A guidance counsellor helps young people and adults choose an education, training or career path that will help them achieve their own personal goals. The aim of their work is to ensure that, when people are choosing a high school, degree course, training programme or career, they take into account both practical/financial considerations and also their own personal dreams and desires, so the question “What you want to do when you grow up?” is taken as an opportunity to assess both what they want and what they could potentially achieve.
A guidance counsellor must have a multidisciplinary background because, in addition to conventional studies in psychology, they must also have an understanding of subjects like sociology, economics and the educational sciences. They will find themselves working alongside teachers, school managers, university staff, public administration bodies and businesses, and they will inevitably have to deal not only with strictly psychological matters but also socio-economic issues. A guidance counsellor typically works for schools, universities, training bodies and employment agencies.
Qualifications required to become a guidance counsellor?
Once again the first step to becoming a guidance counsellor is to take a master’s degree in psychology, pass the board examination and then be licenced in category A of the Association of Psychologists in order to work freelance. Since they must be extremely familiar with the school, university, training and, above all, work environment, guidance counsellors must have a mastery of subjects like sociology, the organisational sciences, educational sciences, economics and business management. They will, of course, also need a good grounding in conventional psychological studies and an advanced understanding of developmental psychology, the psychology of individual differences, social psychology, industrial and organisational psychology, educational psychology and clinical psychology.
It is highly advisable to take a master’s degree, such as the one promoted by the Italian Society for Guidance Counselling in partnership with a network of 45 universities. As always, it is also highly advisable to attend training courses or internships at businesses and associations involved in guidance counselling.
A guidance counsellor usually works for organisations like schools, universities and, above all, public institutions and bodies. For example, they might work on career guidance projects in schools, for university guidance services or for public-private training centres.
Another important career opportunity is being employed by public companies involved in training and careers guidance, such as local job centres, job agencies, career guidance centres and information centres for young people. A guidance counsellor may also work for private consultancy firms and, of course, may also work, freelance: for example, providing a counselling and career guidance service or supporting the human resources department of other companies.
A guidance counsellor uses the know-how, methods, techniques and tools of psychology to provide people with the best education and career guidance to help them fulfil their real dreams and desires. Their work is focused on both young people and adults, helping them work out what they really want and make the right decisions based on tests, questionnaires and personal interviews.
Guidance counsellors can be a great help in choosing a particular kind of education or career: for example, helping a worker redirect their own career or completely change path to cater for new needs in their life. A delicate issue they must deal with in the working world is unemployment and everything that entails on a psychological level. Working in education, on the other hand, they will have to deal with the typical issues and problems affecting young people as they grow up.
Generally speaking, a guidance counsellor’s job touches on deep cognitive issues. They must help people understand the working world, school and university, while on a deeper level, they must broach issues related to vocation, talent, expertise and personality, helping people understand their own needs and abilities. As well as working with individuals, guidance counsellors intervene in organisations to plan and carry out guidance and counselling services, for example, setting up a guidance service in a university, helping a company incorporate this kind of function in its management of human resources or contribute to the organisation of services provided by public bodies and services.