Career Development Professional

Career development professionals advise, coach, provide information and support people who are planning, seeking and managing their life and work direction.

Also Known As:Career Counsellor, Counsellor, Employment Counsellor
NOC Number(s):4213
Minimum Education:Education/training requirements vary
Employment Outlook:Job openings: turnover plus new jobs due to average growth in occupation in Alberta 2013-2017
Interests:S M I

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Career Development Professional

Duties | Working Conditions | Personal Characteristics | Education | Related Legislation | Employment | Salary | Other Information | Related Occupations | Related School Subjects | Related Field of Study


Career development professionals help clients of all ages:

  • make plans and decisions related to choosing a career direction
  • select education and training programs
  • balance work and other life roles
  • navigate career transitions and stages
  • enhance career satisfaction
  • find employment or self-employment opportunities, write resumes, develop portfolios and prepare for interviews.

Working with clients individually or in groups, career development professionals may:

  • help people develop a better appreciation of their unique characteristics and how those characteristics relate to career choices
  • use various assessment tools to help clients identify their interests, values, beliefs, lifestyle preferences, aptitudes and abilities, and relate them to the world of work
  • help clients identify educational requirements and develop training plans
  • facilitate career management and career decision making workshops
  • work with clients who have disabilities, language and cultural differences, or other special needs that affect their employment prospects
  • help clients deal with barriers to achieving their career plans
  • help employed clients plan their next career move, cope successfully with job dissatisfaction, or make occupational or job changes
  • provide current labour market information to help clients make realistic occupational or employment decisions
  • market clients to potential employers and help clients find job or work experience placements
  • assist clients with implementing effective employment search strategies, writing resumes, and developing career portfolios and interview skills
  • plan and implement career and employment related programs
  • evaluate the impact of career and employment related programs and services on the lives of clients
  • refer clients to appropriate services to address their particular needs
  • work co-operatively with community groups and agencies, businesses and other organizations involved in providing career planning resources
  • use computers to write reports and proposals, and research information on the Internet
  • perform related administrative tasks such as keeping records.

For information about school guidance counsellors and counsellors in post-secondary institutions, see the Educational Counsellor occupational profile.

Working Conditions

Career development professionals may work in a variety of settings but usually work in offices where they can conduct private interviews with clients and in classrooms or boardrooms where they conduct group sessions. Depending on the organization, their hours of work may include some evening and weekend work.

Personal Characteristics

Career development professionals need the following characteristics:

  • a genuine interest in and respect for people from all walks of life
  • patience, understanding and the ability to listen non-judgmentally
  • excellent oral and written communication skills and presentation skills
  • objectivity and tact
  • the ability to motivate and inspire clients
  • the ability to facilitate communication in groups
  • good organizational and planning skills
  • the ability to work effectively with other professionals and community agencies.

They should enjoy consulting with people, compiling information and working with clients to develop innovative solutions to problems.

Educational Requirements

Most career development professionals have post-secondary education in a related discipline such as psychology, education, social work or human resources development. Increasingly, employers are looking for applicants who have a certificate, diploma or degree in career development, or an equivalent combination of education and experience.

Post-secondary institutions throughout Alberta offer psychology, education, social work and/or human resources development programs. For more information, see the Psychologist, Educational Counsellor, Social Worker and Human Resources Professional occupational profiles.

In Alberta, the following institutions offer post-secondary programs in career development:

  • Athabasca University offers a one year (30 credit) university certificate in career development program and a master of counselling (MC) degree program with a specialization in career counselling, by distance education. Applicants to the certificate program must be residents of Canada who are at least 18 years of age. The certificate program is intended for people who have work experience related to career development. The entrance requirement for the MC degree program is a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.00/4 in the last ten full-course equivalents (30 credits) of a four year bachelor's degree program that includes specified courses in psychology or educational psychology and a counselling skills course, or equivalent.
  • Concordia University College of Alberta in Edmonton offers university credit and non-university credit courses in career development. Students may enrol in three year or four year Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Bachelor of Management (B.Mgt.) degree programs with a minor (18 to 24 credits) in career development. The entrance requirement for the degree programs is English Language Arts 30-1 plus four other appropriate 30-level subjects. Non-university credit courses are offered in the certificate (19 credits) or diploma (33 credits) in career development programs through the Professional and Continuing Education Division. The entrance requirement for the certificate and diploma programs is an appropriate degree or other relevant post-secondary education, or equivalent experience. Courses may be taken on campus or through self-study.
  • University of Calgary offers a Master of Counselling degree program with a specialization in career counselling by distance education. The entrance requirement is a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.00/4 in the last ten full-course equivalents (30 credits) of a four year bachelor's degree program that includes specified courses in learning theory, developmental psychology and communication skills. The University of Calgary also offers a four course (120 hour) Career and Academic Advising Certificate program and a 300 hour Certificate in Adult Learning Specializing in Career and Academic Advising program through Continuing Education.
  • University of Lethbridge offers a Master of Counselling degree program with a specialization in career counselling, by distance education. The entrance requirement is a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.00/4 in the last ten full-course equivalents (30 credits) of a four year bachelor's degree program that includes specified courses in psychology or educational psychology and a counselling skills course, or equivalent.

For current information about programs, admission requirements and mature student admission policies, please check post-secondary calendars or websites.

On an ongoing basis, career development professionals must keep up to date with changes in educational, occupational and labour market information.

Related Legislation

The Career Development Association of Alberta grants the designation Certified Career Development Professional (CCDP) to applicants who meet educational, experience and ethical requirements. This certification is voluntary.

Employment and Advancement

Career development professionals are employed by:

  • provincial and federal government departments
  • educational institutions (public, separate and post-secondary schools)
  • the human resources departments of large organizations
  • private agencies
  • not-for-profit organizations.

An increasing number of career development professionals work on a contract basis or are self-employed.

Advancement opportunities depend on the nature and size of the employing organization, and the career development professional's qualifications.

Career development professionals are part of the larger National Occupational Classification 4213: Employment Counsellors.  In Alberta, 77 per cent of people employed in this classification work in the following industries:

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the industries listed above)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

Over 1,600 Albertans are employed in the Employment Counsellors occupational group which is expected to have an annual average growth of 2.4 per cent from 2013 to 2017 in Alberta. It is forecasted that about 38 new positions will be created each year in addition to job openings created by employment turnover. (Note: Since career development professionals form only a part of the larger occupational group on which this forecast is based, only a portion of the new positions created will be for career development professionals.)

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Section revised November 2013


Salaries for career development professionals vary depending on the organization and the individual's qualifications.

According to the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Employment Counsellors occupational group earned on average from $26.76 to $35.50 an hour. The mean wage for this group was $31.27 an hour.

For more detailed information, see WAGEinfo.

Section revised February 2012

Other Sources of Information

Post-secondary institution calendars and websites (see Educational Requirements above)

EDinfo website:

Career Development Association of Alberta (CDAA) website:

Related Occupational Profiles
Educational Counsellor
Human Ecologist
Human Resources Professional
Life Skills Coach
Occupational Therapist
Social Worker
Training and Development Professional

Related High School Subjects
English Language Arts; and Health, Recreation and Human Services (Human and Social Services)

Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
Education and Library Studies; Humanities and Languages; Social Sciences, Law and Religious Studies; and Social, Community and Protective Services

Produced December 2011
Top of Profile

For more information on career planning, occupations and educational programs, visit the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website at, call the Alberta Career Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-661-3753 or 780-422-4266 in Edmonton or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

The information contained in this profile was current as of the dates shown. Salaries, employment outlook and educational programs may change. Please check the information before making any career decisions.

Government of Alberta, Human Services