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 in a range of ways, including face-to-face meetings such as drop-in clinics and guidance interviews, social media and direct personal contact by email, phone and Skype
  • 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 and events, which may include external speakers such as representatives of employers or professional organisations
  • 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)
  • advising students on CVs, covering letters and interviews and holding mock interviews

Vacancies attract strong competition, and are advertised in Times Higher Education, local, regional and national newspapers, on university websites and by AGCAS. Work experience gained in any relevant setting is essential, although placements within careers offices are difficult to obtain.

Qualifications and training required

An undergraduate degree is often preferred for a higher education careers adviser role, but universities can set their own criteria for recruitment and may be willing to consider candidates who are not graduates but who have extensive experience or who have qualified through a vocational route.

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, such as law, engineering or science.

There are two main postgraduate training routes for would-be careers advisers. Candidates can study for the qualification in career development (QCD), which recently replaced the qualification in career guidance (QCG). QCD courses may also be open to applicants with appropriate skills or experience who do not have a degree if they can show that they are likely to meet the academic standard required.

Alternatively, candidates can study for a postgraduate diploma in careers guidance, a university course that takes one year full-time and two years part-time, and is completed in conjunction with work experience.

You may be able to take a work-based route to qualifying, and progress from a role as an advice assistant. There are a number of vocational qualifications available at different levels and it may be possible to progress through these. If you wish to be admitted to the UK register of career development professionals, which is maintainted by the Career Development Institute, you will need to have the QCD or another approved qualification, such as the level 6 diploma in career guidance and development, or equivalent.

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.

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