Career Counseling Essay

Career Counseling


The choice of profession is a very important step in life of a person. It is very complex and responsible. Quite often, people choose their profession under the influence of external circumstances, considering views of relatives, external attributes, prestige, and cost-effectiveness of the profession. However, mainly these circumstances are not related to individual characteristics and dispositions of a person. Students take a decision on the choice of a profession. This decision will affect the rest of their lives. Success of a person as a professional and as a personality in general depends on this decision. Teenagers do not always make the right choice. It is proved by a large number of people who are getting a second degree after they made a wrong choice once. Therefore, it is very important to undergo career counseling before choosing the future profession. One of the priorities of youth policy worldwide should be development and implementation of career counseling. The aim of the research paper is to study career counseling in different countries.


Basic Concepts in the System of Career Counseling

Profession exists in a plurality of employment positions or appointments. “Career plays a significant role in the identity, lifestyle and sense of well-being for most of adults in today’s world” (Andersen & Vandehey, 2012, p. 3). Labor position is one of the forms of existence of the profession limited as a consequence of the division of labor and, one way or another, a fixed area of application of human forces designed for creation of some value for the society, including material things, information, useful service actions, functional beneficial effects, aesthetic experiences, public sentiment, or orderly flow of social processes. There are many classifications of professions based on different grounds: by industry of the national economy, according to the degree of development of psycho-physiological functions, or severity. There is an international standard classification of professions created jointly by the UN, UNESCO, and WHO (Srivastava, 2007).

Professional self-determination and self-awareness play a very important role in understanding of career counseling. “Self-awareness is important in any counseling situation” (Pickman, 2013, p. 105). Professional self-determination is a long and multi-stage process of choosing a profession by a person, which is reflected in his/her professional plans. There are the following approaches to the study of professional self-determination:

  1. Theories of types of professional life (structural concepts),
  2. Motivational theories,
  3. Personality theories (Capuzzi & Stauffer, 2011).

In structural theories, it is recognized that professional development of an individual occurs throughout life. Representatives of these concepts identify common types, samples, and patterns of professional life of a person. Main provisions of these concepts can be considered as the assumption that a person does a final professional choice at a sufficiently mature age and, hence, the choice that people make in the youth is not final. Motivational theories suggest that a person is guided by specific needs in the process of professional self- determination. Theories related to the latter type are dedicated to the study of the formation of professional maturity and individual choice of work. J. Holland believes that when a person chooses a profession, he/she chooses surroundings in the first place, which coincide with personal orientation and personality type.

Success of professional self-determination is defined by psychological readiness of students to choose the profession. This willingness can be associated with formation of professional orientation of a personality, his/her appropriate self-appraisal, sufficient awareness, and sustainable professional intentions. People should know well enough their interests, cognitive abilities, and personal characteristics. Moreover, they must be familiar with professions and requirements they impose and should be able to relate these requirements with their personal characteristics. Professional self-determination is usually preceded by certain events: graduation, dismissal from work, professional development, or change of residence. Professional self-determination can be considered as a process: awareness of the value of socially useful work and the need for training, orientation in the socio-economic situation and forecasting of prestige of selected work, general orientation in the world of professional work, and allocation of professional goals. 

Another key concept is professional orientation of an individual. Professional orientation is an integral characteristic of the motivation of professional activity determined by motives in the motivational sphere expressed in interests, relations, and focused efforts. It is based on a wide range of needs, interests, ideals, and attitudes of a person. Professional orientation characterizes the unity of interests and features of a person in the system of professional self-determination (Athanasou & Esbroeck, 2008).

Another concept is professional growth. It is a process of progressive personality changes under the influence of social impacts, professional activity, and personal activity aimed at self-improvement and self-realization. Determination of the professional development can be summarized as follows: during the professional development of a personality, conflicts may arise in two forms, including the ones between an individual and the environment and the intrapersonal ones. There are many classifications of stages of the professional growth. In the book Career counseling: Foundations, perspectives and applications, authors Capuzzi and Stauffer identify seven stages:

  1. The amorphous option (0 - 12 years). At this stage, basic new psychological formations include professionally-oriented interests and inclinations.
  2. Option (12 - 16 years): professional intentions, path selection of professional education and training, educational and professional self-determination.
  3. Training (16 - 23 years): professional qualification, professional self-determination, and readiness for self-employment.
  4. Professional adaptation (18 - 25 years): development of a new social role and experience of independent performance of the professional activity.
  5. Primary professionalism. There is an individual style of activity. A person starts to be engaged in skilled employment.
  6. Secondary professionalism. There is professional development, as well as development of professional mentality. The level of professional activity stabilizes.
  7. Professional skills. This phase includes only those workers who have creativity and a need for self-development (Capuzzi & Stauffer, 2011). 

