How to become a career guidance counselor

Career guidance counselors aim to help people looking to find a career path where they can thrive. From the worker displaced by layoffs to the new college graduate looking to enter the professional world, career counselors use a variety of tools and methods to help workers determine and meet their professional goals. They can also offer support with different parts of the job hunt, such as those listed below.

  • Locating resources and career information
  • Formulating a plan for finding new employment or switching careers
  • Pinpointing the particular skills of an individual and how those might translate to employment opportunities

Education requirements for career guidance counselors

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many employers prefer a candidate with a master's degree, but there isn't a specific educational track required for career counseling. The Princeton Review reports that people interested in becoming career guidance counselors may benefit from earning an advanced degree in one of the following areas:

  • Community sciences
  • Mental health
  • Psychology

The BLS also suggests that aspiring career counselors pursue a master's degree in counseling, but with an emphasis in career development. Licensure may be required in some settings, most particularly for career counselors in private practice. Earning a license, according to the National Board of Certified Counselors, protects the general public by defining who is and who is not defined as a professional career guidance counselor. In order to earn a license, the BLS reports that you may be required to pass a background check and complete between 2,000 and 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience. Please check with your state licensing board in order to ascertain the requirements you might need to fulfill.

How much can you make as a career guidance counselor?

For statistical purposes, the BLS places career counselors under the umbrella of educational, guidance, school and vocational counselors. For that employment category, the mean annual wage nationally was $56,160 in 2013. For the same time period, the five top-paying states for these positions were:

  • New Jersey: $70,070 average annual salary
  • Alaska: $67,870 average annual salary
  • New York: $63,960 average annual salary
  • District of Columbia: $63,500 average annual salary
  • California: $63,250 average annual salary

Where can you work as a career guidance counselor?

There are professional opportunities for career counselors around the country, but some geographical areas have higher employment concentrations than others. According to the BLS data, the top metropolitan areas for employment of educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors in 2013 were:

  1. New York-White Plains-Wayne, NY/NJ
  2. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA
  3. Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, Il
  4. Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, AZ
  5. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA
  6. Houston-Sugarland-Baytown, TX
  7. Philadelphia, PA
  8. Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA
  9. Dallas-Plano-Irving, TX
  10. Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA

Check out the infographic below to learn more about helping others achieve their career goals and aspirations, get details on where career counselors work and how much money they earn, and see a complete list of sources.


National Certification and State Licensure, National Board for Certified Counselors,

Occupational Employment and Wages: Educational, Guidance, School and Vocational Counselors, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, May 2013,

School and Career Counselors, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014,

How to Become a Career Guidance Counselor
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