CareerExplorer’s step-by-step guide on how to become a career counselor.

Step 1

Is becoming a career counselor right for me?

The first step to choosing a career is to make sure you are actually willing to commit to pursuing the career. You don’t want to waste your time doing something you don’t want to do. If you’re new here, you should read about:

What do career counselors do?
Career Satisfaction
Are career counselors happy with their careers?
What are career counselors like?

Still unsure if becoming a career counselor is the right career path? to find out if this career is right for you. Perhaps you are well-suited to become a career counselor or another similar career!

Described by our users as being “shockingly accurate”, you might discover careers you haven’t thought of before.

Step 2

High School

High school courses that can prepare students for a career in career counseling can vary, depending on the specific requirements of the program or institution. However, there are some general areas of study that may be beneficial for those interested in pursuing this career path.

  • Psychology: Psychology courses can provide a foundation of knowledge on human behavior, emotions, and mental processes, which can be helpful in understanding the motivations and challenges of career counseling clients.
  • Sociology: Sociology courses can provide insight into social structures and dynamics, which can be useful in understanding how individuals are influenced by their environments, social class, and culture.
  • Communication: Communication courses can help students develop strong communication and interpersonal skills, which are essential in building rapport with clients and facilitating effective communication between individuals and within organizations.
  • Business and Management: Business and management courses can provide a foundation of knowledge in business practices, leadership, and organizational behavior, which can be helpful for career counselors working with individuals seeking employment or navigating workplace dynamics.
  • Education: Education courses can provide insight into educational theory and teaching methodologies, which can be helpful for career counselors working with students and recent graduates.

In addition to these courses, it can also be helpful for students to gain experience through internships or volunteer work in related fields such as social services, education, or human resources. Ultimately, a strong foundation in psychology, communication, and business, coupled with relevant experience, can prepare students for a successful career in counseling or career counseling.

Step 3

Formal Education Steps

To become a career counselor, you typically need to complete the following formal education steps:

  • Earn a Bachelor's Degree: In most cases, a career counselor will need to have a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology, Counseling Psychology, or a related field. This degree typically takes four years to complete and provides a strong foundation in the principles of counseling and psychology.
  • Earn a Master's Degree: While a bachelor's degree may be sufficient for some entry-level counseling positions, many career counselors pursue a master's degree. This degree typically takes an additional two years of study and provides more advanced training in counseling theory and practice, as well as specialized coursework in career development.
  • Gain Professional Experience: After completing your formal education, you'll need to gain professional experience in the field of career counseling. This may involve working in entry-level counseling positions, such as a career services specialist, before advancing to a full-fledged career counselor role.
  • Obtain Certification: While not always required, many career counselors choose to pursue certification through a professional organization, such as the National Career Development Association (NCDA). Certification typically requires a combination of education, professional experience, and passing an exam.
  • Continuing Education: To maintain your certification and stay up-to-date on the latest trends and best practices in career counseling, you'll need to participate in continuing education courses and professional development activities on an ongoing basis.
Step 4


There are several certifications available for career counselors. Here are some of the most common certifications:

  • National Certified Counselor (NCC): Offered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC), the NCC certification is a general counseling certification that covers a wide range of counseling areas, including career counseling.
  • Certified Career Counselor (CCC): Offered by the National Career Development Association (NCDA), the CCC certification is specifically for career counselors and requires a master's degree in counseling or a related field, as well as a certain amount of professional experience in career counseling.
  • Global Career Development Facilitator (GCDF): Offered by the Center for Credentialing and Education (CCE), the GCDF certification is for professionals who provide career development services to a wide range of individuals, including students, job seekers, and individuals with disabilities.
  • Master Career Counselor (MCC): Offered by the NCDA, the MCC certification is a higher-level certification for experienced career counselors who have completed advanced training in the field.
  • Board Certified Coach (BCC): Offered by the Center for Credentialing and Education (CCE), the BCC certification is for professionals who provide coaching services in a variety of areas, including career coaching.
Step 5

Online Resources

There are numerous online resources available for career counselors, some of which are:

  • National Career Development Association (NCDA): NCDA is an organization that provides resources and information for career counselors. It offers a range of online resources, including webinars, conferences, publications, and career development tools.
  • American Counseling Association (ACA): ACA is another organization that provides resources for career counselors. Its online resources include webinars, conferences, publications, and an online library.
  • Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH): The OOH is a valuable resource for career counselors, providing information on hundreds of occupations. It includes job descriptions, education requirements, job outlooks, and salary information.
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS): The BLS provides data on employment and labor trends, which can be useful for career counselors. It also offers information on specific occupations, industries, and regions.
  • CareerOneStop: CareerOneStop is a website sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor. It provides career exploration, training, and job search resources for both career counselors and job seekers.
  • My Next Move: My Next Move is an interactive tool that helps career counselors and job seekers explore careers based on interests, skills, and education level. It provides information on job duties, skills required, and salary information.
  • Career Explorer: Career Explorer offers a free platform that helps people find their ideal career. It has an in-depth career test that lets individuals see their compatibility with over 900 careers.
  • LinkedIn Learning: LinkedIn Learning offers courses on career development, leadership, and other professional skills. These courses can be useful for career counselors to stay up-to-date on industry trends and develop their own skills.
  • Indeed Career Guide: Indeed Career Guide provides information on career paths, job search strategies, and salary information. It also offers resources for career development, such as resume writing tips and interview advice.
  • Glassdoor: Glassdoor provides company reviews, salary information, and job listings. It can be a useful resource for career counselors to help their clients research potential employers and job opportunities.
  • The Muse: The Muse provides career advice, job search tips, and company reviews. It can be a valuable resource for career counselors to help their clients with career exploration and job search strategies.
Step 6

Employment Opportunities

There are many employment opportunities available for career counselors, including:

  • Educational Institutions: Career counselors can work in schools, colleges, and universities to provide career guidance to students and alumni.
  • Government Agencies: Career counselors can work for government agencies, such as the Department of Labor, to provide job placement services and career counseling to job seekers.
  • Nonprofit Organizations: Career counselors can work for nonprofit organizations that offer career counseling services to underserved communities.
  • Private Practice: Career counselors can establish their own private practice and provide career counseling services to individuals and organizations.
  • Human Resource Departments: Career counselors can work for human resource departments in companies to provide career counseling to employees and help them advance in their careers.
  • Career Coaching Firms: Career counselors can work for career coaching firms that offer services such as resume writing, job search strategies, and interview coaching.
  • Online Platforms: Career counselors can work for online platforms that offer career counseling services to clients remotely.