Career Conseling As Career?
September 4, 2012 1:33 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for pratical information on the field of career counseling. Reasons why and more specifics inside.

There's been a voice in my head telling me for some years to follow my thoughts of becoming a career counselor for college or high school students, and now I'd like to begin acting on them. Career counseling seems like a great, um, career, for an ENFP (if you're into the personality types) like me - I would get to help people, I'd get to work in academic settings, I'd get to think in the big picture, and I'd constantly be faced with different people and goals.

My ideal position would allow me to advise college students on their courses of action during college and for their years after college. I'd work in a college setting, mainly as an advisor, and I'd also be a resource for alumni as well who might need some nudging or advice. I'm open to high school counseling, although I'd prefer to keep it career and future-oriented, as opposed to social counseling.

The main thing holding me from diving in is my hatred of student loans. I am fairly certain that this career track requires at least a master's degree, which would require me to take on some debt I'd really prefer to not have, especially considering I'm still paying my undergraduate student loans.

That being said, can anyone confirm that a master's degree is indeed required to be a career counselor? And assuming I could obtain the degree, where could I start, if not directly in an academic setting? (I've heard temp firms use counselors, but I have no real confirmation.) What opportunities exist in the business world for somebody with no experience in the field (I currently work in finance after spending about six years in media production)? Do you know anyone who is - or perhaps you are one - a career counselor, and if so, do they/you like it?

Sorry for the bundle of questions, and thanks to all who answer.
posted by st starseed to Work & Money (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Are you sure that there are even career counselors in colleges? There may be academic advisors, recuiting departments, campus/career coordinators. But trust me, I've never seen the like of a Career Advisor on a college campus.

There is a degree track for High School Counselors, starting with a Bachelors and ending with a Masters. How are you with dealing with some real, heartbreaking situations? Based upon the above, I'm thinking that type of counseling is not in your wheelhouse.

What school were you thinking about? There are 8 in the entire nation that have such an animal. Here is the description from one of the schools. This includes a description of the coursework. Looks pretty heavy in the psych department and it seems very slanted to k-12. How do you feel about living in Talahassee for two years? You could do an on-line degree through Phoenix University or Capella University. You could also throw money down a rat-hole too.

Temp firms do not use counselors. On one side, people who want to work and have certain skills, on the other places that need warm bodies. A person working at a temp firm just tries to match one from column A with one from column B. There is no need for any specific education in this instance.

As for colleges, you'll see shit-loads of adds for Admissions Counselors. These are sales jobs. Pure and simple.

Forgive me for saying this but I think that you've invented a cool job in your head. I don't believe that it actually exists in the way that you want it to in the real world.

What I'd recommend for now is volunteering with an organziation that works in helping people re-enter the workforce. Perhaps a women's shelter would be a good place to start. It would be helpful if you had some skills to teach. Could you teach Microsoft Office?

Or you could amass some bogus degrees and open up shop as a "Life Coach".
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:31 PM on September 4, 2012

I disagree in part, RB - there are definitely Career Development Centers (and I'm sure the same thing under other names) in colleges. They provide career counseling, perform interest inventories, and connect students with job recruiters, etc. And I think they're similar to what the OP is looking for.

What I'm not sure about is the need for a specialized degree "in Career Counseling." Sounds like either an HR degree, a more general counseling degree, or the like. But the way to find out would be to google around and look at actual departments like this and find out what degrees the people working in them hold.

st starseed, I don't know where you are in life, whether you already have any degrees at all, or what, but one thing that colleges tend to indoctrinate that I don't always agree with is the idea that you have to have a degree that perfectly and exactly fits a job description. I know lots of people whose degrees don't match their job field exactly.
posted by randomkeystrike at 3:14 PM on September 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

I am a career counselor and I totally exist in the real world. So does the type of job you are interested in.

I've had two different types of jobs in this field. The first was in a federally funded non-profit that helped people re-enter the workforce after being laid off, the second is as an academic and career advisor at a community college.

At the non-profit, what I did was more "pure" career counseling. The people I was working with had been laid off, many of them from fields they were unlikely to be able to return to and had to start over. A fair amount of what I did was just listening to people and exposing them to career areas they maybe didn't know existed. I worked really hard to stay in tune to our local labor market to help people find a career area where they could find employment. I also helped with the logistical part of making their new career plan happen. Sometimes this was coordinating volunteer opportunities or helping with resume re-tooling or interviewing. Often people decided to return to school and I helped them figure out the logistics of that process.

The second (and more common type of job) is as an academic and career advisor in a community college. I help people decide what type of schooling will best help them meet their career goals and then help them make that happen. I also help with resumes and interviewing (though that doesn't come up super often) and help people find internships, part-time jobs or volunteer opportunities.

I have a masters degree in education policy. Most of my coworkers at the community college have masters degrees as well, most in counseling, education, student services/higher education or (less commonly) social work. At the non-profit, almost none of my coworkers had masters degrees. A masters degree hasn't been required for either of my jobs. Coming from a career in finance, a business school's career center might make sense for you (and might not require an additional degree) Human resources is another common background for people in this field.

There are more opportunities for individuals who are interested in and have experience working with disadvantaged populations or lower skilled students. Getting experience with those populations (even through volunteering) will expand your employability significantly.

Some professional organizations or certifications that carry weight in my area:
Career Development Facilitator

Hope this helps, feel free to memail me if you have other questions!
posted by mjcon at 3:41 PM on September 4, 2012 [5 favorites]

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