How to become a Careers Advisor

Finding your next job, let alone your “dream” job can be challenging for lots of reasons. Careers Advisors are the people to look for, at any stage in life, who could help to guide you in the right direction.

Careers Advisors help people navigate their careers

Careers Advisors work in schools, tertiary institutions, and as independent operators outside of the education system.

While you’re at school, they’re the people who will provide you with up to date, relevant, career information and vocational advice. They’ll let you know about options and pathways that could help you to find work once you leave school.

Once you’ve left school and entered the world of work, Careers Advisors are there to offer you help and guidance. If you’re made redundant and don’t know how to find more work, or you decide you’ve had enough of your current role and are looking for something different, these are the professionals that you can seek advice from.

If you are good with people, like solving problems, and are interested in the types of work that people do then you could make a good Careers Advisor.


What is it like to be a Careers Advisor?

 In school settings, Careers Advisors develop, coordinate, and implement career education programs.

They work with students to provide information and guidance encouraging them to:

  • provide industry information
  • explore career options and pathways
  • develop a career plan
  • prepare a resume
  • search and apply for opportunities (work or training related)
  • make career decisions based on your interests, skill strengths, careers cluster, work values, and personality


You’ll need these types of skills to become a Careers Advisor

Careers Advisors tend to sit in two career clusters as they need to be both Informers and Linkers.

They not only need to be able to advise and guide students, but also help to find, choose, and secure the pathways, help, and support each individual needs to reach their full potential.

Working as a Careers Advisor, you’ll need:

  • good listening, observational and questioning skills
  • to be a great communicator
  • to enjoy learning and keep up to date with new jobs, industry news, emerging skills, pathways and technology
  • to have a flexible and adaptable approach
  • empathy and an open mind
  • organisational and problem-solving skills
  • great networking skills to find opportunities and make connections

Building great relationships with students and clients, quickly, is going to be important if you’re going to successfully motivate and inspire them.


You’ll also need some training

Technically, you may not need a specific qualification to work as a Careers Advisor. Teachers can work as Careers Advisors, and so can people with backgrounds in Human Resources and other areas.

BUT to do the job well and understand the process you are going to need a qualification. A qualification may also be required if you’d like to be admitted as a member to one of the registered institutes for Career Development. Sometimes employers will stipulate a desirable qualification to make you eligible to apply for a job as well.

There are plenty of qualifications available that are recognised by peak Careers bodies. You’ll be able to get more information from their websites. For example, CICA in Australia, CERIC in Canada, CDI in the UK, NCDA in the US, CDANZ in New Zealand, and SACDA in South Africa.

Or you could get a counselling or psychology qualification and specialise in careers and organisational psychology.


Here’s what you should be looking for in a Career Guidance qualification:

As with most qualifications these days, there are many to choose from, which can be overwhelming.

We recommend that you look for courses covering:

  • Career development theory and recent developments
  • How to teach counselling and guidance best practice
  • The skills you’ll need to keep on top of labour market information and liaise with industry
  • Working with diverse groups of people (including students, people returning to the workforce, military personnel transitioning to civilian life etc.)
  • The types of psychometric assessments and profiling tools that exist, and how to use them
  • Practical one to one counselling skills

Where could you work?

Career advisors often work full-time and primarily work during the week.

High schools, colleges, universities, vocational training organisations, job centres, businesses, and government agencies are a few of the places that hire career advisors. Most of your work be in an office setting, but you can expect to attend careers fairs, expos, and other events, as well as sometimes visiting education institutions and workplaces. Most Careers Advisors find that a lot of their work hours are spent in constant interaction either with your students, clients, or networks.

If you’ve decided that becoming a Careers Advisor is right for you, you could start looking for work in:

  • Schools; they’ll often offer jobs
  • Not-for-profit organisations
  • University career centres
  • Job placement organisations
  • Government organisations

You could even start your own business and take on individual clients


Steps to becoming a Careers Advisor:

The process may take several years, and be prepared to be flexible. Careers Advisors are in high demand, and with the right skills you will be well placed to build a strong career. Follow these steps to get started:

  1. Start by talking to a Careers Advisor – you can find one online, or in your school or educational institution. As Careers Advisors, we understand 100% that the best way to learn about a job is to experience it for yourself, and if you explain that you are considering entering the field most Careers Advisors will jump at the chance to talk about what they do.
  2. Upskill and gain a qualification. Some only take a few days to complete, and will give you the basic skills to tackle the job while you gain further advanced qualifications. Building your own skillset will boost your confidence when you’re speaking with clients and ensure you’re following best practice guidelines for the industry. You’ll find a list of courses below.
  3. Search for a role to gain experience. While many Careers Advisors work for themselves, it’s a good idea to start out working as part of a team in a larger organisation, whether that’s a school, a university careers service, or in the recruitment industry. This will help you build your skills and refine your practice, and give you opportunities to seek out feedback from peers and colleagues before branching out on your own.

Some Career Development Courses to consider:


New Zealand:

CDANZ doesn’t endorse providers or qualifications but they do have a list of career specific qualifications available here.


You can take either a postgraduate diploma or masters degree in career guidance. These courses lead to the Qualification in Career Development (QCD). Many people apply to do this course after working in teaching, youth and community work or social services. These courses take 1 year full-time or 2 years part-time.


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