The Overlooked Group: Career Preparation for Counselors-in-Training

Article excerpt

In its standards for the preparation of professional counselors, the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP, 2001) identifies career development as one of the core areas in which students should have knowledge and curricular experiences. CACREP-accredited counseling programs must offer coursework that covers areas such as career development theories and decision-making models, career counseling processes and techniques, and occupational and labor market information resources to name a few. Examples of assignments in these courses include inviting students to use their own lives as learning templates for career decision making; interviewing or shadowing professional counselors in their areas of specialization; or conducting mock interviews. However, much of the knowledge and preparation that students receive focuses on using the acquired skill and knowledge competencies with prospective clients (Brown, 2005; Pickman, 1997). Feedback from graduates of our own program indicates that students graduate as novice counselors, feeling vulnerable and unprepared for the career to which they have committed time, energy, and resources.

All kinds of professions, including music librarians (Elliot & Blair, 2004), salespeople (Azar & Foley, 2004), travel agents (Colbert, 2004), aviators (Echaore-McDavid, 2005), police officers (Taylor, 2005), and chefs (Donovan, 2004), and of course, people entering business, have guides that prepare them to seek and land the perfect job. Most of these guides are marketed to counselors for use with their clients in these diverse fields. Even related human services fields, such as social work and psychology, have their career guides (Wittenberg, 2003; Sternberg, 1997). Amidst these riches, however, there appear to be very few resources available that focus on the career preparation of counselors (Baxter, 1994; Collison & Garfield, 1996). Those that include counselors, such as Burger and Youkeles (2000), tend to focus on the earlier stages of choosing a career direction that is aligned with one's interests and aptitudes, rather than on later stages that involve preparation for entry into the field. This paper strives to identify and discuss the unique challenges and career preparation issues faced by master's level counselors, and the responsibility of counselor education programs to send out new counselors who are adequately prepared for the workforce. Career resources used in one master's level training program are provided as examples of ways in which programs can respond to this need.

Unique Career Issues for Counselors

Counseling as a profession has historical roots in vocational guidance, but has evolved into an approach to helping people facing developmental and normative problems as well as psychopathology; it is often described as being indistinguishable from psychotherapy (Neukrug, 2000). The very breadth of settings and arenas in which counselors work, from schools and colleges, to public, private, and government agencies, to business and industry can be problematic for new counselors. Still far from firmly grounded, they must define a professional identity and advocate for themselves in fields and settings where they face much competition, and often little understanding, of professional counselors' preparation and skills. In a society where people can be called at home to be sold credit cards by persons labeling themselves "financial counselors", offered makeovers in department stores by "cosmetic counselors", or examined for inheritable diseases by "genetic counselors", new professional counselors face many challenges. Specifically, new counselors searching for jobs in schools, colleges and universities, and community agencies face slightly different challenges depending on their area of specialization.

In school counseling, increased threats of funding cuts on the Federal and State levels (Counseling Today, 2005) jeopardize the employability of school counselors. …


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