Career Counselors vs. Career Coaches: What’s the difference, and which do you need?

The Career Project is reader-supported. We may earn a commission on products purchased through links on this page. Learn more here.

For most of us, deciding what career we want to do, or changing our career path, is a big thing that requires careful thought, consideration and planning.

While some of us are happy to source our help from online resources, such as blog posts like mine (I hope!), others turn to seeking professional help that will aid them in their decision making.

Our satisfaction with our job or career (remember, there’s a difference) will rub off onto many other aspects of our lives, such as our satisfaction at home and our well-being. As we typically spend the rest of our lives in our career, it is important to get the right kind of advice to ensure you are the happiest you can be.

Like most things, there are many different types of professionals that can help you find your ‘dream career’. However, the two most popular and most used are career counselors and career coaches.

Not only do the two sound relatively similar, a lot of us actually struggle to understand and differentiate the difference between the two. Both are quite similar in nature; they are both designed to aid us in our decisions and make us stronger.

But which is right for you?

Career Counselors

You will most likely have encountered a career counselor at high school when they help you decide what kind of career you want. And, if you have this is fantastic, as research has shown that there are many positive outcomes of having career counselors at school, such as readiness to leave school.

Even past high school age, career counselors are still profusely helpful. They help you make sense of your skills, interests and values and guide you in your career search. Taking an educational and directive approach, career counselors also focus on building all the tools you need for acquiring a job. They can help you to assess the current employment landscape by providing employment information, such as industry trends, employment statistics, salary expectations and more.

Often, counselors will use personality assessments (a questionable favorite used by many is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicators), interest inventories and/or other assessments to help you identify potential careers that may be a good fit for you.  And they’ll work with younger job seekers (high school and college students) as well as those who have already been in the workforce for a while and are looking for a career change.

Career Counselors will also help you with tactical support. For example, they can help you to refine your resumes or write cover letters that will wow all potential employers.

The counseling approach aims to begin with understanding the barrier we face in our careers. Career counselors often take a holistic view. They’ll take you way back to talk about what you wanted to do when you were little, what has influenced your previous decisions and your career anxieties and fears. Sometimes, career counselors also give you homework to do during sessions to aid you in your discovery

Career Coaches

While similar to career counselors in many ways, career coaches help you to focus more on your personal strengths, talents and values. Based on what you both discover during your sessions together; they aid you to build your ideal career path based on these fundamental factors to try and aid you in finding your true calling.

Career coaches focus more on helping you meet your goals, and as such they typically work with individuals who already have a more clear picture of what their goals are. You won’t be administered personality tests, but they will look at your experience, preferences and skill and attempt to match it/recommend you a job that you are marketable to and one that naturally aligns with your goals. They’ll also work with you in your current position, helping you to maximize your impact.

Similar to counselors, career coaches also have the tools to help you build an outstanding resume and cover letter that’ll wow hiring managers. They have a keen eye for sourcing out what employers are looking for and tailoring your resume to show off your strengths.

Which one to choose?

The bottom line is that both will aid you, make you stronger and lead you to a better version of yourself. They are both valuable investments, but which one to pick depends on your needs at this current moment in time.

If you are undecided on a career, or changing careers and not sure where to go, work with a career counselor. They are also excellent assets for those who are new to the workforce, are confused about what they want to do or are seeking entry-level positions.

If you are happy in your current career but want to advance in your career path and maximize your trajectory, then seek out a career coach. They will help you to realize what strengths you have to offer in different positions and how to utilize them.

It is important to remember that whichever one you chose; they should not tell you exactly what to do. Their advice should be recommendations, based on what they can see. You should always remain in control of your own life decisions.

Finally, before you jump into sessions with either a coach or a counselor, make sure you determine if they are right for you. Investigate them thoroughly. Check out their websites, see what services they have to offer (e.g., number of sessions, assessment used, length of sessions, location of sessions). Look at their LinkedIn profile, see what others say about them and whether they have any reviews. Finally, check their credentials and qualifications to ensure they can offer you a service worth paying for.

Wrapping up

So, there you have it. The difference between the two most popular forms of career help and which one is right for you. If you need a little help in your search, check out our directory which has both Career Counselors and Career Coaches listed. Each professional listed is vetted, and is ready and willing to help you with your career – wherever you may be in the process.

Like always, feel free to leave some comments down below. Have you used either a career coach or counselor before? What were the sessions like and how did they help you?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Table of Contents

Share this post: