Job descriptions and industry overviews

Careers adviser (higher education): job description

25 Jan 2023, 13:39

Higher education careers advisers provide information and guidance about career choice, employment and educational opportunities to current university students, postgraduates and recent graduates.

Student raising hand in a classroom setting to ask a question.

There are two main postgraduate training routes for would-be careers advisers: the qualification in career development (QCD) and a postgraduate diploma in careers guidance.

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

Careers advisers working in higher education help undergraduate and postgraduate students make decisions about their future careers and provide support with the job application process. Responsibilities of higher education careers advisers 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 individual guidance meetings, workshops, mock interviews and presentations. These could be held face-to-face or virtually
  • liaising with schools, colleges, academic departments, employers and professional organisations
  • organising work placements
  • writing careers advice literature, action plans and reports
  • working with academic departments to provide career management skills (CMS) sessions
  • organising and/or running events, which may include external speakers such as representatives of employers or professional organisations
  • using specialist computer-aided guidance applications
  • contributing to the work of the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS).

The advice you provide will include subjects such as making careers decisions, preparing for and navigating all stages of recruitment processes and starting out in a job.

Employers of higher education careers advisers

Careers advisers working in higher education are typically employed directly by universities and colleges of higher education.

Vacancies attract strong competition, and are advertised in Times Higher Education , on university websites and by AGCAS. Work experience gained in any relevant setting is essential, although placements within careers offices can be 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 the subject studied. A relevant qualification may be required for some positions, such as in specialist institutions.

There are two main postgraduate training routes for would-be careers advisers. Candidates can study for the qualification in career development (QCD), which replaced the qualification in career guidance (QCG) in 2017. 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 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 maintained by the Career Development Institute, you will need to have the QCD or another approved qualification.

Key skills for higher education careers advisers

  • IT and digital literacy
  • Excellent verbal communication skills, including the ability to adapt your style to suit different individuals
  • Presentation skills
  • An aptitude for motivating others
  • Teamworking skills
  • Patience.

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