To the world, you may just be a counselor, but to your students, you are a hero. - Anonymous

The life of a student is difficult. The pressure of career choices, good universities, peer pressure, and parental expectations weigh heavily on them throughout their lives. Add to this the enormous pressure added by society, at large, and the varying career options that often confuse them in decision-making, instead of helping them out. This is where counselors come into the picture. Counseling is an art, and very few have been able to master it. It requires a lot of empathy, sensitivity, and an open mind to understand where the other person is coming from.

Counselors, although high in demand, are scarcely found. Especially the good ones. This could be because in India, the role of career counselors and student psychologists who provide useful advice to get through school life, is not very popular. This is very surprising because for students it can have a deep impact to get a career assessment or guidance counseling from experts. Given the ever-expanding career options, and now in the Covid times, the mental well-being of students studying online has become a major issue that needs to be addressed. The job markets have become more competitive and tighter than before, entailing the intervention of school counselors starting at the elementary level itself.

Data shows that in India, approximately 3 million young graduates enter the job market every year. But the unemployment rate jumped to a scary 7% in October 2020.

So, how can you help as a school career counselor?

What Are The Requirements to Become A Career Counselor in India?

Examination hall
You have to be certified from a recognized program to practice as a school counselor | Source: Hindustan Times

The first step to becoming a counselor is to understand what specific role you are being asked to perform. To be a practicing counselor in India, you have to get a certification from any of the reputed career counseling programs. The apex body that offers this certification is the Career Counseling Psychology Association of IndiaThis certification is important to add value to your portfolio as a counselor and to establish your label as a practicing psychologist.

The journey of becoming a career counselor can start with understanding the scope of career counseling. There are diverse pathways in which this role can take you. Armed with the right degree and certification, you can go on to explore your hidden talents as a psychologist. You can practice in schools or work with state governments to impact the school curriculum to include counseling as a mandatory practice. You can even change your domain over time with advanced specializations.

Difference Between A Psychologist and A Counselor

You may not be interested in coaching young adults on life skills, and maybe more inclined to help out children in schools by impacting curriculum changes. Then you are more oriented towards becoming an educational psychologist. As opposed to a career counselor, who advises mainly on career choices and school options, a psychologist helps students deal with emotional ups and downs.

As an educational psychologist, your major tasks may include:

  • Identifying learning obstacles for your students.
  • Providing emotional and mental support.
  • Identifying behavioral patterns.
  • Recommending changes in behavior management.
  • Helping with other emotional concerns.
  • Aiding teachers to work with specific students.

This type of counseling is distinct from career counseling. While the latter deals with the nuances of career management, helps aspirants find the right career paths, design job search strategies, and develop interview skills, the former is concerned with ensuring the well-being of the students through all this.

You must be excellent at cooperation and collaboration in order to land jobs as an educational psychologist.

School counselors, on the other hand, help you make career choices by providing prospective paths, jobs and even guide you in the right direction of skill-building. Below is a list of the major responsibilities of career counselors:

  • Help students to create job-worthy resumes.
  • Guide students and working professionals to explore multiple career options.
  • Facilitate training programs for prospective job aspirants.
  • Organize job fairs.
  • Making student resources like employment information, available online on the school website.

As a student or career counselor, you must have great social skills that help you communicate and state the requirements of a job in the most convincing manner to a student. Schools are always in need of career counselors, especially private ones. You can also associate with educational companies or portals that offer counseling services as part of their professional development programs.

Scope of Career Counseling in India

A teacher taking class online
India needs a whopping 1.4 million career counselors to cater to its students' needs | Source: India Today

There is a wide gap between the job market and accessibility to those jobs by college graduates. This is largely due to the fact that there are not enough counselors in India to help with passing information on the right career choices to students. Education cannot just be restricted to teaching a few subjects and not intervening in the later years of the student's career. It has to help students master social skills and get rid of its label of promoting rote learning and not investing in developing leaders.

Become A School Psychologist

Indian education needs a high level of quality when it comes to counseling and career guidance. If you think you can contribute to changing the pathetic employment data and possess the required skills, then this job is for you. All you need is graduation in Psychology as the logical first step in getting your academic degree right. You can then branch out and specialize over time during your Master programs or as you advance in your education path.

Choosing Psychology or any of its specialization helps you build a foundation of the basic academic theories of counseling and helps you work with children and teenagers later. After graduating, consider taking a post-graduate training course in order to get the experience of working with young adults as either a professional consultant or a volunteer.

Choose A Career Development Role

Career counseling is another specialized branch of the whole gamut of counseling roles. But it is advisable to choose a career counseling role in the later stages of your career. You can work as a university counselor or a school counselor, but the label of being a psychologist first helps you make your mark in the field.

Note that having a college degree in psychology or undergoing a formal training program in the subject is not a mandate for the role of a career counselor.

Get The Right Certifications and Accreditations

Proving your language credentials is easy with your college diploma
Certification in counseling is mandatory and an addition to your portfolio as an education psychologist | Source: Visualhunt

Any practicing counselor in India needs to have a formal certification from the Career Counseling Psychology Association of India. This is especially applicable to the role of an educational psychologist, more than just a career counselor, who is exempted from this association. Bear in mind that any national education board in India will want you to have at least a bachelor's degree in Psychology for you to be eligible for the role of a school counselor.

It is important to invest in the development of your own skills and experience in the field of psychology. If you are accredited, it helps build your credibility amongst potential employees, who may be schools or a university or a college or even a corporate firm. Getting accredited by an organization isn’t just for psychologists but is a great move to make as a counselor as well. The recommendations from some of these organizations, depending on their type, can actually play an important role in getting you a job and adding to your career as a counselor. People look at the label first before investing money in something!

While advising students on career guidance, practice your own interview skills, find a shadowing program to help you learn by doing, and participate in networking events. Keep your career options open both in the private and public spaces, like working with private or state schools.

Is Counseling The Right Career For You?

You will only know the challenges and thrills of counseling once you start practicing it.

Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself. - Chinese proverb

Counselors complete the cycle of education. The job of a counselor begins where that of a teacher ends. The last part of the Chinese proverb, where the student must enter by himself- that is where the counselor comes into play. Counselors are required to show the way when there seems to be none.

The question of whether counseling is a good career choice can only be answered by actually delving into the role. The services of a counselor are considered noble. People have trusted school and college counselors with helping their children through the most difficult phases of their education life. And that takes a lot of courage and trust. In fact, the development and shaping of a student's personality depend a great deal on how they are influenced by their counselors. Career advice and advise on life, in general, are two very important roles played by counselors.

Over the years, counselors have assumed a greater role within the expanding definition of education. And India needs them more than ever, given the tough choices it is faced with, in a post-Covid era. The demand for counselors is only poised to increase given the immense pressure children are under right now and with the digital revolution changing the face of education.

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