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Career counseling and career coaching are similar in nature to traditional counseling. However, the focus is generally on issues such as career exploration, career change, personal career development and other career related issues. Typically when people come for career counseling they know exactly what they want to get out of the process, but are unsure about how it will work. In the UK, career counseling would usually be referred to as careers advice or guidance.

Career counselors work with people from various walks of life, such as adolescents seeking to explore career options, or experienced professionals contemplating a career change. Career counselors typically have a background in vocational psychology or industrial/organizational psychology.

The approach of career counseling varies, but will generally include the completion of one or more assessments. These assessments typically include cognitive ability tests, and personality assessments. The two most commonly used assessments are the Strong Interest Inventory and the MBTI.

Challenges of career counseling/guidance

One of the major challenges associated with career counseling is encouraging participants to engage with it. For example in the UK 70% of people under 14 say they have had no careers advice while 45% of people over 14 have had no or very poor/limited advice.[1]

Another issue is the spread of careers advice opportunities. For example, 40% of doctors in training found it difficult to get appropriate careers advice.[2]

In a related issue some client groups tend to reject the interventions made by professional career counselors preferring to rely on the advice of peers or superiors within their own profession. Jackson et al. found that 44% of doctors in training felt that senior members of their own profession were best placed to give careers advice.[3] Furthermore it is recognised that the giving of career advice is something that is widely spread through a range of formal and informal roles. In addition to career counselors it is also common for teachers, managers, trainers and HR specialists to give formal support in career choices. Similarly it is also common for people to seek informal support from friends and family around their career choices and to bypass career professionals altogether. Today increasingly people rely on career web portals to seek advice on resume writing and handling interviews; as also to research on various professions and companies. It has even become possible to take vocational assessments online.

A history of career counseling/guidance

Frank Parson's Choosing a Vocation (1909) was perhaps the first major work which is concerned with careers guidance.

Career Testing

An objective form of career counseling is through an aptitude test, or a career test. Career testing is now usually done online and provides insightful and objective information about which jobs may be suitable for the test taker based on combination of their interests, values and skills.[4][5] Career tests usually provide a list of recommended jobs that match the test takers attributes with those of people with similar personalities who enjoy/are successful at their jobs.

See also



  1. Cabinet Office, We want the top jobs and need better careers advice - Young people tell Alan Milburn's review,
  2. Jackson et al, Informing choices: the need for career advice in medical training,
  3. Jackson et al, Informing choices: the need for career advice in medical training,
  4. PsychPress Website,
  5. Using Artificial Intelligence to Optimize Your Career and Education,
  • Swanson, J.L. and Parcover, J.A. (1998). Annual Review: Practise and research in career counseling and development — 1997. The Career Development Quarterly. 47, 2, 98-135.
  • Galassi, J.P., Crace, R.K., Martin, G.A., James, R.M. & Wallace, R.L. (1992). Client preferences and anticipations in career counseling: A preliminary investigation. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 39, 46-55.
  • Swanson, J.L. (1995). The process and outcome of career counseling. In W.B. Walsh & S.H. Osipow (Eds.), Handbook of vocational psychology: Theory, research and practice. (pp. 295–329). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
  • Kim, B.S, Li, L.C., and Lian, C.T. (2002) Effects of Asian American client adherence to Asian cultural values, session goal, and counselor emphasis of client expression on career counseling process. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 49, 3, 342-354.

External links

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