Career Counseling in Different Countries

In the late XIX - early XX centuries, there was an urgent historical need for emergence and development of career counseling. “Career counseling is the professional guidance of the individual or a small group by use of standard psychological methods, such as case histories or data” (Srivastava, 2007, p. 5). It was a new direction in pedagogy and psychology able to assist young people in choosing profession. It has been caused by rapid growth of the world economy and intensive expansion of the world of professions. Genesis of career counseling had a dual character. On the one hand, career counseling developed on the basis of certain common ideas and propositions. On the other hand, every society had its system of career counseling with distinctive features and peculiarities. A number of external and internal factors, such as the economic situation, welfare of the society, political system, characteristics of the education system, mentality, developmental period of career counseling, and foreign experience have influenced the current view of the system of career counseling in a particular country.  “Current career counseling practices include a concentrated effort to build an understanding of individual’s traits, aspirations, motives, and career and personal concerns” (Zunker, 2011, p. 8). Currently, researchers distinguish three main models of career counseling: American, Western European, and Japanese.

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American Model

The United States is considered as the progenitor of career counseling. In 1908, F. Parsons organized the first career counseling bureau in Boston. He also developed the first scientific concept of career counseling “trait – factor”. This idea subsequently formed the basis of career counseling theories of American scientists such as Maslow and S. Ginsburg (Swanson & Fouad, 2009). In the United States, in the course of the long history career guidance has developed extremely rapidly due to the economic growth and competition in the labor market. Currently, the system of career counseling in the US is characterized by multiplicity of institutional arrangements and a high degree of decentralization. Since, according to the US Constitution, educational questions are not included in the purview of the federal government, leadership of school governance, as well as all school legislations are administered with relevant authorities by the state. In addition to schools, the structure of career-oriented work with young people also includes the employment service. A characteristic feature of the career guidance system is presence of both public and private employment services. They include labor exchanges and private agencies. Labor exchanges are under the command of the US Department of Labor. They perform intermediary functions in employment by providing information about the state of the labor market and rendering services for professional consultations and testing. Private agencies perform the same functions as labor exchanges, but, unlike the latter, receive fees from customers.

The leading role in the system of career counseling in the United States is played by schools, particularly in terms of the advisory service guidance. It functions in all US schools. The structure of guidance includes several services:

  1. An inventory service that collects information about every student,
  2. The service of information for students in three areas: academic, professional, and personal,
  3. A counseling service responsible for the process of individual and group counseling with students,
  4. The service that assists graduates with employment,
  5. The control service that leads collection of information about the fate of school graduates (Han, 2007). 

Work of guidance is exercised by professional qualified experts. Career counseling in US schools is realized throughout the entire process of education of a student. “Counselors need to continually update their methods and material for career counseling” (Athar, 2008, p. 3). Professional counselors get an individual dossier for every student. It is then transferred to the employment service after graduation with the consent of the student. Professional counselors also introduce students into the world of professions, assisting in finding information about the content of occupations and their requirements. They coordinate work of school teachers in career counseling and assisting parents to develop interests and inclinations of their children. 

In recent years, in the United States there has been a shift from the concept of “profession” to the notion of “career”. A new generation of Americans appreciates fascination and career opportunities, as well as money in work. New requests of young people have predetermined emergence of a number of new educational programs such as the “Academy X” and “from school to work”, whose purpose is to improve training of young Americans for self-employment life. 

Occupational information network designed in 1998 also plays a significant role in professional self-determination of American schoolchildren. It provides information about occupations. Information about each profession contains the following items: the content of the activity, conditions of work, qualification requirements, means of activity, requirements for professional qualities, professional education, medical contraindications, related professions, as well as a list of training establishments that prepare various specialists. The presence of this database allows students to explore the world of professions and analyze compliance of their interests, aptitudes, and abilities with requirements of occupations.

