical resume-building skills, alongside essential tips on professional conduct, cover letter writing, and interviews. In a nutshell, career counselors can be confidants, advisors, instructors, and coaches who offer tailor-made services to help every client reach their dreams.

Who Is A Career Counselor?

A career counselor is a trained professional who helps people map out their career ambitions and helps them achieve these goals. It is common to find career counselors in school systems. They help young students examine different career paths that suit their interests and personality types. Career counselors also work with high-placed professionals seeking to switch jobs or adapt to changes in their workplaces.

Related Resource: How to Become a School Counselor

Duties of A Career Counselor

Career counselors cater to a wide range of people. Their duties and work environment change from one work environment to another. Many counselors work in educational institutions with students, while others work with people trying to change occupations. They also work with disabled individuals and ex-military service personnel. Irrespective of where a career counselor may work, they will perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Assist clients in finding new internship opportunities and job openings.
  • Evaluate clients’ interests and career aptitudes through career and personality tests.
  • Explore career possibilities and enlighten clients about the available options.
  • Conduct mock interviews to educate clients on effective interview techniques.
  • Help clients to create cover letters and resumes.
  • Refer clients to community resources like educational programs and job training options.

Types of Career Counselors

Career counselors tailor their services to different clients. For example, a career counselor who works in a school pays attention to the academic trajectory of students. In contrast, career counselors who work with adults in social service environments do more job searches and interview preparations. These are the different roles that can help career counselors determine which population they are most comfortable with:

Elementary School Counselors

Elementary school counselors focus on the developmental need of students. They typically work with school administrators and teachers to implement enrichment programs and curriculums that foster healthy child development. In addition, elementary school counselors have regular meetings with parents to solve problems a child may face.

Middle School Counselors

Counselors who work in middle schools help students pick up skills that will be relevant in the future, such as decision-making and time management. Counselors also ensure that the students are on track academically and prepare them to think about future career and life goals.

High School Counselors

At this stage, the biggest concern is career planning and college. The high school career counselor aims to help set up students for a successful life post-high school. To do that, the counselor searches for higher education opportunities, internships, vocational training programs, and other activities that can hone career skills.

College Advisors

In college campuses and online learning centers, career advisors are very vital. They assist students in deciding on a major to study. Career advisors also help students develop interview skills, find internship opportunities, and write great resumes. College advisors also work with school alumni searching for a new job or switching careers.

Career Coaches

Career coaches are counselors who work with already-established professionals. The clients, in this case, might be looking for a new job, looking to make a career switch, searching for vocational training opportunities, or trying to resolve challenges in their workplace.

Demand for Career Counselors

Deciding on a career path can be one of the most critical decisions in a person’s lifetime. It can go on to determine how successful a person becomes. Because of that, the demand for qualified professionals in the career counseling field is high, especially in schools.

According to the Bureau of Labor Services (BLS), the job outlook for school and career counselors is expected to increase by 11% from 2020 to 2030, for a total of 35,000 new job openings.

The high demand for career counselors is due to the increasing number of enrolled students. Career counselors are needed in academic institutions to set students on the right path to identifying and pursuing their career goals.

Additionally, universities and colleges are expected to hire more career counselors. Career centers are becoming more critical as students build practical resume-writing, interviewing, and job-search skills before leaving college.

Besides schools, career counselors are also in high demand at community resource centers and private practice. Here, career counselors help ex-military personnel switch to civilian careers. They also assist people who find it challenging to land a job and those laid off or looking for alternative career paths.

Skills for Career Counselors and Life Coaches

Career counselors and life coaches have to have compassion and empathy because they often have to work with clients going through tough times and trying to adapt to various situations. Other skills a career counselor needs are:

Communication Skills

Counselors must be able to communicate clearly to help the client. Additionally, they must have active listening skills and clear writing and speech abilities.

Interpersonal Skills

Career counselors need to develop solid interpersonal skills to succeed in this field. They must have a genuine interest in people and a willingness to help. Also, they must be able to relate to people from different backgrounds.

Analytical Reasoning

Career counselors have to process a lot of data such as vocational assessments, personal assessments, personality assessments, academic records, and career profile information. In all of these, they must interpret and analyze the data correctly to assist clients in achieving their set goals.

