difference between career coach and career counsellor

Revealing the Key Distinctions between a Career Coach and a Career Counsellor

What are the key distinctions between a career coach and a career counsellor? To answer this question, it’s helpful to first understand the difference between career coaching and career counselling. While there are differences between career coaching and career counselling, there are also similarities. 

Career coaching tends to be more present and future-focused, whereas career counselling delves deeper into one’s career story i.e., looking at an individual’s past and understanding how that impacts on the present. Another difference is that career coaching tends to take a solution-oriented approach, working with clients to identify steps they can take to achieve their career goals.

As career coaching is not a universally regulated profession, anyone can call themselves a career coach without the proper training or experience. Coaches who help clients with their careers often call themselves career coaches. However, most professional career coaches will usually have a recognised career coaching qualification and a relevant undergraduate degree. Increasingly, many career coaches have postgraduate qualifications in career coaching, career development or coaching psychology.

Career counselling (or career counseling for American readers) requires specialist skills and in some countries is a regulated profession. Career counsellors help people build self-awareness, find meaning and purpose, and manage their careers effectively. Career counsellors generally have specialist qualifications in career counselling, career guidance and/or psychology along with micro-credentials in the various career counselling techniques and tools they use.

What does a career coach do?

If you’ve done any research into career coaching, you may have noticed that career coaches can describe themselves in several different ways. This can be confusing, making the search for a career coach challenging. Some career coaches market themselves using titles such as career change coach, career transition coach or career development coach. Some professional career coaches have the qualifications and experience to assume any of these titles. However, some career coaches may have a specialism in some of these areas. It can be helpful to consider the different areas in which career coaches may specialise.

Career coaching for career change

Specialised in helping people change careers through the use of career counselling and career coaching skills. They may use various approaches, strategies and tools to help people understand their strengths and preferred work environments, life and career goals. Some will provide support and guidance in the development of your personal branding including your CV, cover letter, portfolio development, LinkedIn etc.

Coaching for career transition

Career transition coaches provide career coaching and support to those going through a range of career transitions including redundancy, returning to work parents and expatriates or repatriates.

They also work in outplacement programs designed to support those who have been made redundant or preparing for an impending redundancy. The kind of support offered can include help dealing with the emotional impact of redundancy, assisting clients to recognise their skills, strengths and experience and developing a career transition plan. Help with the development of an effective CV is often a key element of outplacement support.

A career transition coach will also provide advice and guidance on job search strategy, networking, using platforms such as LinkedIn, and assistance with job applications including interview coaching.

Coaching for career development

Some career coaches have specialist qualifications in career development. Career development is all of those activities that contribute to an individual’s career development across one’s life. This includes building self-awareness, career planning, skills development and career management. Career development coaches work with individuals to help them achieve job satisfaction, work-life balance and well-being at work.

Around the world, there are career development associations to which career development professionals gain accreditation and/or registration. In the UK, the Career Development Institute maintains a register of career development professionals who have a minimum level of specialist qualifications, experience and commitment to ongoing development and a code of ethics.

Similar bodies exist in the USA, Canada and Australia including:

What does a career counsellor do?

Career counselling involves a deeper level of career exploration, especially around career decision-making. Career counsellors help clients identify careers that are meaningful and fulfilling using a variety of approaches. Some might use traditional ‘person-environment fit’ methods like career interest testing and vocational assessment, while others take a narrative approach using dialogue to gain insight into career aspirations and identify suitable careers. 

A career counsellor helps clients identify skills, strengths, interests and challenges. They assist clients to explore and identify career options. They inform their clients by understanding how to access and use labour market information (LMI) to make well-informed career decisions. Career counsellors can help clients identify suitable roles and provide ongoing support to achieve career goals. 

Career counselling is useful for career management, helping people navigate career challenges and supporting career and personal development


There are many similarities between career coaching and career counselling. We have explored the similarities and some of the differences between career coaching and counselling. We’ve also identified the role career development professionals can play in managing your career.

If you are looking for a career coach or career counsellor, it’s important to first understand your needs. You can then decide whether you are best served by working with a career coach or a career counsellor. If you are unsure, choosing a registered career development professional means you are likely to find a qualified professional who has a full range of skills and experience to support you in your career.

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Picture of Lisa LaRue, MCareerDev,  RCDP, MAC

Lisa LaRue, MCareerDev, RCDP, MAC

Career Coach, EMCC-Accredited Master Practitioner Coach and CDI-Registered Career Development Professional with more than 20 years’ experience helping achieve successful and fulfilling careers.



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