The key to successful operation of the system of career counseling in the US consists in a variety of theoretical concepts and training programs aimed at practical preparation of students for choosing the profession, continuity of career guidance in schools, and a widespread use of information resources.

European Model

France can truly be considered as the leader of career counseling in Europe. The system of career counseling in this country has been created at the state level. It is coordinated by three ministries: labor, health, and education. “Counseling services for pupils are provided by career officers in all secondary schools” (Horner, Dobert, Kopp, & Mitter, 2007, p. 542). An important feature of the modern concept of career counseling in France is informational orientation. It is assumed that the degree of readiness for professional choice depends on the level of person’s awareness about working conditions and requirements of the profession. For example, the national bureau on education and profession fulfills activities of its regional offices, as well as develops and distributes documentation and information about professions and areas of education, labor market, employment, and vocational institutions. 

High indicators of the level of professional self-determination of French young people is largely due to the presence of a large number of centers for information and orientation (about 500), which interact with different social organizations (parents’ associations, labor exchanges, and training centers) and information services (a national institute of educational research and a regional centre for pedagogical documentation). They collect and process information about the state of the labor market. Nowadays, centers for information and orientation in France have more rights. They have the opportunity to influence professional choices of young people in accordance with requirements of the labor market, involving them in those professions that need employees.

The staff of centers for information and orientation consists of qualified professionals who are career guidance counselors. They realize the relationship of extracurricular and intraschool career counseling in France through close cooperation with teachers and school psychologists. A counselor, teachers, and school psychologists make a career-oriented council of the class. Its functions include provision of quality information about professions and the labor market situation, implementation organization of the educational career guidance, development of materials for career-oriented classes, organizations of excursions, conduction of individual consultations, and establishment and maintenance of relationships with families. The state regulation, highly qualified specialists, and availability of career guidance councils ensure efficiency of the French system of career counseling.

A rapid development of career counseling in the UK in the second half of the XX century is explained by a significant reduction of the economic growth and weakening of competitiveness in the global market, prompting the government to pay attention to career counseling. It is reflected in the growth of financial allocations and increase in the number of government programs and their scale. In 1973, there was a special law on career counseling services. The law indicated that career counseling work had to accompany students at all stages of learning. Subsequently, in the UK special agencies began to appear. They provided career guidance services and belonged to the system of the labor market regulation. Thus, the role of schools in career counseling of students has been increasing in the recent years. Inclusion in the curriculum of systematic career guidance of courses is a prerequisite. Professional advisors play a crucial role in the system of career counseling in the UK. Their functions are similar to the functions of French colleagues. However, if the adviser in France is an employee of the centre for career counseling, in the UK, as in the US, he/she is a member of the school community (Gabaldon, Horta, Meyer, & Pereira-Leal, 2005).

In UK schools, career counseling work is based on active forms and methods of teaching. A great attention is paid to role games that allow implementing simulation modeling of various labor operations. These games are developed taking into account specifics of the British labor market. Their aim is to strengthen position of an individual in choosing the professional way. A widespread use of active forms and methods of career counseling work has led to creation of mini-enterprises in English schools where students determine the type of services or products, conduct marketing, or realize selling. It is the active form of career counseling. In this regard, there is a need for a rich and diverse methodological support of career guidance. Improvement of this guidance in the UK consists in the creation of computer and audiovisual professional information systems, development of methods of work with the media, and issue of special prints, attracting entrepreneurs to provide stable employment for young people (Curry & Milsom, 2013).

The combination of career guidance services and assistance in employment is of particular importance. This feature of the British system of career counseling distinguishes it from similar services in other countries. In the US and France, employment services are separated from career guidance services. The hallmark of career counseling in the UK is presence of numerous scientific approaches. Its practice is based on theoretical research of British scientists in this field, such as H. Egan, K. Roger, D. Barrett, and D. Williams. Their approaches to career counseling have conceptual differences. “In the UK, a wide range of  public and private sector agencies provide career counseling and career support generally” (Kidd, 2006, p. 3). Constant search for new approaches in the theory and practice of career guidance work provides its development and further improvement. 

