How to Become a Career Advisor
Updated 21 February 2023
There are multiple pathways you can take to become a successful career advisor. Once established, you have the opportunity to assist people in finding a career path that aligns with their personal interests, goals and core values. Being a career advisor can provide a great sense of fulfilment as you help to direct people professionally into a well-suited job that brings them career happiness. In this article, we explain how to become a career advisor, the salary expectations, what the role entails and the necessary skills and qualifications you need to succeed.
What is a career advisor?
The role of a career advisor is to provide impartial information related to study routes, training or job prospects to help individuals make effective decisions about their future career path. You can work with a range of people from school children trying to decide which route to take with their education, to adults who may be looking to make a career change and need guidance on further training. No matter what stage an individual is at in their journey, it's the job of the careers advisor to support them in reaching their full career potential.
How much does a career advisor earn?
The average UK salary for a career advisor is currently £24,612 per year, with the potential to earn more with increased experience and responsibility. Salary can also vary depending on your location, qualifications and employer. If you opt to work as a self-employed or freelance careers advisor, you have the ability to set your own fees and have more control over your earning potential.
Where does a career advisor work?
As a career advisor, your workplace may vary. You may carry out your work through face-to-face consultations or informative group sessions and be required to travel to multiple locations such as schools, job centres, colleges, libraries or community centres to meet with job seekers. As well as meeting with clients, you may also have to travel to various workplaces to meet with potential employers, training providers and professionals who may be able to offer opportunities to the prospective employees you are working with.
Attending meetings and conferences can also provide you with the opportunity to travel to other parts of the country with the potential for overnight stays. In the current digital age, it's also common for careers advisors to hold sessions with clients from home. Many guidance sessions can take place via online chat systems, email discussions or you can provide information to a wider audience by making use of social media.
Responsibilities of a career advisor
As a career advisor, it's your responsibility to engage in discussions with people to understand their career goals, aims and interests. From there you can advise what their career and education options are and identify any gaps in their qualifications or skill set that need to be addressed. You must be able to support your clients in creating an action plan to achieve their goals and assist in overcoming barriers, referring to supporting agencies where appropriate. To assist clients in developing their own career management skills, they may expect you to carry out some of the following tasks:
Help to develop client CVs and advise on completing applications, job hunting and interview techniques.
Research various careers, training options and support organisations that can aid your clients.
Deliver group sessions and presentations on both career and personal development topics.
Source informational products or create careers literature to benefit your clients.
Maintain current knowledge of labour market information and legislation.
Use computer programmes to run skills assessments and aptitude tests to identify client strengths.
Guide clients to help find appropriate training courses, qualifications and available funding options.
How to become a career advisor
There's more than one route you can take to become a successful careers advisor, including university study, an apprenticeship or workplace development. Let's explore these options in more detail:
1. Check the entry requirements
Before deciding which route you wish to take, you must ensure you have the relevant experience or qualifications to be accepted to your chosen course. There are no set entry requirements to obtain a place on a career advisor apprenticeship, however, most employers look for at least two or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) or an equivalent qualification, including English and maths. Most apprenticeships in this subject area take around two years to complete.
Entry to a postgraduate course typically requires a degree in any subject, and many people apply to study career development after completing courses in teaching, youth and community work or social services. You may also be accepted if you have several years of relevant work experience. You can contact course providers directly to obtain more information on their specific entry requirements.
2. Prepare for study
To gain a place on a course you also need to complete a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check or, for residents of Scotland, you can join the Protecting Vulnerable Groups Scheme. If you haven't worked in a relevant sector previously, it's good to look for opportunities to gain relevant experience before selecting a course. Look for volunteering opportunities within your local schools, colleges or community centre where you can get a feel for the working environment.
3. Choose your study route
You can qualify as a careers advisor through higher education courses taken at universities, such as a master's degree or postgraduate diploma in career guidance. These courses combine academic studies with work-based learning placements to enable you to gain the relevant knowledge and hands-on experience for the role. You can complete the course in one year with full-time study or two years when studying part-time.
You may prefer to look into the apprenticeship route, enabling you to gain initial work experience and study simultaneously. A government-funded apprenticeship may alleviate course fees and allow you to earn a living wage during your studies. Courses include:
Level 4 Employability practitioner apprenticeship
Level 6 Career development professional apprenticeship
Related: GCSE Equivalent Qualifications
Alternatively opt for a work-based route
If you're already working for an organisation that offers advice and guidance, then a work-based progression route may be an option for you. There are various courses that you can take while working that may provide an opportunity for you to work your way up the career ladder from advice assistant to careers guidance professional. Discuss with your employer what training opportunities may be available to you. Courses you could consider taking include:
Level 2 Award in delivering information, advice and guidance
Level 3 Award for supporting clients to overcome barriers to learning and work
Level 3 Certificate in Advice and guidance
Level 4 Diploma in career information and advice
Level 6 Diploma in career guidance and development
Ask your employer if there's any funding available for workplace training before applying for your course. The course you choose may depend on your job role, responsibilities and previous experience or qualifications. Many course providers now support remote study opportunities, allowing you to learn from home flexibly around your work schedule.
What skills does a career advisor need?
As well as the appropriate qualifications, there are a number of key skills you must develop to become a successful careers advisor. A few examples of these essential skills include:
When delivering careers advice and guidance, it's essential that you communicate both clearly and professionally to impart information in a way that is understood by your clients. You must confidently use both written and verbal communication methods, whether you are conveying a message to your clients or your colleagues. Being able to remain empathetic and non-judgemental while building a relationship with your client is necessary when communicating guidance for developing their education or career successfully.
As a careers advisor, your schedule can be quite varied throughout the week. You might travel to different locations, dealing with a range of clients or meeting with employers. To effectively manage your day and prioritise tasks appropriately, you must have good organisational and time-management skills. You may find some of these organisational tools useful:
Invest in a diary
Make use of the calendar function built into your phone
Use email software to manage your tasks
Write to-do lists to help you stay on top of your workload
Strong leadership skills include setting achievable goals, effectively managing projects, and motivating yourself and others. These attributes can assist you in all aspects of your career development and are beneficial when looking to progress to a managerial role. They are also necessary when creating a career plan for your clients and forming a productive working relationship.
IT and Administration
Technology is being used increasingly within the workplace and IT skills are now necessary to delivering effective careers advice. Your job may require you to use computer software to run aptitude tests, send emails or create presentations, to list but a few examples. Strong administration skills are also essential when completing client paperwork, writing reports and keeping records of your various cases.
Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing
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