Career Coaching vs Career Counselling: What’s the Difference?

career coaching vs career counselling
February 24, 2022
Table of Contents

In today’s ultra-competitive job market, having an edge over peers is an advantage to further one’s career prospects. A lot of people take on the services of well-qualified, skilled professionals to help guide them on the correct path towards a successful career. And thus, career coaching and counselling are some of the most sought-after professions in the corporate arena. 

Both career counselling and coaching can help an individual achieve success in their professional journey. But are they just different names for the same profession? Not really. Although the intent of both is to help individuals ascend their career graph, where career coaching and career counselling end up diverging is in their approach towards realising that goal. 

Let’s find out the difference between career coaching vs career counselling, their purpose, the qualifications required for both occupations, the outcomes of both processes and how to choose the best-suited option.

Career Coaching

a. What is it? 

Career coaching supports individuals who are already established in their professions become better versions of themselves – they do this by helping them understand their current job realities, whether their work aligns with their core values & skills, their future aspirations, their strengths and limitations as well as their hidden competencies that can be harnessed to open up previously unexplored career opportunities. 

Career coaching guides these professionals towards self-discovery, to understand that they are inventive, resourceful and productive individuals who are responsible for their professional development and are accountable for executing the tasks and steps decided between themselves and their career coach to achieve set career goals. 

Career coaching motivates individuals to upgrade themselves, whether it is in terms of their communications, behaviours or talents and helps chart out systematic action steps for their client that can eventually deliver measurable outcomes in attaining career objectives and job satisfaction. 

Career coaching is a solution-oriented approach aimed at helping individuals move ahead by taking stock of their current job situation, evaluating their future options and taking honest, specific actions to bridge the gap between ‘where they are’ to ‘where they want to be’ and achieve those career targets. 

b. The purpose

The main purpose of career coaching is to help professionals become self-confident, promote deeper understanding of their plus points & weaknesses, and work towards bettering themselves, pinpoint talents & experiences to steer them towards suitable career options, encourage individuals towards novel, out-of-the-box thought processes, develop newer skillsets that align with changing professional demands, help draw out a systematic, practical and actionable strategy, and hold the individual accountable to implement those mutually decided career development plans to not only attain work objectives but also to ensure a long, fulfilling and satisfying career.  

A career coach, unlike a career counsellor, does not advice their clients on how to live their life or how to overcome depression or negative emotions or how to manage their personal problems. Career coaching is focused only on the present professional realities and how to align that situation with future aspirations. 

In short, career coaching is a positive process that is centered on capabilities, insights, actions and results that encourages the individual to hone skills (required not just for a job search but also for long term career advancement) that will eventually help them attain their professional goals. 

c. The qualifications

Ideally, to become a career coach, it is recommended (although not compulsory) that the person have a degree in psychology or a post-graduation in counselling psychology or some additional certification in coaching from accredited bodies such as ICF (International Coaches Federation). In addition to academic qualification, in order to become an excellent career coach, that person must 

  • Have very good communication, oratory, listening as well as observation skills
  • Be very good at man-management 
  • Have an open, understanding & non-judgmental attitude 
  • Have good social & networking skills 
  • Be empathetic and compassionate towards people and their issues 
  • Be self-motivated, mentally strong and have a passion for helping people, specifically in their careers

Career Counselling

a. What is it?

Career counselling is a bit different from career coaching in that it focuses more on the mental or behavioural blocks that impede professional advancements. 

Career counselling is more focused on getting to the bottom of what inhibits an individual’s progress, and delves into the individual’s past to find out the reasons why their career has stagnated or why good opportunities are slipping away or what is preventing the individual from going after their career goals, and more.

A career counsellor will have insightful conversations with their client to better gauge their state of mind, inclinations, hobbies, and talents to understand the roadblocks to their professional progress and help them find a suitable career path that aligns closely with their qualifications. 

Unlike career coaching, which helps individuals develop and/or upgrade their skillsets to move ahead in their jobs, career counselling is more of a process-driven approach that looks to help individuals overcome their psychological barriers and shortcomings to grasp available opportunities for career advancements. 

b. The purpose

The intention of career counselling, similar to career coaching, is also to eventually aid in the career advancement of an individual, but it takes a slightly different road towards achieving it. Career counselling takes a more holistic approach by taking an in-depth look into the individual’s past, their interests, values, strengths, insecurities as well as other psychological aspects of their character to ascertain what it is that is holding them back from pursuing a rewarding career path. 

