From fresh graduates who are concerned about where to start in the professional world to those who are attempting to achieve gainful employment while working with a mental or physical challenge, a vocational counselor can help to boost your career and confidence.
A certified vocational or rehabilitation counselor can propel a person into a better career, increase a client’s skill set and improve self-esteem when applying to jobs. They are trained to assist you in being your best and finding what field or industry will suit your skill set.
A vocational counselor helps an individual overcome personal obstacles, increase a skill set and find employment in the field of choice, among other duties.
What Is a Vocational Counselor?
Generally, a vocational counselor concentrates on the person and the workforce. Whether working for a large corporation, a small business or one-on-one with individual clients, the vocational counselor is adept at modifying training strategies for the client to fit the very specific needs of that person.
They can provide group or individual training depending on the setting. A counselor is part therapist and part life coach. They not only look for the pragmatic applications of a client’s abilities but also the emotional needs of the client.
Overall, a vocational counselor boosts the client’s income and career potential as well as his quality of life outside of the job.
Vocational Counselor for Students
A professional counselor can help a student through a new process of making career decisions. They can weed through the many options and narrow down the best training programs where the student’s specific skills will shine. They can spot deficiencies and guide the student through training programs that will best serve her needs.
A counselor will also give the student added confidence during what can be a nerve-racking time in her life. All of this best serves the student to land the job that best suits her level of ability and needs.
Vocational Counselor for Clients With Disabilities
Living with a disability can be socially isolating and challenging. A vocational guidance counselor can open avenues of opportunity and increase the self-esteem of clients who have physical and mental challenges.
With the vocational guidance of an accredited counselor, clients learn to be more independent regarding their own care, achieve goals, learn job skills and find support systems that can lead to a better quality of life in many areas.
Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor
A vocational rehabilitation counselor assists people who have disabilities in living fuller, more independent lives by securing employment.
They have clients who are coping with physical or mental difficulties, including:
- Mental illness
- Significant physical injuries
- Psychological disorders
- Substance abuse issues
They tend to work directly with clients and often pull in families or close relatives who can better help the vocational counselor understand the client’s specific needs and capabilities. A rehabilitation counselor also works with the client’s doctors, including physical therapists, psychologists, speech therapists and other service providers who come in contact with the person on a regular basis. All of this is done to optimize a client’s readiness and ability to work.
Assessing the Individual
The counselor will spend a lot of time with an individual in order to get to what makes them a valuable employee. The interview process can be lengthy. The guidance or vocational counselor will ask many probing questions, including but not limited to:
- Combing through and polishing the client’s resume.
- Discussing in depth what kind of work she prefers.
- Going over her educational experience and finding the subjects in which she excelled or about which she was passionate.
- Discussing former or current positions and what she liked and disliked about the job and the work involved.
- Measuring her technical skills and program proficiency.
- Ascertaining any special skills outside of work or school that can be helpful in a professional capacity.
A counselor delves into all aspects of a client’s life in order to find what makes her tick and what type of field or industry will benefit from her skills.
Vocational Counselor Requirements for Undergrads
This is a professional career choice that requires much education. Most states require some level of certification or licensing to become a full-fledged vocational counselor. To become a vocational counselor, an undergraduate degree in the following is the first step:
- Social work
While completing the coursework for your undergrad degree, take the time to volunteer or join nonprofits or community service organizations. This will give you the emotional experience of working with people and will look good on your resume and help you in your coursework both as an undergrad and graduate student.
Master’s Degree Requirements for Vocational Counselors
A master’s degree in career counseling or applied psychology is preferred for professional career and vocational counselors. It can propel the counselor into management after gaining experience working with clients on a one-on-one basis.
Most of the master’s programs for this type of position require an internship or other supervised experience of at least one semester. The more experience you have in the real world through volunteer work or a paid job working with people attempting to overcome obstacles, the more prepared you will be to practice.
Licensing for Vocational Counselors
In order to begin work and stay in good standing while you practice, you will need to follow state licensing requirements. Licensing usually requires between 2,000 and 3,000 hours of supervised professional experience as well as a passing grade on an approved exam.
Take the Nationally Certified Counselor or Licensed Professional Counselor test to ensure you have all the requirements to take the best position in your field and location.
Where Counselors Work
Vocational counselors can work in many different types of environments. Jobs are plentiful in a wide range of industries, including:
- Elementary, secondary and postsecondary school settings
- Independent living establishments
- Prison and correctional facilities
- Juvenile correctional facilities
- Community organizations
- Nonprofit agencies
They can also run a bustling private practice or become a consultant to larger companies that need to be compliant with regulations from the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Benefits of Vocational Guidance
Seeking the assistance of a vocational counselor can significantly increase your chances of success in your endeavors.
A vocational counselor can help to:
- Assess your vocational interests and subsequent aptitudes and abilities.
- Address any barriers that could possibly impede your success.
- Develop educational program objectives and coursework.
- Research resources to help you obtain the training you need or overcome personal issues that are holding you back.
What Vocational Counselors Make
Salary ranges for vocational counselors or therapists depend on a few important factors. A counselor’s salary increases with the amount of education completed. Salary compensation is ranked by factors such as:
- Number of years of experience in the profession
- Degrees completed
- Additional skills that pertain to the specific type of client
Typically, a starting vocational therapist can expect to earn a salary in the mid five figures. Someone with more experience and education can make around $80,000.
Vocational rehabilitation counselor managers or department heads can easily earn a salary in the low six figures depending on time in the field and completed degrees or certifications.
Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing about education, jobs, business trends and more for The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Today’s Parent and other publications. She graduated with a B.A. in Journalism from UNLV. Her full bio and clips can be seen at www.vegaswriter.com.