Careers adviser (higher education): job description

Careers adviser (higher education): job description

Higher education careers advisers provide information and guidance about career choice, employment and educational opportunities to current university students, postgraduates and recent graduates.
The largest careers services may employ up to 15 careers advisers, and staff include web staff and information officers.

What does a higher education careers adviser do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Colleges of higher education and universities employ careers advisers. Responsibilities of the job include:

  • assessing personal characteristics, skills and interests via individual interviews and/or group work, and relating these to suitable opportunities
  • providing help and advice
  • liaising with schools, colleges, academic departments, employers and professional organisations
  • organising work placements
  • writing careers literature, action plans and reports
  • making presentations
  • working with academic departments to provide career management skills (CMS) sessions
  • running workshops
  • undertaking psychometric and personality testing
  • using specialist computer-aided guidance applications
  • attending conferences
  • contributing to the work of the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services AGCAS

Vacancies attract strong competition, and are advertised in the Times Educational Supplement, Times Higher Education, local, regional and national newspapers and via the internet. Work experience gained in any relevant setting is essential, although placements within careers offices are difficult to obtain. The Graduate Careers Services Directory can be helpful for speculative applications.

Qualifications and training required

An undergraduate degree is often preferred for a higher education careers adviser but sometimes, with the right amount of relevant experience, university is not necessary.

Any degree discipline is acceptable for entry into the profession: experience and personality are usually more important than subject studied. A relevant qualification may be required for some positions (eg law/engineering/science).

It is normally necessary to gain an NVQ (Level 4) in guidance or a postgraduate diploma in careers guidance (Dip CG). The diploma takes two years to complete and incorporates a year of full-time study followed by an assessed probationary year of vocational experience. There is strong competition for Dip CG course places – early applications ten to twelve months in advance are advisable. Some services sponsor training, although most students fund themselves. Relevant work experience may be required for entry onto some courses.

Key skills for higher education careers advisers

Potential employees should have plenty of confidence and excellent presentation, listening, verbal and written communication skills. Confidentiality, a non-judgemental manner, patience and good teamworking, organisational and interpersonal skills are also important.