Careers Adviser

The Job and What's Involved

Careers advisers help individuals to make career decisions by providing impartial information, advice and guidance. They work mainly with young people, although they also work with adults.

The role of a careers adviser varies according to the client group, but may include:

  • Identifying a clients' interests, skills and abilities, sometimes using computer guidance software or psychometric tests.
  • Guidance to help clients evaluate educational, employment and training options in order to identify choices and make decisions.
  • Providing careers information including references to the internet, videos, DVD's and printed materials.
  • Referring young people to training and apprenticeship programmes.
  • Providing a recruitment service and helping with job search activities.
  • Helping individuals to identify their targets and then writing a plan of action with them.
  • Working with job seekers to overcome barriers to work.
  • Involvement with career and employer events.
  • Researching occupations and producing information and guidance materials.

Much of the work is conducted through individual interviews, but careers advisers also work with groups, either to present information or lead a discussion.

All careers advisers work to promote equal opportunities and to overcome discrimination.

In England, careers advisers working within the Connexions Service are known as personal advisers. Connexions personal advisers may also be involved with giving advice on a range of other issues, such as lifestyle, money management, housing and health, but generally carry out the following activities:

  • Negotiating careers education and guidance programmes with schools and colleges.
  • Providing extra help for clients with additional needs.
  • Keeping up to date with recent developments in education, training and the labour market by liasing with universities and colleges, training providers and employers.
  • Using computers for administrative tasks and record keeping.

Starting salaries for trainee careers advisers are around £17,000 a year (Careers advisers working in and around London may receive an additional cost of living allowance).

Careers advisers usually work 37 hours a week, Monday to Friday. Occasional weekend or evening work may be required for attending parents' evenings or other events.

Opportunities exist for flexible working, part-time work, job sharing or term time only contracts.

Careers advisers are usually based in offices that are open to the public, although some work freelance from home. Most are based in Connexions centres, schools, colleges or universities.

The work usually involves local travel, so a driving licence is desirable.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

In England, the main provision of career guidance activities for young people is through Connexions partnerships. This service is delivered by personal advisers with appropriate career guidance qualifications.

For further information, see the job guide - Connexions Personal Adviser.

Careers work with adults may be provided by local Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) partnerships, such as the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) funded 'nextstep'.

Elsewhere in the UK, the main national organisations are Skills Development Scotland, Careers Wales and Careers Service Northern Ireland. These organisations offer a careers service to all ages.

Other employers include schools, colleges of further education, sixth form colleges, higher education institutions, adult guidance services, voluntary organisations, recruitment agencies, employer bodies, professional institutions and private careers consultancies.

Experienced careers advisers, and Connexions personal advisers with a career guidance qualification, are in demand. Competition for trainee posts is quite common.

Jobs are advertised in The Times Educational Supplement, The Times Higher Educational Supplement, The Guardian (on Tuesdays and Wednesdays) and on the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory (AGCAS) website (for opportunities in higher education institutions). The Institute of Career Guidance (ICG) lists jobs on its website and in its dedicated bulletin, Portico.

Education and Training

It is recommended that people interested in this career should contact prospective employers before starting on a training route. Work shadowing a qualified careers adviser can provide a clear idea of what the job involves and help with applications for a training place.

In higher education, although a professional qualification in career guidance is not always necessary, this is increasingly required, and many careers advisers are qualified and experienced.

Careers advisers working in higher education can gain a specialist in-service qualification, the Certificate/Diploma in Careers Education, Information and Guidance in Higher Education.

Careers advisers joining Connexions need further in-service training to become qualified personal advisers. For details, see the Connexions Personal Adviser job guide.

To start training applicants need to:

  • Pass a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB)/Disclosure Scotland check.
  • Have some experience of working with people (paid or voluntary).
  • Be capable of study to NVQ/SVQ Level 4.
  • Show evidence of ability to cope with postgraduate study, for the Qualification in Career Guidance (QCG).

A Few More Exams You Might Need

The Qualification in Career Guidance (QCG) is a one-year full-time or two-year part-time university course offered by 15 establishments throughout the UK.

Most applicants for the QCG are graduates, although those without a degree and with relevant work experience may also be accepted. The new 'Foundation Degree in Working with Young People and Young People's Services' provides useful background.

Another possible route is the NVQ/SVQ Level 4 in Advice and Guidance which is for those experienced in working with people and already working for an organisation providing career guidance services. Learning is a combination of on and off-the-job training. Evidence from the Qualification in Career Guidance (QCG) can contribute towards the portfolio needed for NVQ's/SVQ's and can reduce the number of required units.

Personal advisers entering the Connexions Service without a relevant NVQ Level 4, are required to complete units specified by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) for NVQ Level 4 in Learning, Development and Support Services for Children, Young People and those who care for them (LDSS). Evidence from the Qualification in Career Guidance (QCG) can contribute towards the portfolio needed for NVQ's/SVQ's and can reduce the number of required units.

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Skills & Personal Qualities Needed

  • Good interpersonal skills.
  • Good communication skills, both written and verbal.
  • To be flexible and able to adapt to change.
  • Good listening skills and empathy with clients.
  • To be able to research and present information in a form that can be easily understood.
  • Effective negotiating skills.
  • To be able to work under pressure.
  • Organisational and time-management skills.
  • To be able to work on their own initiative as well as part of a team.
  • Knowledge of relevant legislation, e.g. child protection, confidentiality.
  • Have administrative and computer skills.

Your Long Term Prospects

Experienced careers advisers can choose to:

  • Specialise with particular client groups.
  • Work in higher education.
  • Work in adult guidance.
  • Progress to managerial roles within their organisation.
  • Provide a career management service for large companies.
  • Work as self-employed consultants, researchers or writers.
  • Work with government-funded telephone help lines such as 'learndirect-advice' and 'connexions-direct'.

Get Further Information

Careers Service Northern Ireland, Lesley Buildings,
61 Fountain Street, Belfast BT1 5EX
Tel: 028 9044 1781

The Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS)
Tel: 0114 251 5750

Skills Development Scotland Head Office,
Monteith House, 11 George Square, Glasgow G2 1DY
Tel: 0141 285 6000

Careers Wales

Institute of Career Guidance (ICG), 3rd Floor, Copthall House,
1 New Road, Stourbridge, West Midlands DY8 1PH
Tel: 01384 376464


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