Career Counseling Training: 9 Certifications, Courses, & Degrees

Career counseling certificationThinking back to your original decision to pursue your current career, do you remember what influenced your choice?

Did you consider the impact that pursuing this career would have on your general happiness and wellbeing?

How would you like to help others make the right decisions regarding their future and career?

Career counselors assist individuals who are deciding on their future career or choosing to pursue a new one. They seek to understand the best professional route for their clients by assisting them in further understanding themselves.

Integrating career counseling into your existing practice is fairly simple and may be an impressive addition to the services you currently offer.

This article will provide an outline of the principles behind career counseling, as well as the type of training and certification required. Additionally, we will provide a few options for courses and specific degree programs that facilitate career counseling.

Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Meaning and Valued Living Exercises for free. These creative, science-based exercises will help you learn more about your values, motivations, and goals and give you the tools to inspire a sense of meaning in the lives of your clients, students, or employees.

Training in Career Counseling 101

The field of career counseling has evolved to help provide guidance surrounding what vocation will fit an individual’s lifestyle, personality, and educational qualifications.

More specifically, career counseling is “the pursuit of any therapeutic intervention whose scope is to affect the career decision-making process based on elements/theories of traditional counseling” (Robertson, 2013, p. 3).

The life-design framework for counseling is an “intersubjective process which defines client experience through using personal accounts (i.e. life stories) to frame their unique pathway” (Savickas et al., 2009).

In terms of applying the life-design model to career counseling, practitioners focus more on discovering the intention, purpose, and calling of the individual, rather than simply administering aptitude tests to discover what model fits the client best (Madigan, 2011; Savickas, 2015).

It is important to incorporate life-design strategies alongside career counseling strategies to ensure that you are addressing the individual, as well as examining the career path they want to take.

Below are strategies that are in line with the life-design framework, which can be incorporated alongside any formal career counseling training (Savickas et al., 2009):

  • Motivating the client and developing client self-esteem and self-efficacy
  • Challenging dysfunctional thoughts and co-constructing new narratives toward achieving career goals
  • Developing the client’s self-knowledge (e.g., career management skills, career values, career interests) and acquisition of information regarding career and educational opportunities
  • Helping the client learn job-search techniques and develop self-presentation skills and a social network
  • Providing help (if needed) in practical matters such as sending job applications and creating résumés
  • Developing the client’s action plan
  • Supporting the client throughout implementing the action plan

When engaging in career counseling, the most effective results are not based on the modality of counseling that the practitioner employs, but the number of sessions the client completes, as well as the quality of exercises and amount of occupational information the counselor employs in their practice (Milot-Lapointe, Savard, & Le Corff, 2018).

Therefore, it is essential that career counselors seek the most relevant and applicable training when pursuing career counseling as a specialization or adding career counseling to an already established counseling practice.

 

4 Career Counseling Courses & Degrees

Becoming a career counselor requires you to have a bachelor’s degree (in any field) and a master’s degree in counseling. A background in counseling and therapy is essential in pursuing career counseling.

While clients might not start off seeking emotional support or challenging negative thinking patterns, these are elements that can emerge and keep a client from being successful in their chosen career path (Robertson, 2013).

Therefore, career counselors may need to provide elements from traditional counseling and therapeutic techniques to ensure their client is in the right headspace to put their energy toward pursuing their career goals.

Below, we have provided you with a few graduate programs that are specific to career counseling.

 

1. Master of Science Degree in Career Counseling (MS), Florida State University, United States

College of Education

This program combines clinical training with expertise in career counseling, and students can pursue a specialty in either career counseling or clinical mental health.

The diversity that the program offers gives students the opportunity to combine their knowledge about career counseling with clinical mental health, giving them the option of working with their clients to assist in both areas.

Prospective students also have the opportunity to pursue an education specialist (EdS) degree, if they are working in educational settings and want to upgrade their qualifications, while the MS is geared more toward students looking for a central specialization.

Students in both programs have the opportunity to work in the career counseling field, as the university has a partnership with the Florida State University Counseling Center.

This program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP), which governs counseling standards in the United States.

Find out more on their website.

 

2. Master of Arts Degree in Career Counseling (MA), North Carolina Central University, United States

This program aims to prepare students to work as career development professionals. The entire program is completed online, and the first of three placements is even completed virtually through video conferencing software. The final two placements are completed with the career counseling center on campus.

