Vocational counseling is a career focused on helping those who need to obtain work. There are many centers that might offer these counseling services, including those run by various government agencies, serving a diverse group of people. When people seek out a vocational counselor or are referred to one, they may work with that counselor to evaluate skills, learn how to improve skills, learn how to successfully search for jobs, and develop methods for effectively applying and interviewing for work.
The people who could use vocational counseling can vary. Someone who has trouble maintaining jobs or who has certain skills that are no longer in demand might need to transition to a new career. Those with certain disadvantages in the employment world such as advanced age or disabilities might benefit from these services. Often, people who are receiving any form of state support or unemployment are referred to free visits with a vocational counselor, and while these may not always be mandatory, they could be greatly beneficial.
As part of the work, the vocational counselor is likely to identify interests of the client, and this may be achieved through survey testing and conversation. If a new career is sought, the counselor might ask the client to complete some tests that would determine the client's strengths. At this point, the client may have enough skills in a certain area to immediately start applying for work. If not, the counselor could recommend training programs to gather more skills and find employment in an area the client could enjoy.
Sometimes vocational counseling is of much shorter duration. Clients who just need resources or references for job searches might get what they require in a session or two. The counselor could look at reasons for unemployment and make suggestions on better work habits, or he or she could evaluate interview skills and provide some coaching so that clients are more impressive when they interview. Alternately, some clients need vocational counseling for a much longer period, if they remain unsuccessful in getting a job or need to complete lengthy training first.
There are a number of counselors who may provide some degree of vocational counseling. These include high school and college counselors. Another crossover field is rehabilitation counseling, which can cover career advice and work when people have had significant changes to physical or mental health that change career outlook.
Under the majority of circumstances, vocational counseling is provided at low to no cost. As mentioned this may be offered through government agencies. It could also be available through a number of privately run non-profit agencies, designed to improve the lives of certain population groups.