Career Professional Paths: Career Coach, Career Counsellor or Career Consultant

By Christine Cristiano.

The majority of career professionals enter into the profession with a passion for helping jobseekers to navigate the job market and secure suitable employment. However, it can be confusing for the practitioner to determine where his or her skills fit into the career vocation equation. Likewise, for individuals seeking professional career guidance, the difference between coaching, counselling, and consulting can be confusing.

There are marked differences between the three disciplines and each offers selected expertise and services tailored to specific needs of a diverse clientele.

The Career Coach:  TaskMaster, Mentor, Accountability Partner. Career Coaches work with clients in transition who are seeking guidance in their career development or job search. They help clients to identify barriers and challenges that the jobseeker is experiencing amid their job search. A Career Coach will guide the client to navigate the job market to uncover opportunities and lead them through the process from resume creation and effective job search strategies, to interview preparation. A prime task of a Career Coach is to provide motivation and stimulate accountability of clients through a structured program system that incorporates goal setting, action plans, and measurable achievability. A Career Coach’s work is results oriented; they focus on the present situation and how to get the client moving from A to B in their desired direction. A Career Coach will work with a client over a period of time until the client has learned the tools and techniques and is ready carry on with an effective career marketing strategy alone, or he or she secures employment. The International Coaching Federation recommends that Career Coaches complete formal training in the principles, theories and practices through an accredited program. However, coaches do not require a degree in psychology or counselling.

The Career Counsellor:  Emotional Support, Issues Resolutions, Psychometric Testing & Assessments. According to the Oxford Dictionary, a counsellor is described as ‘‘a person trained to give guidance on personal, social, or psychological problems.” A Career Counsellor typically has earned an advanced degree in psychology. They apply psychological, mental health, and human development principles and theories to help clients recognize underlying issues that are affecting their ability to reach their goals. In a career professional role, a Career Counsellor will explore a client’s psychological disposition to determine which factors are impacting the client’s decision making processes, and hindering their personal development. Typically, Career Counsellors engage in long term relationships to help clients gain understanding of their circumstances and motives, and, together, they work through issues towards an acceptable solution.

According to the Canadian Standards & Guidelines for Career Development Practitioners, professional associations and regulatory bodies in various Canadian jurisdictions specify the ‘educational requirements, competencies, and continuing education expectations’ for counsellors. Likewise, many professional associations for career development practitioners (CDPs) have identified and mandate a combination of education and competencies, which are required to attain certification. Career Counsellors are required to satisfy both sets of requirements – as a counsellor, and as a CDP – in order to practice.

In recent years, the Nova Scotia Career Counselling Working Group came into existence with the goal of clearly defining/articulating a professional identity for Career Counsellors in Nova Scotia and Canada. The Career Practitioner and Counsellor Group’s (CPCG) brings clarity to the professional identities between Career Development Practitioners and Career Counsellors.

Career Consultant:  Project Based, Short or Long Term Projects, Solution Focused. Career Consultants are industry experts. A consultant is fluent in their field of expertise – expertise derived from years of professional experience. They are recognized for their knowledge and advancement of (and advancement within) the industry. They often perform the same work as Career Coaches but do not require a specific designation. They work one-to-one with clients or their expertise is commissioned by organizations to fulfill a specific short or long term project. Consultants might take on corporate work for projects that require targeted solutions such as outplacement services for laid off workers or a hiring campaign to fulfill a corporation’s employee roster for a project. More often, a company will seek to outsource projects to the services of a consultant who has specialized training and specific expertise in project management within a related setting.

Christine Cristiano Career Fair Image

Christine Cristiano, Member of Career Professionals of Canada (CPC) and Certified Career Strategist (CCS.)

The Canadian Council for Career Development (CCCD) was formed to “strengthen the professional identity of all career development practitioners and to establish a coherent national voice on career and labour market development issues to influence policy and enhance service delivery for all Canadians.” This industry movement is available for all career professionals in all provinces and will ensure that existing and emerging career practitioners are recognized for their work in the field and receive specific training in professional ethics and standards.

Career Competence is a free self-assessment and professional development planning tool developed by Career Professionals of Canada. Through this interactive form, you will assess your competencies against The Canadian Standards and Guidelines for Career Development Practitioners (S&Gs).


No matter whether you are looking to enter into the career services industry or seeking the services of a career professional to coach you through your job search, be sure to thoroughly research your options so that you choose the career professional – and the services – that are best suited to your needs.

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