Japanese Model

A distinctive feature of the system of career counseling in Japan is the fact that it is focused on high school in contrast to other countries where a large scope of work falls on specialized centers of career counseling. The concept of career counseling in Japan is based on the diagnostic method “a person - a profession”. This method was developed after the World War II in the light of radical reforms of the Japanese schools. 

A serious impact on rapid changes of all aspects of the Japanese society was a result of six years of the US occupation. In this period, radical reforms in various areas of life, including education, were held. Radical reforms of Japanese schools transformed in the American manner with the establishment of junior secondary schools have affected both objectives and content of school education. Professional orientation is an essential part of education in transitional classes of secondary schools. One of the main goals of this stage of education is training for a career (Gunz & Peiperl, 2007).

 To control formation of readiness of 12-14-year-olds to choose their career path and preparation for the profession, Professor Fukuyama has developed a special test to score this ability of pupils. This test is called F-test (Fukuyama-test) to assess their ability to choose a profession methodically. Since 1950, it has repeatedly been used in many Japanese schools. It has allowed taking measures to improve career counseling for a given level of education. In 1972, the test was published. Since that time, the author has paid special attention to cross-cultural comparison of test results. Data comparison of Japanese and American students has played an essential role since a new educational system and some important principles and methods of career counseling have been taken from the US. They have been reflected in basic concepts and specific methods of career counseling in Japan. 

The influence of the US approach to career counseling demonstrates principles underlying in the test. The first principle, which is considered as a prerequisite to the choice of profession, is the ability to self-analysis. A student should know and be able to quantify his/her personality traits and inclinations, professional abilities, intelligence level, as well as the level of physical fitness. After a deep and thorough self-assessment, a student should get information about professions. It presupposes methodical studies of a particular professional activity and the study of reference literature. Studying of professions is the second principle. The professor has introduced a practical test as the third and basic principle providing checking “intelligence” choices with the help of own work experience, testing interests, abilities, and personality characteristics in the actual occupation. It is perhaps the strongest side of the diagnostic and educational approach proposed by Fukuyama because immediate development of teenagers is ensured by actions in professional environments. This approach in Japanese schools involves a completely independent and full implementation of work.

Every year, Japanese students are involved in different kinds of work from 16 fixed fields of labor. They include plant growing, livestock, fish farming, and manufacturing of things in two types: a) connected with the sphere of industrial production (for example, work with metal, wood, or receiving a product by chemical means) and b) connected with the service industry and craft (embroidery, sewing, dyeing or washing, work with mechanisms (assembly, maintenance, or repair), clerical work (different kinds of processing of documents – from replication to accounting operations); business (communications, transportation, purchase, sale, storage, insurance and banking work); providing contact with people (business and informal receptions), design, drawing, and cooking (Mahler, 2008). 

In Japan, the system of career counseling is deeply integrated into the learning process. It forms the core of training programs in high school. It is based on two main principles: the ability of self-awareness and the ability to analyze the profession. Another distinguishing feature of career counseling in this country is the belief of the Japanese researchers that younger classes of secondary school are an optimal starting point for formation of a professional orientation of students. Japanese paternalism could not help, but impose its imprint on approaches to career counseling. So, one of the main goals of career guidance in junior classes is to prepare for a career by arming pupils with knowledge about professions that are useful to the society with account for needs of the country in different employees and through initiation to a socially useful work.

Every Japanese student is involved in a professional test during which he/she gets the experience of the work and tries to determine whether the nature of this work corresponds to his/her abilities and skills. According to sociologists, this fact determines a high level of professional self-determination of Japanese schoolchildren (Mahler, 2008).

Despite a high level of development of career counseling in the above countries, there are still some problems and contradictions. For example, the main objective of any system of career counseling is, on the one hand, gratification of the needs of the society in personnel and a balanced labor market and, on the other hand, personal and professional fulfillment of each person individually. In other words, researchers in the field of career counseling have yet to resolve a number of issues. 


In the modern world, the right choice of profession plays an essential role. After school, a person still can not do an informed choice, weigh the pros and cons, and relate needs with actual capabilities. Person’s fate depends on this choice. However, not only personal fate of that person, but the fate of the country depends on the correct choice of profession. A social situation in the country depends on success of people in their working lives. Chances of getting a person in a group of high social risks are reduced when the country carries minimum costs on professional training and re-training. Therefore, it is extremely important to provide young people with help in selecting their future career path. 

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