Specific areas of study include general counseling modalities, and courses examine theories and models of career counseling, intending to prepare students to work in a variety of settings, including K–12 schools, colleges and universities, nonprofit organizations, and private companies.

This program is accredited by CACREP.

Find out more on their website.

 

3. Master of Arts Degree in Counseling and Career Development (MA), Colorado State University, United States

Colorado State

This master’s program aims to equip students with the skills necessary to become career counselors who can focus on achieving mental wellness and fulfillment in all areas of a client’s life.

Focus is placed on ensuring that students have the knowledge and skills to help their clients develop life–career plans, integrating work and other life events into their client’s plan for success.

Students are also trained in career education, planning, management, and guidance to complement their counseling.

This program is accredited by CACREP.

Find out more on their website.

 

4. Master of Science in Integrative Counseling and Coaching (MSc), University of East London, United Kingdom

The aim of this program is to combine the resolution of internal conflicts that counseling offers with the goal and behavioral change solutions that coaching offers. Having skills in both domains is key for career counselors, as clients may seek a combination of both counseling approaches to attain success in their personal and professional lives.

This program requires three years of part-time study, offered both online and in person. While the first year focuses on counseling models with a strong emphasis on personal development, the second year integrates evidence-based coaching models, integrating both disciplines together under the framework of personal consultancy.

In their third and final year, students embark on an independent research project of their choosing to show how they have applied the knowledge they have gained in academic settings.

The program is accredited by the British Association for Coaching and Psychotherapy.

Find out more on their website.

 

5 Best Certification Opportunities

While a few master’s programs are specific to career counseling, others offer career counseling courses alongside a regular counseling program. Postgraduate certifications are shorter and typically add on to an existing knowledge base garnered through a practitioner’s previous education.

When deciding which option is right for you, it is important to consider where you are in your individual pathway as a practitioner and how strongly you want to focus on career counseling in your practice.

This section provides you with a selection of postgraduate certificate programs and courses that are shorter and can provide a brief, more condensed introduction to the field of career counseling.

 

Graduate and postgraduate certificates

1. Graduate Certificate in College and Career Counseling, University of Memphis, Tennessee, United States

University Memphis

This certificate is designed to provide individuals who are currently engaged in educational settings with the expertise and knowledge to counsel students entering post-secondary or vocational studies.

The focus in this program is specific to high school students entering the next stage of their educational journey, making this ideal for guidance counselors in a high school setting looking to upgrade their qualifications.

This program is open to students pursuing a graduate degree or who meet the minimum requirements, as outlined in the University of Memphis program guide. In addition, this program places an emphasis on working with special populations and social justice to help their graduates provide specific guidance for varied populations.

Find out more on their website.

2. Postgraduate Certificate in Career Development (PgCert), Edinburgh Napier University, Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Edinburgh

Unlike other programs, this program focuses on self-directed learning, as the program is mainly online and requires the individual to complete coursework at their own pace. This makes it ideal for individuals who are already engaged in a career, as they can complete the coursework on their own time, while still engaging in effective learning.

Students have access to guided readings and weekly tutor support to assist with course content.

This course welcomes applications from international students, as well as individuals living in the United Kingdom. The program is designed to be completed in one year of part-time study. Courses are focused on career development practice and the influence of the labor market, public policy, and institutional arrangements on career counseling.

Find out more on their website.

3. Graduate Certificate in Career Services (CCS), Western Kentucky University, United States

 

This graduate certificate is for individuals who are already pursuing a standalone degree or have obtained a master’s degree in a related subject (e.g., education, psychology).

The program aims to educate professionals on engaging students in the academic experience through providing guidance on academic majors and career choices.

Courses emphasize a focus on student post-secondary experiences, applications for student services, and advanced career counseling. The focus on student guidance makes the program well suited for professionals who are working in a post-secondary educational environment and looking for additional education surrounding career-specific guidance.

Find out more on their website.

 

Professional development certification courses

Although coaching and counseling are not the same field, they share a lot of similar goals, including the intent to help your client achieve the best version of themselves through behavioral change and personal goal setting.

To help elevate your counseling services and better serve clients who want guidance on taking their career to the next level but already have the tools to manage their personal life, we recommend you look at these coaching certifications that focus solely on career development.

