Careers advisers work in a variety of settings providing tailored information, advice and guidance to people regarding prospective employment, training and education

You may encounter topics such as:

  • options for suitable careers
  • how to write a good CV and cover letter
  • the job application process
  • the current labour market
  • skills development
  • suitable training courses
  • available funding for courses and training
  • how to access other professional services relevant to the client.

You'll work with school children over the age of 13 or with adults who may want a career change or need help with further training.

You'll carry out consultations through various means and will typically offer a hybrid service, delivering advice not only through face-to-face appointments, but also through video call, email, online chat, social media and telephone.

For information on careers advisers working in higher education, see higher education careers adviser.

Types of careers adviser

As a careers adviser you can work in a variety of fields and may specialise within a number of areas. It's likely you'll work in a generalist role, helping people from many backgrounds and giving impartial advice regarding routes into multiple different careers and industries. However, within some settings there can be scope to specialise in advice for specific industries or careers topics such as:

  • apprenticeships
  • placements and internships
  • higher education and graduate employment
  • supporting people with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND)
  • supporting people with criminal records
  • government programmes and benefits.


As a careers adviser, you'll need to:

  • consult with people one-to-one or in small groups to discuss their career or education options
  • listen to their ideas and career aims to tailor advice appropriately
  • identify skills gaps and how to deal with them
  • help clients identify and consider the range of choices available to them and outline possible ways forward
  • draw up action plans for employment, education and training and support clients to achieve these goals
  • help clients develop their own employability skills to confidently manage their career independently
  • discuss with clients how to overcome any barriers to reaching their goals and refer them to other agencies for advice where appropriate
  • research careers, options and support organisations to meet clients' needs
  • advise clients on how to source relevant training courses or qualifications and what funding might be available
  • provide advice on CV, applications, job hunting and interview techniques
  • run small group sessions or larger presentations on all aspects of careers work and topics related to personal development
  • help clients to understand the current job market
  • use computer-aided guidance packages, skills assessment tools, career planners, psychometric tests and personal inventories.

You may also need to:

  • carry out administrative tasks such as report writing and record keeping
  • write careers literature or source information products from elsewhere for use within the service
  • plan and organise careers fairs and conventions
  • keep up to date with labour market information, legislation and professional and academic developments by visiting employers, training providers and training events run by educational and professional bodies
  • manage a caseload of clients.


  • Salaries for newly qualified careers advisers generally start at around £25,000 to £28,000.
  • With experience and more responsibility, you may earn between £30,000 to £40,000.
  • With salaries of £40,000+ possible at management level.

There is no single or nationally recognised salary scale for careers advisers. Salaries vary due to a range of factors, such as the type of employer you work for, location (salaries are often higher in London and major cities), and your experience and qualifications.

If you're self-employed or working on a freelance basis, you will set your own fees.

Income data from the Career Development Institute (CDI). Figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

You'll usually work full-time hours of 35 to 40 a week, Monday to Friday depending on business needs.

There are opportunities with some employers for part-time, temporary or fixed-term work, job-sharing and flexitime. Career breaks are possible as long as you keep up to date with developments in the sector.

What to expect

  • Careers advisers offer advice in a variety of locations including schools, colleges, community centres, jobcentres, libraries, charities and housing associations.
  • Job opportunities exist in towns and cities throughout the UK.
  • You may have to travel during the day to different places of work and also to meet employers, training providers and professionals from other organisations.
  • You may occasionally travel to other parts of the country for meetings and conferences, which could involve overnight stays.


There are two main ways to become a careers adviser:

  • take a specialist postgraduate careers guidance qualification
  • train on-the-job in the workplace or apply with relevant experience.

Graduates with a degree in any subject can apply to do a Postgraduate Diploma/Masters in Career Development, which incorporates the CDI-awarded Qualification in Career Development. These courses are available at several universities and take one or two years to complete depending on whether they are full or part time.

A degree in the area can be advantageous when looking into further qualifications, however, many providers will accept applicants with equivalent professional qualifications or suitable relevant experience. Courses include a mix of academic learning and work placements.

