If you enjoy working with people and helping them realise their ambitions, being a careers adviser could be a great job for you

As a careers adviser you'll provide information, advice and guidance to help service users make realistic choices about their education, training and work. You'll deal with a range of people, from school children over the age of 13 up to adults who may want a career change or need help with further training.

The help and advice you give will include identifying options for suitable careers, advising on how to write a good CV and covering letter, assisting with the application process and helping to locate relevant training courses.

Responsibilities

As a careers adviser, you'll need to:

  • interview people one-to-one or in small groups to discuss career or education options
  • identify skills gaps and how to deal with them
  • help young people to draw up action plans for employment, education and training and support them to achieve these goals
  • research careers, options and support organisations to meet people's needs
  • advise people 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 people to understand the current job market
  • liaise and negotiate with other organisations on behalf of people
  • use IT for administrative tasks, such as recording interactions with and tracking clients
  • use computer-aided guidance packages, skills assessment tools, career planners, psychometric tests and personal inventories
  • 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.

Salary

  • Starting salaries generally range from £18,000 to £22,000.
  • With experience and the relevant qualifications, your salary may rise to around £27,000.
  • At managerial/highly experienced level, you could earn up to £35,000. Those working for an organisation with a full management structure may earn more.

There is no single or nationally recognised salary scale for careers advisers. Salaries vary by employer, location and entry level, but they're often higher in London and big cities as a rule.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

You'll usually work 37 hours a week, Monday to Friday, but you may be required to be flexible with the hours and do evening or weekend work depending on where you're employed.

There are opportunities for part-time, temporary or fixed-term work, job-sharing and flexitime, but this varies from employer to employer. Career breaks are possible.

What to expect

  • You may work in a variety of locations including schools, colleges, community centres, jobcentres, libraries, and housing associations.
  • Job opportunities exist nationwide. The National Careers Service operates through many different organisations (with some services being contracted out) across the UK.
  • You may need to travel during the day to different places of work and also to meet employers, training providers and professionals from other organisations. You may also occasionally travel to other parts of the country for meetings and conferences, which could involve overnight stays.

Qualifications

Although this area of work is open to all graduates, a degree, HND or foundation degree in a sociology or education-related topic would be useful. In particular the following subjects may help:

  • counselling
  • psychology
  • social work
  • teaching
  • youth work.

Foundation degrees in working with young people and young people's services are available and may be useful if you want to work in schools or colleges.

The majority of employers will look for those who have, or who are willing to work towards, relevant work-based qualifications, such as the Career Information and Advice Level 4 (NVQ) Diploma and the Career Guidance and Development Level 6 Diploma. For more information on these qualifications, see OCR.

These courses combine theoretical academic study with practical work experience and take one year full time or two years part time to complete. The usual entry requirement is an undergraduate degree in any subject, but those without this qualification may still be considered if they can demonstrate an interest and commitment to the subject and perhaps some relevant experience.

For more information on the QCG and relevant training providers see the Career Development Institute (CDI).

Skills

You will need to show:

  • a high level of communication and listening skills
  • the ability to motivate and build a rapport with people
  • flexibility and adaptability
  • an empathetic, non-judgmental and ethical approach
  • the ability to work individually or as part of a team
  • the ability to manage your own caseload
  • the capability to work under pressure
  • organisational skills
  • problem-solving skills
  • familiarity with information technology
  • you pass the Disclosure and Barring Service checks
  • you hold a full driving licence - if this is a requirement for the job.

Work experience

Experience of working with young people, or working in advisory positions, will be helpful when you're apply for jobs. Other customer service positions, where good communication skills are required, will increase your chances of success at the application stage.

Employers

You can work in a range of locations in the public, private and voluntary sectors, including schools, colleges and local authorities. One of the biggest employers is the National Careers Service, which is delivered by the Education and Skills Funding Agency, and runs an online and telephone advice service.

You could be employed at a telephone service centre, or you could work in one of the National Careers Service offices, which offer face-to-face appointments to adults over 19. These are available in many different regions, and due to the work being sub-contracted out to different organisations, the offices may be based in a variety of locations. 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 the employees on career management.

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

It may be possible to find employment with Inspiring Futures which works in partnership with schools, colleges, universities, parents and employers.

Look for job vacancies at:

Professional development

Training varies according to the employer and the qualifications and experience you have when you start in the role. Each employer is likely to carry out their own mandatory training on the job, which is specific to that particular service. This may include data protection, equality and diversity or dealing with difficult clients.

If you haven't already obtained the Qualification in Careers Guidance and Development (QCG/D), it's likely that you will study towards this or one of the relevant NVQs available in career guidance through the OCR Examinations Board. You may wish to study for a Masters-level qualification in career guidance, of which there are several. For information on available courses, as well as continuous professional development (CPD) opportunities see the CDI.

The CDI also provides the national register of career development professionals, which careers advisers are strongly encouraged to join.

Career prospects

After gaining some experience, it may be possible to move into a supervisory role and then on to a team leader or manager role, where you would be managing a careers centre or team of advisers. This may mean a move into a local authority department and possibly relocation to a different town, city or region.

You may have the option to specialise in certain areas such as special needs or working with ethnic minorities or travellers. You could also go on to work in the higher education sector as a higher education careers adviser.

Alternatively, you could move into careers such as youth and community work, health and social care, counselling and employment services.

You could also eventually become a careers consultant for a careers or management consultancy. In this role, you would go into organisations to work with its employees to provide them with advice and guidance on career management. It can be possible to work in this role on a freelance basis with individual fee-paying clients in a private setting.