Importance of Career Counselors and Career Life Coaches

Career Guidance

Career counselors are trained professionals who have a solid grasp of this field. They provide information, guidance, and knowledge to workers and students seeking clarity on their career goals. Students in schools can start working with career counselors from an early age. Professionals also seek advice from career counselors to help them climb the corporate ladder.

Financial Gains

With the help of career counselors, people can improve and expand their professional horizons. Career advancement makes earning more money with in-demand skills and better career choices more accessible. It also offers people the chance to use their time effectively even when unemployed.

Networking Opportunities

Career counselors help clients to develop critical interpersonal skills. When people have strong networking skills, it is easier to make new social connections that may come in handy in the future.

How To Become A Career Counselor

Career counselors who hold a master’s degree or any graduate-level degree are preferred over those who do not have these qualifications. Here’s a breakdown of the steps to becoming a career counselor.

Get A Bachelor’s Degree

Earning a bachelor’s degree in sociology, psychology, social or behavioral science, or any human services-related field is an excellent step toward becoming a career counselor. While searching for a program, it is essential to consider programs that offer topics like counseling methodologies, human development, and other sociological and psychological courses. Courses like these prepare students for a master’s program in counseling.

Earn A Master’s Degree

Employers generally prefer career counselors with a master’s degree in career services or counseling. Candidates who have completed a graduate degree program will have built upon what they have learned in their four-year bachelor’s degree program. Master’s degree programs in counseling generally cover advanced topics such as assessment counseling, career counseling practices and theories, standards and ethics in professional counseling, and research practices.

Gain Experience

Educational career counseling programs typically require a period of internship or practicum to complete. Students who partake in these hands-on experiences develop practical skills that are helpful in their careers. Also, an internship allows students to gain the needed experience for entry-level jobs.

Get Certified

After graduating from a master’s degree program in career counseling, the next step is obtaining a professional certificate. The top certification is the Certified Career Counselor (CCC) credential. Applicants have to take the National Counselor Examination (NCE) to earn this credential administered by the National Career Development Association (NCDA). Career counselors might also need to obtain licensure to practice professionally, depending on the state.

Renew Your License

Career counselors generally have to renew their professional counseling certificates regularly. Most states require that the license be renewed every two or three years.

Professionals need to earn continuing education credits via seminars, development workshops, and research. The National Career Development Association (NCDA) also demands that career counselors obtain continuing education credits to maintain their national career counseling certification.

Join Professional Associations

After earning the required degrees and certifications, career counselors can explore membership in different professional associations. As a member of a professional body, you can get benefits such as networking opportunities and a professional job board, which is updated regularly. Also, being a member of a professional body can do your resume a great deal of good. Some professional bodies to consider joining are:

Additionally, regional and statewide organizations can also provide the same opportunities for your local area.

Get A Job

After joining professional bodies, you can use their job finding aids. Alternatively, you can contact your former internship employer to check for openings. While searching for jobs, it would be helpful to take on internship roles, as they could boost your resume and open you up to new connections.

Who Is A Career Life Coach?

A career life coach is a personal, professional advocate who helps people build their careers and reach maximum potential. Career life coaches are in high demand as they push people to meet their goals and positively affect the trajectory of a person’s career and life in general.

Life coaches employ strong interpersonal skills to understand each client and their background. They use this information to offer an unbiased viewpoint to the client and recommend the necessary steps to take their professional careers to the next level. They also provide support, accountability, and motivation to achieve set goals.

Career life coaches also offer assistance when their clients are going through difficult career transitions. They also assist those battling social and emotional disorders that could disrupt their career potential.

Duties of A Career Life Coach

Life coaches can focus on different niches, which affects their day-to-day responsibilities. These are some of the more general tasks they undertake:

  • Helping clients build skills such as money management and problem-solving.
  • Working with clients to develop realistic goals and drawing out a detailed plan to achieve each objective.
  • Interviewing clients, learning about their history, personality, challenges, and goals.
  • Providing skill and personality tests that help clients see areas for improvement.
  • Educating clients on communication, emotional, and other life skills.
  • Ensuring progress by tracking clients and communicating on the agreed steps.

How To Become A Career Life Coach

Although requirements differ slightly from one niche to another, these are the general steps to pursue if you desire to become a career life coach:

Decide On A Niche

There are so many careers out there, and selecting a career niche can go a long way in making a life coach successful. Consider your interests, skills, and target clients to choose a specialty. For example, a natural problem-solver can develop a life skill coaching career. At the same time, someone with a background in exercise can take the fitness route.