1. Career Development Practitioner Certification (CDP), remote, Career Pro Canada

CPC

This intensive certification provides a combination of traditional career coaching instruction, such as résumé building and interviewing, alongside the foundations of career coaching and work–life balance in sessions with clients.

It is a fully online program designed for professionals looking to enhance their skills and expertise in a shorter time frame.

Despite the correspondence nature of the program, there is an emphasis on online collaboration with instructors and other individuals completing the course. These discussion forums give students the flexibility to interact and complete assignments on their own time, while still being part of a community of learners.

Find out more on their website.

2. Certified Career Coach Course, remote, Get Five, United States

Get five

Although this course centers more around coaching than counseling, this eight-week program provides a great transition point into the field of career coaching.

They provide a five-step method that encourages course participants to examine the outcomes they want from their professional practice and engage in goal setting for themselves. By developing these habits in professional practice, they are better able to coach their clients on effective means of transmitting success in their future career.

The program also offers several mentorship opportunities, and students are paired with an experienced coach from the start to guide them through the process.

Communication with the coach continues even after the course is complete to help students integrate the knowledge they have gained with their client base.

Find out more on their website.

 

PositivePsychology.com’s Relevant Resources

We have several resources available for you to integrate into your career counseling practice or help introduce your clients to more career-focused exercises.

In addition, we have included bridging exercises that combine career and the development of general wellbeing, since both constructs are seen as being interrelated in promoting satisfaction in one’s life.

  • This Work and Wellbeing Survey is an excellent preliminary resource for counselors looking to assess a client’s satisfaction with their current state, both professionally and personally. This scale aims to measure a client’s vigor, dedication to their current occupation, and absorption in the current tasks they are completing at work.

This document contains a long and short version of the survey, as well as a scoring guide for both versions. The aim of the survey is to measure how engaged a client is in their current line of work and, alternatively, act as a means of identifying burnout in their workplace.

  • Coping With Stress provides strategies for clients to engage in self-awareness regarding what situations and things are stressful for them. In addition, the worksheet encourages clients to come up with productive ideas about combating stress and dealing with triggers that cause stress.

In a career counseling setting, this would be useful for clients to apply to everyday stressors, to identify areas in their working life that cause them to underperform or interfere with achieving their professional goals.

 

A Take-Home Message

Consultation with career counselors is becoming a more common practice and is often coupled with assisting individuals in dealing with other aspects of their life such as reducing stress and increasing decision-making power.

Looking at our preferences in line with our future career options can result in a great deal of uncertainty. Providing clients with some stability and a sympathetic ear can change someone’s life, especially in today’s ever-changing economic structure.

We hope this article provides you with some tips for integrating career counseling into your current practice or inspires you to seek out a new path as a career counselor.

If you enjoyed reading this article, don’t forget to download our three Meaning and Valued Living Exercises for free.

If you wish to learn more, our Meaning and Valued Living Masterclass© will help you understand the science behind meaning and valued living, inspire you to connect to your values on a deeper level, and make you an expert in fostering a sense of meaning in the lives of your clients, students, or employees.

  • Madigan, S. (2011). Narrative therapy. American Psychological Association.
  • Milot-Lapointe, F., Savard, R., & Le Corff, Y. (2018). Intervention components and working alliance as predictors of individual career counseling effect on career decision making difficulties. Journal of Vocational Behavior107, 15–24.
  • Robertson, P. J. (2013). The well-being outcomes of career guidance. British Journal of Guidance and Counselling41(3), 254–266.
  • Savickas, M. L. (2015). Life-design counseling manual. Retrieved May 20, 2021, from https://dwd.wisconsin.gov/youthapprenticeship/pdf/2017_forum/eidsmoe/manual_LifeDesignCounseling.pdf
  • Savickas, M. L., Nota, L., Rossier, J., Dauwalder, J. P., Duarte, M. E., Guichard, J., … Van-Vianen, A. E. M. (2009). Life-designing: A paradigm for career construction in the 21st century. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 75, 239–250.

About the Author

Dr. Gabriella obtained a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto (OISE) in Developmental Psychology and Education where her research is centered around emotions, instruction, and online learning. She currently works as a psychological consultant with children, adolescents, and adults in Toronto, Canada. In her spare time, she enjoys building her writing portfolio, spending time with her family, and walking her dog.

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