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You may have first encountered an employment or career counselor during high school or college, but they also work for professional outplacement firms, the government and private companies. Most employment counselors have at least a bachelor’s degree, including classes in career counseling and guidance, although a master's degree is preferable. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment counselors, who are included in the school and career counselors category, made a median annual salary of $53,380 in 2010.
An employment counselor helps job-seekers or career-changes conduct a thorough assessment of their interests, skills, personality traits and goals to help them identify a career path that's a good fit. An employment counselor will typically begin by taking your work history, then giving you one or two career inventories. The Strong Interest Inventory, for example, matches your interests to career paths, while the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assesses your personality type to help you use your natural strengths effectively at work.
An employment counselor will help you determine realistic steps toward meeting your career goals. If you want to become an accountant but your degree is in English, for example, you may have to return to school to get your degree in accounting. An employment counselor can help you explore ways to return to college, such as taking night classes, pursuing your education online, applying for financial aid and applying for reimbursement under an employer education- assistance program.
Employment counselors help their clients acquire practical skills -- such as how to look for a job, how to interview and how to network -- that will enhance the likelihood of achieving their career goals. For example, an employment counselor may give you information about successful interview techniques, then role play with you so you can practice skills such as maintaining eye contact and selling yourself.
An employment counselor can help professionals who may need help progressing in their current jobs. A counselor in this situation may help develop a career advancement plan that might include goals such as getting a master's degree; taking advantage of employer-offered certifications; or volunteering to gain experience you cannot get at your current job. For example, she may advise a social worker to volunteer on the board of a nonprofit social services agency to gain management experience.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: School and Career Counselors
- New York State Career Mobility Office: Employment Counselor
- Texas Tech University College of Human Sciences:Section II: Employment Counselor
- Mt. San Jacinto College: Career Assessment
- University of Southern California Center for Excellence in Teaching:Interviewing Guidelines, Tips and Techniques
Brenda Scottsdale is a licensed psychologist, a six sigma master black belt and a certified aerobics instructor. She has been writing professionally for more than 15 years in scientific journals, including the "Journal of Criminal Justice and Behavior" and various websites.
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