I am a career counselor at a private, liberal arts school.
How would you describe what you do?
I help students and alums with all parts of the career development process. This could mean assisting first year students who are deciding on what to major in, helping a student learn about the use of social media in the job search, or helping an alum who graduated 15 years ago make a career transition.
What does your work entail?
I conduct individual career counseling appointments with students/alums, give presentations on various career topics, teach credit-bearing classes on major and career exploration and professional skills, and plan and implement various events throughout the year.
What’s a typical work week like?
My typical workweek is probably 80% individual appointments. I meet with individuals for an hour to discuss topics such as major decisions, resumes and cover letters, interviewing, personal branding, networking, job and internship searching, and assessments such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the Strong Interest Inventory.
The rest of my week is spent planning for events, following up on emails from students, participating in committees, managing our social media accounts, and assisting with other university events.
How did you get started?
I obtained my undergraduate degree in Psychology and my graduate degree in Counseling and Student Personnel Psychology. I had been a behavior therapist in the past and done other various helping/counseling related things during my time in graduate school. I completed my practicum (advanced internship) in a college career service center and began conducting informational interviews before I graduated. From there, I was able to land a full-time position at a university as a career counselor.
What do you like about what you do?
I really like being able to provide information to individuals who feel lost or stuck. Many times people are motivated to take action with their career journey, but just don’t know where to begin. I love feeling like I’ve made a difference for someone and have been able to help them on their journey.
What do you dislike?
I dislike that students come see me with the wrong expectations of what I do. Sometimes students expect that I have a job ready and waiting for them or that our office is a placement agency. My role is to help facilitate the process of career development, not hand over a career.
How do you make money/or how are you compensated?
I am a salaried employee and am paid monthly. I don’t receive additional bonuses and my check is the same every month.
How much do people in your field make?
Typical salary ranges for career counselors at universities would be upper $30K to mid $40K. Salaries vary a bit based on where you work (private vs. public).
How much money do you make starting out?
Beginning, I think $38,000-$42,000 is reasonable.
What education or skills are needed to do this?
A Master’s degree in a counseling or related field is necessary. Skills such as empathy, active listening, good communication, relationship-building, and patience are all important.
What is most challenging about what you do?
What is most challenging about what I do is being able to clearly define my role to others to allow expectations to be met. If it’s a student’s first time in my office, I will give him/her a brief service overview so they know what to expect.
What is most rewarding?
I love working with individuals who are completely lost in their first appointment and by the time they are done working with me have a lot of clarity!
What advice would you offer someone considering this career?
Gain some practical experience working 1 on 1 with individuals in a helping-type role. Know what type of population you want to work with (college students, kids, adults). Conduct informational interviews with professionals in different settings to really gain a good understanding of the work they do and how it may differ in different settings.
How much time off do you get/take?
I get 10 days of paid vacation and unlimited sick days.
What is a common misconception people have about what you do?
A common misconception is that I will place individuals I work with into a job or internship.
What are your goals/dreams for the future?
One of my goals is to continue to be involved in professional organizations as well as become a better career counselor. There are always things to learn in my field. One day I could become an Assistant Director or possibly Director of a career center.
What else would you like people to know about what you do?
I have a lot of fun in my job and there’s always ways to make it “new”. I can try out different counseling strategies or techniques whenever I’d like. If you’re concerned about monotonous work, I wouldn’t worry about it with this career.