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Vocational Counselor Job Description, Career as a Vocational Counselor, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training College

Salary Median—$45,570 per year

Employment Outlook Very good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Vocational counselors, also called employment counselors, help their clients understand their capabilities and develop career goals. Counselors can then provide the link between people looking for work and employers. To do this, counselors must have an awareness of their clients' potential and also know what skills are in demand in the job market. Unlike agents who work for profit-making employment agencies, vocational counselors work for organizations that provide their services free of charge.

Counselors work in state employment offices, veterans' programs, and private and government-sponsored social service agencies. Those who work with people who have mental or physical disabilities are called rehabilitation counselors. In colleges and universities they may be called college placement counselors.

Counselors first interview their clients to learn about their personalities, education, work experience, skills, and interests. Sometimes they administer achievement, aptitude, and occupational preference tests. In state employment offices and some other agencies, an employment interviewer collects this information for the counselor, who then advises the clients.

Some clients are fully qualified for employment, and counselors simply contact prospective employers. This is often the case in college placement offices. Clients who seek help from social service organizations, on the other hand, usually have had some difficulty in finding or holding jobs. They may have handicaps or addictions; be considered too old to start certain jobs; or lack sufficient training. Some clients may have faced prejudice because of race or gender. Those who have been out of work for a long time may be too discouraged to do well at employment interviews. Counselors may place clients in training programs to develop marketable skills or refer them to other organizations for specific assistance, such as physical rehabilitation. Counselors often coach their clients so they perform well at interviews.

Counselors in junior and senior high schools help students choose careers and get the education and training they need for the jobs they want. They may also help students find part-time or summer jobs or place them in full-time positions after graduation.

Education and Training Requirements

Bachelor's degrees are the minimum requirement for vocational counselors, although many employers require master's degrees in vocational counseling and guidance, social work, sociology, or related fields. Many agencies have at least one staff member with a doctorate in a counseling-related field. A background in interviewing and testing procedures is useful, as is experience in personnel and administrative work.

Getting the Job

Job seekers can apply directly to social service agencies. School placement offices, professional organizations and journals, state employment agencies, newspaper classified ads, and job banks on the Internet are all sources of employment information. Applicants for government jobs must take civil service examinations.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Vocational counselors may take on supervisory or administrative jobs in their agencies or schools. Some become consultants to government and industry, while others teach counseling in colleges and universities. Counselors may need doctorates to teach in colleges or to reach the highest administrative jobs.

The outlook for vocational counselors is very good. Employment is expected to grow faster than the average for all jobs through 2014, largely because of increasing school enrollments and the number of people who must shift careers because of changes in corporate employment. Opportunities may be best in private job-training services; counselors working for the government can be affected by changes in funding.

Working Conditions

Counselors must be able to communicate clearly and listen carefully. They usually work in small offices where they can talk with clients in private. Sometimes they travel to talk with employers or to visit training centers. Because they must be aware of changes in employment practices and training programs, they may spend many hours reading papers and bulletins. Vocational counselors generally work thirty-five to forty hours a week, including evening and weekend work.

Where to Go for More Information

American Counseling Association
5999 Stevenson Ave.
Alexandria, VA 22304-3300
(800) 347-6647

American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees
1625 L St. NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 429-1000

Earnings and Benefits

Salaries vary with experience, education, and location. In 2004 the median salary for vocational counselors was $45,570 per year. The top ten percent of counselors earned more than $72,390 per year. Self-employed counselors and counselors working for private firms usually have the highest earnings. Benefits generally include paid holidays and vacations, health insurance, and pension plans.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesEducation & Training