Get Educated

Most niches require some post-secondary education or a bachelor’s degree. However, it is possible to become a career life coach with only a high school diploma in certain areas. Some bachelor’s degree programs can equip prospective life career coaches with valuable skills needed in the profession. These programs focus on counseling theories, psychotherapy, research techniques, and more. It would help to research what applies to the area you have chosen.

Complete A Training Program

Many career life coaches undergo specialized training programs that bring them up to speed with the tools they need in their area of concentration. While these training programs do not entirely replace educational degrees, they can be a great alternative to post-secondary education.

These specialized training programs teach proper coaching methods, ethics of coaching, effective communication, and other vital skills in the field. The programs are typically hosted by professional associations such as the Institute of Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC).

Get Certified

Certifications are not compulsory in this field. However, having one can boost your credibility and demonstrate expertise in a chosen area. Life career coaches can go for credentials at the master, professional, or associate level, typically offering between 60 to 100 hours of training for certificates. The International Coach Federation (ICF) is a great place to start for certifications.

Continue Your Education

Coaching is an ever-evolving field, and new approaches are explored regularly. Coaches can pursue training through workshops, higher education, and seminars to stay abreast of the latest methods. Additionally, organizations that administer certifications, such as the International Coach Federation (ICF), require that coaches renew their credentials regularly. This renewal process involves 40 hours of resource development, continuing education, and ten mentor coaching hours.

Differences Between Career Counselor And Career Life Coach

Career counseling shares a lot of similarities with life coaching. A career counselor offers advice and information that helps clients find a job. On the other hand, a life coach does the same thing, albeit with a more personal approach, paying attention to details such as interests, values, strengths, and weaknesses. The significant difference between career counselors and career life coaches lies in their approach and level of personalization.


Most people meet a career counselor for the first time in high school in the form of a student counselor. The counselor administers tests that show the student’s skills, such as the Motivational Appraisal of Personal Potential (MAPP) or other skill assessments tests. After the tests, career counselors examine the results, highlight the student’s competencies, skills, and aptitudes, and suggest a range of career choices that may be a good fit.

Life coaches also use personalized career and personality assessment tests. However, instead of suggesting general fields, they narrow down the choices and follow through by setting goals and tracking them.

Life Coaches Offer More Personalized Advice

Career counselors typically have a more educational approach for developing skills and tools needed by employers. They also help clients understand the employment terrain with tools like employment statistics, industry trends, and salary expectations. In addition, they can help clients brush up their resumes, write cover letters and get prepared for interviews.

Life coaches also offer all of the services above and something extra. Career life coaches provide a more personalized service, where they try to help clients find their true purpose in the workplace. Their goal is to help clients understand their desires for good jobs and land rewarding professional roles with good salaries. The ideology behind career life coaching is that since people spend a significant amount of their lives working, they should enjoy what they do.

Furthermore, career coaches spend a lot of time listening to their clients. They also use a wide range of exercises, tools, and activities to determine career goals and work towards achieving them. A career coach provides individuals with a clearer picture of occupations that offer the most value and satisfaction.

Salary for Career Counselor and Career Life Coach

The Bureau Of Labor Services (BLS) reports that school and career counselors earned an average of $58,120 for 2020. This range is higher than the median annual wage for all occupations in the US – which is $41,950.

The top 10% in the profession earned over $97,910, while those in the bottom 10% earned lower than $35,620.

Should I Become A Career Counselor or A Life Coach?

Becoming a career counselor or life coach depends on an individual’s personality type, interests, and skills. You have to understand what appeals to you more before deciding on one of the two tracks.
Each career path has its benefits; however, this is a quick guide to help you decide what suits you best.

You can become a career life coach if you:

  • Seek to improve the lives of others
  • Enjoy helping people discover themselves
  • Love to set and hit targets with people
  • It takes less time to become a life coach

You can become a career counselor if you:

  • Enjoy working with a younger audience
  • Want to help people achieve their professional goals
  • Can provide support for people looking to switch careers

Begin Your Career Today!

As the world is recovering from the effects of the global pandemic, more people need direction in their career paths. There is no better time than now to become a career counselor and career life coach, as you will help more people on the way to job satisfaction. Want to find out more about the different career options available? Visit our educational resource center loaded with all the tips and steps you need to succeed in your chosen career path.

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