Career counselling, unlike career coaching, is more about giving the client direct, instructive advice on how to limit certain negative traits from the past that may conflict with present & future professional goals. Career counsellors, during one-on-one interactions, can pinpoint past fears, anxieties or procrastinatory behaviour that may be the root cause of their hesitation towards career transition or advancements, thus helping individuals untangle those worries & emotions and adopt a fresher, more uncluttered approach that encourages the individual to move forward in their professional lives. 

Career counselling is more of a confidential, therapeutic process that implements fundamental counselling techniques to go to the very core issues (mental & emotional) that block the individual’s progress and offer advice on how to overcome those barriers for professional development. 

c. The qualifications

To become a career counsellor, one needs to be a graduate in Behavioral Sciences or Psychology or vocational psychology. To top it up, a Master’s degree in counselling is an added advantage. Also, career counsellors need a formal license to practice. To become a career counsellor, it requires some years of academic studies as well as few more years of validation to earn their license to practice. Along with academic qualifications, practical experience and field knowledge, a first-rate counsellor must also

  • Be, a friend, mentor and guide 
  • Have a good grasp of human psychology 
  • Have an in-depth knowledge of career options, current job opportunities 
  • Help the client find the right career as well as improve existing ones 
  • Be up to date with academic & instructional systems

Career Coaching vs Career Counselling: Which One to Specialise In?

Now that we have taken a detailed look into what career coaching and career counselling are all about, how do you choose which is the better option for you if you are looking to specialize in either profession? Well, as we learned earlier, both career counselling and coaching are aimed at professional advancements but differ in their approaches. 

As a career counsellor, one’s job is primarily of a guardian who will hold the client’s hand while helping them overcome their past barriers that block professional progress and steer them towards the right career path. Here, the focus is on addressing mental barriers and veering towards a new professional direction. 

As a career coach, the main role is to assess the current professional situation of the client, identify their strengths, weaknesses, skills & experience, prepare an action plan that aligns with their values and talents and guide them towards identifying suitable job opportunities & workplaces that will fulfil their future aspirations and career goals. As a career coach the focus is on actions and outcomes that take the client from where they are to where they want to be. 

Coaching and counselling are just two different styles. It isn’t that one is better than the other, it is just that they take separate roads to help individuals in their professional growth. So, the choice to specialize in either career coaching vs career counselling depends largely on your qualifications, experience and inclination. Weigh the requirements of both and make an informed choice! 


1. What is the difference between a career coach and career advisor?

A career coach helps their clients, who are industry professionals, build confidence, understand their current professional realities, identify unknown talents, discover solutions to issues that block professional growth, develop practical & actionable plans and inspire & motivate them to be accountable for implementing those plans. A career coach additionally also helps their client look for suitable career options and industries that align with their talents and values, conducts mock interviews to improve interview skills, provides honest & frank feedback, and encourages them to set time bound & achievable goals to improve their career graph. Career coaching is a result-oriented process that helps individuals evaluate and re-structure their careers by taking strategic steps to attain long-term professional objectives. 

A career advisor understands their client’s career aspirations and advises them on the type of educational qualifications and experience that would need to achieve their goal. Career advisors often work for colleges and help students identify the career they might be best suited for via aptitude tests and other assessments. They help clients with job searches, teach them how to write an impactful resume, conduct research on industry & market trends, make them aware of various career options that gel with their skills, oversee career assessments, provide guidance on career advancement and placement, and more.

About Simply.Coach

Simply.Coach is an enterprise-grade coaching software designed to be used by individual coaches and coaching businesses. Trusted by ICF-accredited and EMCC-credentialed coaches worldwide, Simply.Coach is on a mission to elevate the experience and process of coaching with technology-led tools and solutions.  

About the author

An avid reader with love for books on history, sci-fi and popular fiction, Pallavi is a gifted content writer. She is also a keen listener of Indian semi & classical music. Currently, she juggles her duties of being a full-time mom with part-time content writing.

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