Careers advisers provide information, advice and guidance to help people make realistic choices about their education, training and work

As a careers adviser you'll provide impartial job, training and study-related advice in order to help clients make decisions about their future and reach their full potential. You may cover issues 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.

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.

Work can be carried out through face-to-face individual consultations or group work. Alternatively, you may engage with clients via email, online chat, social media or telephone.

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

Responsibilities

As a careers adviser, you'll need to:

  • interview people one-to-one or in small groups to discuss their career or education options
  • listen to their ideas and career aims
  • 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
  • help clients develop their own career management skills
  • draw up action plans for employment, education and training and support clients to achieve these goals
  • discuss with clients how to overcome any barriers to reaching their goals and refer them to other agencies for advice where appropriate.

Specific activities can include:

  • researching careers, options and support organisations to meet clients' needs
  • advising clients on how to source relevant training courses or qualifications and what funding might be available
  • providing advice on CV, applications, job hunting and interview techniques
  • running small group sessions or larger presentations on all aspects of careers work and topics related to personal development
  • helping clients to understand the current job market
  • using computer-aided guidance packages, skills assessment tools, career planners, psychometric tests and personal inventories

Other activities may include:

  • administrative tasks such as report writing and record keeping
  • writing careers literature or sourcing information products from elsewhere for use within the service
  • planning and organising careers fairs and conventions
  • keeping 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
  • managing a caseload of clients.

Salary

  • Salaries for newly qualified careers advisers generally start at around £21,000.
  • With experience and more responsibility, your salary may rise to around £27,000.
  • Salaries at managerial level can rise to around £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 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 37 hours a week, Monday to Friday.

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

  • You may work in a variety of locations including schools, colleges, community centres, jobcentres, libraries 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.

Qualifications

There are two main ways to qualify as a careers adviser:

  • take a specialist postgraduate careers guidance qualification
  • train on-the-job in the workplace.

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. Courses are available at several universities and take one year full time or two years part time to complete.

Although you'll typically need to have a degree, some 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.

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 the CDI website.

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.

Although not always essential, the majority of employers will look for those who have, or who are willing to work towards, a relevant careers qualification.

Skills

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
  • 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
  • the ability to manage your own caseload
  • research skills for finding out information about a range of careers and training opportunities
  • organisational skills
  • analytical and problem-solving skills
  • the ability to work and stay calm under pressure
  • familiarity with information technology.

A full driving licence is also useful, and is sometimes a requirement of the job.

Work experience

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

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

Employers

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

Careers advisers need to carry out continuing professional development (CPD) throughout their careers in order to keep up to date with changes to education, training and the labour market.

Training varies 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 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

After gaining experience, there are some 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.

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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