How to Become a Career Counselor

Career Counselor Key Stats
Avg. Salary / year $54,950
Avg. Pay / hour $26.42
Education 4+ Years
Job Outlook 8%

Career Counselors are professionals who help other individuals make career choices and choose a career or an educational path.

Their role is important in helping people make important life decisions that will affect them long term.

Career Counselors may work with individuals at any stage of their career including undergraduate students still deciding on a major, to experienced professionals who may be thinking of a career change.

Using their educational background and experience, Career Counselors will work individually with their clients to take assessments, discuss interests, skills and qualifications that may guide them to the perfect career path.

Education Requirements to Become a Career Counselor

Individuals who would like to make the steps to become a Career Counselor must meet a variety of requirements in order to enter this profession.

Individuals must have a combination of personal characteristics, a postsecondary degree and possibly seek a certification, license or receive an endorsement in order to become a Career Counselor.

Some important characteristics to have to become a Career Counselor include: interpersonal skills, listening and speaking skills and the ability to show compassion.

All these skills will enable Career Counselors to help individuals who may be dealing with a stressful situation, such as unemployment or be able to communicate effectively with students or their clients for them to fully understand the scope of information being presented.

As far as educational requirements, individuals must complete a minimum of a Master’s degree in order to enter this profession.

Individuals must focus their degree in counseling with a focus in career development or a closely related field.

This educational track will prepare students with career development techniques and be able to evaluate an individual’s interests and skills.

In addition, many Counseling programs also require individuals to gain hands on experience through an internship.

Many employers prefer to hire individuals who are licensed.

However, a license is not necessary to enter this field.

To secure a license, individuals must complete a total of 2,000 to 3,000 of supervised clinical experience after attaining a Master’s degree.

Career Counselors must also take and pass a state issued exam and fulfill annual continuing education classes to remain licensed.

Visit the website for the National Board for Certified Counselors NBCC to learn more information about licensure.

Career Counselor Job Description

Career Counselors work individually with their clients to guide them to choose the best career path.

Some Career Counselors work in colleges or universities while others may own a private practice, work at an outplacement firm or in corporate career center.

Career Counselors will work with individuals in different stages of their lives from students beginning their undergraduate studies to experienced adults looking for a career change to individuals who have been out of a job or who have been laid off.

Career Counselors will typically begin with an assessment to determine an individual’s experience, skills and educational background.

They will help their clients determine the type of jobs they are qualified for and offer suggestions on how to qualify or if their degree is sufficient enough to apply for a certain position.

Career Counselors will also help individuals make a plan to make improvements in their current profession and give guidance on how to make the steps to enter a different field.

Career Counselor Salary and Career Path

In 2012, the median wage for School and Career Counselors was approximately $53,610 per year.

Exact wages will depend on the industry an individual works in.

For example, the median wage for Career Counselors who work for a federal government agency is approximately $50,710 while individuals working for schools at the state or local level earn approximately $60,560 per year.

These wages come with a full time schedule with individuals who work for a school system sometimes getting breaks off during the summer.

The job outlook for School and Career Counselors is expected to grow at an average rate of 12 percent through the year 2022.

This growth is attributed to an increase in school enrollments but may be limited by a possible decline of funding from state and local governments.

Career Counselors are individuals who help their clients make decisions about their career paths.

This includes meeting with them individually, taking assessments and helping them create a path to get to their preferred career choice.

Individuals interested in this path can expect job growth in this profession, as well as the ability to help individuals make progress in their careers.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2021 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$69,520
New Hampshire$53,510
New Jersey$76,040
New Mexico$59,680
New York$70,150
North Carolina$52,870
North Dakota$59,080
Rhode Island$64,340
South Carolina$54,550
South Dakota$46,960
West Virginia$51,110
Puerto Rico$36,440
Virgin Islands$53,250

The top earning state in the field is California, where the average salary is $81,590.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

California - $81,590
New Jersey - $76,040
Massachusetts - $75,660
Washington - $75,160
Maryland - $72,730
* Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors and Advisors, OCC Code 21-1012, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a career counselor do?

A career counselor is a professional that can work in college, school, and university or in private practice.

Those who work in schools make sure to help the students choose the career that is best for them and matches their desires and skills.

A professional career counselor also takes into consideration familial and peer pressure, the personality traits of the client, and their underlying drive.

The typical responsibilities of a career counselor usually include thoroughly interviewing the client; assessing the client; applying the information in job searches; providing help in locating the resources for strengthening the skills needed, and so on.

Of course, a career counselor should have impeccable knowledge about the salary rates and the requirements and skills needed to enter any career field.

How much do career counselors make?

On average, a career counselor can make a little less than $42.000 per year in the United States.

In case you decide to choose this career path, you can expect to earn anywhere between $36.000 and $61.000 annually.

The salary would certainly depend on a variety of factors – your education and experience level, the facility you work in, the location and so on.

Career counselors in Illinois, for example, have the highest average salaries.

An entry-level career counselor can earn around $17 per hour, while a top-level specialist with plenty of experience can make $29.50 and more per hour.

How much does it cost to become a career counselor?

In most cases, you would need a bachelor’s degree in counseling, education, social work, psychology or any other related field, in order to become a career counselor.

A year in a university can cost you anywhere between $8.000 and $45.000 (and more); the cost depends on a variety of factors (the books, supplies, and accommodation expenses are not included).

To improve job perspectives, you can decide to go for a master’s degree (it will cost you around $30.000 to obtain one).

In case you decide to pass the National Counselor Examination, you would have to pay a $275 examination fee.

What is the demand for career counselors?

Between 2018 and 2028, the career counselor job market is expected to grow by 8%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That is a little faster than the average for all occupations in the United States.

The growth will certainly depend on the state and local budget and on whether or not the school enrollments will be increasing.

How long does it take to become a career counselor?

It will take you 4 years to obtain a bachelor’s degree and 1-2 years to earn a master’s degree.

You can consider seeking an internship during your last year in university to get that on-job experience as the majority of employers prefer the candidates to have at least a few years of counseling experience.

Some states require career counselors to have a license.

You would typically need to have at least a bachelor’s degree to obtain a license, though sometimes a master’s or a Ph.D. is required; moreover, you would have to complete 3.000 hours of post-master’s work.

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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