How to Become a Career Coach

male career coach talking to woman

Career coaches are experienced specialists who offer coaching and professional development services to people at various stages of their careers. If you would like to shape the career goals and professional lives of many people, and you think you possess great coaching and mentoring skills, then this is a career you might enjoy!

1. Research the profession

Job description

A career coach, career advisor or counsellor is essentially a professional who has a deep understanding of the job market and helps other individuals with their career prospects and development needs. Their role may vary depending on the work environment, but their day-to-day duties generally include the following:

  • Interviewing clients to gather information about their likes, dislikes, attitudes and career goals
  • Helping clients to identify or formulate career goals
  • Advising clients, particularly high school and college students, on career pathways and educational requirements
  • Helping clients to develop the occupational skills they need to succeed – this may involve recommending activities such as attending industry workshops that can help them develop the necessary skills
  • Helping clients to find jobs – this may involve providing feedback on CVs or cover letters, referring them to employment agencies or using their industry contacts to provide information on open vacancies
  • Helping clients develop strategies for a successful job interview
  • Organizing workshops where they provide attendees with insights on job market trends
  • Working with the disabled to help them find careers that match their strengths
  • Designing and improving career coaching programs for institutions
  • Tracking clients’ career progress

Essential skills and qualities

To become an accomplished career coach, you will need:

  • Ability to motivate and inspire people
  • Ability to handle a variety of tasks, prioritize and solve problems
  • Ability to work effectively with other professionals
  • Strong analytical skills to assess people’s abilities and qualities
  • Strong interpersonal skills and respect for people from all walks of life
  • A genuine interest in all people regardless of their position in society
  • Excellent presentation skills
  • Clear verbal and written communication skills
  • Ability to listen and analyse your clients’ career difficulties without being judgmental
  • Good decision-making skills to choose the right career goals for your clients and help them make the right professional decisions
  • Good research skills to easily gather information on industry statistics and open job vacancies
  • Ability to keep clients’ information confidential
  • Patience to allow other people enough time to learn new things or skills
  • Ability to be approachable and welcoming – many people want to develop a rapport with their coaches before they can trust them with private or confidential information
  • Excellent time management skills to plan your time accordingly, especially when working with clients with busy schedules
  • Excellent communication skills – including telephone skills since some clients may not prefer to have face-to-face interviews
  • Goal-setting and performance evaluation
  • Good IT skills
  • An awareness of current trends and issues in career counselling
  • Ability to adhere to career coaches’ code of professional ethics

You should always remember that the career decisions people make under your influence are life changing and this means you have a lot of responsibility.

Working hours and conditions

Career coaches typically work from 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. But, in some circumstances, they may have to work past 5pm. In community learning facilities, for example, these coaches usually work with clients who only have time in the evenings and during weekends for one-to-one appointments.

Career coaches may work in a variety of settings, but they usually spend their time in an office environment where they conduct private interviews with clients, or in classrooms or boardrooms where they hold group sessions.

The job may involve a bit of travel, especially for career coaches who are contracted by organisations to coach their employees.


Salary may vary depending on your work environment and geographical location, and the following figures are indicating the annual average salary for this profession.

According to the starting salary for career coaches in the UK ranges from £18,000 to £22,000. This may rise to £27,000 with experience and the relevant qualifications and can reach up to £35,000 at the managerial level.

According to, career coaches in the US earn an average salary of $56,490 per year.

2. Get the qualifications

To become a career counsellor, students should follow the given educational path:

  • A bachelor's degree in any field; however, a bachelor's degree in psychology or a related discipline is preferred. Psychology courses include research methods in psychology, behavioural and social sciences and an introduction to psychology as a career.
  • Master's degree in career counselling. A master's program typically includes counselling techniques, assessment, career development, research and human growth and development.
  • Students may also do an internship both at an undergraduate and graduate level. An internship provides the opportunity to work with professionals in the field.

For the UK

This profession is open to all graduates but a degree, a HND or foundation degree in a sociological or educational related subject is certainly useful. Each university has different entry requirements, so it’s essential to check before you make a decision. Be aware that becoming a qualified careers coach can be achieved through formal education or through work in the field.