Alternatively, if you already work for a careers organisation, you could train on the job. Qualifications include the:

  • QCF Level 4 Diploma in Career Information and Advice - for those providing careers information and advice, but not guidance
  • QCF Level 6 Diploma in Career Guidance and Development - for those providing careers guidance and development.

Search for postgraduate courses in career guidance/development/coaching.

Another option is to take a Career Development Professional Higher Apprenticeship, which is a Level 6, two-year apprenticeship.

For more information on the different training options and providers, see CDI.

To get a place on a course, you'll also need to complete a Disclosure and Barring Service (Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme in Scotland) check.

Many employers will look for those who have, or who are willing to work towards, a relevant careers qualification.


You will need to have:

  • excellent communication and listening skills
  • the ability to motivate and build a rapport with a range of people
  • flexibility and adaptability
  • emotional intelligence and an empathetic and non-judgemental approach to work
  • an understanding of the issues around confidentiality
  • the ability to work individually or as part of a team
  • research skills for finding out information about a range of careers and training opportunities
  • the ability to manage your own caseload
  • organisational skills
  • analytical and problem-solving skills
  • the ability to work and stay calm under pressure
  • IT proficiency.

Work experience

Careers advisers come from a range of backgrounds. There isn't one type of work experience in particular that will allow you to become a professional in this field.

Experience of working with young people or in an advisory role will help increase your chances of success at the application stage. Prior experience in coaching and recruitment can also be advantageous. Some course providers will also look for relevant experience.

Customer service experience, where good communication and listening skills are required, is also useful.

Find out more about the different kinds of work experience and internships that are available.


You can work in a range of settings in the public, private and voluntary sectors, including schools, colleges and local authorities.

The National Careers Service, available in England, is one of the largest employers of careers advisers. Funded and managed by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), it runs an online and telephone advice service for anyone over the age of 13. It also has local offices throughout England, which offer face-to-face appointments to adults over 19.

You could be employed at a National Careers Service telephone service centre or in one of their local offices. Work is contracted out to different careers organisations, and premises can include:

  • schools or further education colleges
  • jobcentres
  • training providers
  • libraries
  • community centres
  • probation offices
  • housing associations
  • healthcare settings
  • charities
  • places of worship
  • local authorities.

It's also possible to work within consultancies or large businesses, advising employees on career management.

In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland careers advisers work for all-age guidance services. For more information, see:

With experience, you can also work on a freelance/self-employed basis.

Look for job vacancies at:

Professional development

As a career development practitioner, you'll undertake continuing professional development (CPD) throughout your career, to keep up to date with changes to education, training and the labour market.

Experience can lead to responsibility for specialist aspects of the work, for example, delivering career guidance to those with special needs, or information provision. See the CDI Career Development Qualifications and Progression Pathway for more details.

What training is provided may vary depending on your employer and the qualifications and experience you have when you start in the role. Each employer is likely to carry out their own training on the job, which is specific to that particular service. This may include data protection, equality and diversity, or dealing with challenging clients.

If you don't already have the QCD (Qualification in Career Development) or the QCF Level 6 Diploma in Career Guidance and Development, you're likely to work towards one of these qualifications. For information on available courses, as well as CPD opportunities, see the CDI.

The CDI also manages the UK Register of Career Development Professionals, which careers advisers are strongly encouraged to join. For admission on to the Register, you'll need the QCD or another approved qualification at QCF Level 6 or above. Once on the Register, you will have to undertake a minimum of 25 hours of CPD per year and comply with the CDI code of ethics.

Career prospects

Once you've gained experience there will be opportunities to move into a supervisory role and then on to a team leader or manager role. In more senior roles, you'll be responsible for managing a careers centre or team of advisers. You'll spend less time advising clients and more time on areas such as strategy.

Dependant on your position, there may be opportunities to specialise in particular areas of work such as special educational needs or disability (SEND) or with particular groups of clients such as the unemployed or travellers. You could also go on to work in the higher education sector as a higher education careers adviser.

With experience there are also opportunities to work on a freelance or self-employed basis with fee-paying clients in a private setting. Other options include working as a careers consultant for a careers or management consultancy.

Depending on your interests, it may also be possible to move into related careers such as youth and community work, health and social care, counselling and employment services.

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