Either way you will need to complete a Postgraduate Diploma in Careers Guidance to be able to practice the profession. This can be done by studying one-year full-time or two-year part-time for a Qualification in Career Guidance (QCG) at a university. The QCG offers academic study as well as work-based learning placements.

You may consider taking some initial qualifications to start with:

  • Level 2 Award in Delivering, Information, Advice and Guidance
  • Level 3 Award for Supporting Clients to Overcome Barriers To Learning and Work
  • Level 3 Certificate in Advice and Guidance

If you wish to be qualified as a professional career coach you will need to obtain the following qualifications:

  • Level 4 Diploma in Career Information and Advice
  • Level 6 Diploma in Career Guidance and Development

The qualification in QCG or QCGD (Qualification in Career Guidance and Development) in Scotland, is provided by the Career Development Institute (CDI) and this is the organisation you need to consult to check which colleges and universities offer the diploma. Currently, the QCG/D is incorporated into postgraduate career guidance programmes which are at QCF level 7 (equivalent to Level 11 in Scotland). This diploma can be topped up to a full Master’s degree within a year.

You can follow this route by working in an organisation that offers advice and guidance services to clients. It offers some opportunities for you to work up from a starting position to careers adviser position.

Be aware that to become eligible for work, you are required to pass background checks by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). This certifies you as eligible to work with young people and other vulnerable groups.

For the US

If you are based in the US, you can pursue a bachelor’s degree in counselling, psychology or human and organisational development. While these subjects provide the best prospects in the field, it is quite common to find coaches with academic backgrounds in business or other areas as well.

After completing your undergraduate degree, you could choose to find employment in a related field and gain some experience. For example, you can start out as an entry-level career analyst at a career consulting firm or as a referral agent at an employment services agency. But, it is preferable to enrol in a graduate school and earn a master’s degree in counselling.

California State University, Northridge in California, for example, offers a Master of Science Degree that gives students the option of specialising. Some of the topics you will learn include individual and group counselling, counselling in cross-cultural settings, research principles, and organisational analysis, motivation in learning and development, and career education for the handicapped.

3. Land your first job

Early in your career as a career coach you may work with a variety of people on a volunteer basis. As you gain more experience you can shift to working professionally for an organization like a college or coaching company. If you're entrepreneurially inclined and willing to learn sales, marketing, and how to attract coaching clients, you can even build your own practice.

To fast-track your career progression prospects, be sure to:

  • Pursue a Professional Career Coach (PCC) Certification to add credibility and build your confidence in working with others on their careers. If you're interested in building your own business, this training program will help you learn the marketing and sales required to grow your own practice.
  • Pursue a professional certification through the Professional Association of Résumé Writers & Career Coaches. PARWC offers the Certified Professional Career Coach (CPCC) credential that demonstrates a holder’s mastery of coaching techniques. 
  • Attend seminars organised by universities and industry associations to network and improve your professional reputation.

The employers of career coaches include:

  • Community colleges
  • Private and public schools
  • Universities 
  • Private organizations
  • Government agencies
  • Employment organizations
  • Community resource centres
  • Career consulting firms

4. Develop your career

The future career prospects look bright for career coaches both UK and US as the Bureau of Labor Statistics show and can expect to work in many different sectors. If you wish to move into academia, then you need to further your education by earning a PhD in counselling.

With vast work experience and a professional certification, you can move into self-employment and establish your own career coaching centre. To succeed, you will need good business and marketing skills to price your services competitively and promote your business in the right market segments.

You may also procced to a supervisory or management position and other senior posts such as Head of Services, Senior Careers Advisor, Deputy Director of Services, etc. Alternatively, you may find self-employment by working as a consultant, researcher or writer.

To keep yourself up to date with career news and gain access to continuing professional development programs and networking opportunities, you may consider joining the CDI, which aims at promoting professional excellence. Becoming a member of the organisation as a student comes with a fee, but you get the QCG handbook that offers support and guidance throughout your course and access to free webinars.

If you wish to go into private practice, it is common that you get a license. Licensure requirements vary by state and type of employment. They generally include an exam, a master's degree and minimum hours of work experience.

If you have a passion for helping other people choose a career path this career is ideal for you. Just make sure that you are prepared to pursue the advanced degrees and professional certifications that are required to excel.

Do you have any questions about this career? Feel free to ask in the comments section below.