How Career Counseling Can Help College Students Thrive

Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox, NCC, LPC
Updated March 23, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

College can be an enriching, wonderful experience in the lives of young people. It's a time of personal exploration and growth—and it’s a time to start thinking about future professional development. When you’re in college, it can be hard to know the trajectory your career will take. You may feel like there are so many options that it is hard to choose one direction. If you’re a college student who is unsure about how to choose a career path, career counseling can be a valuable tool. Working with a career counselor, you have the chance to explore what interests you, identify and develop your skills, and find work that will be meaningful and satisfying. Below, we’re going to cover career counseling—how it works, who it’s meant for, and how it can benefit you. 

You can build a rewarding career with the right support

What is career counseling for college students?

Career counseling assists individuals with their career development by evaluating their strengths, helping to guide their job search, and connecting them with useful career resources. Many career counselors and guidance professionals administer skills assessments to determine what a person can do well and show them how to use positive attributes to their advantage. A career counselor can help a student find an industry and even specific roles that might mesh with their abilities and interests. 

Many students are determined to achieve academic excellence, and there's a lot of pressure on those who are pursuing a degree to perform well so that they can lock down a good job after college. Whether that pressure comes from parents, internalized beliefs, peers, or professors, it can make the transition to post-grad life challenging. Career counseling for college students can help them manage those feelings. They can also give students tips for addressing concerns like anxiety and refer them to other mental health professionals if necessary.  

What do career counselors do?

Career counselors offer guidance and advice in a variety of ways so that students can find a career path that works for them.  

Some duties that career counselors carry out include:

  • Career choice and planning
  • Administering aptitude test to explore personality traits and skills that may translate to specific career paths
  • Resume writing and editing
  • Creating effective cover letters
  • Offering work-life balance advice
  • Finding applicable job openings, preparing for interviews, and negotiating salary 
  • Offering skill-building courses and exercises 
  • Information about recent graduates and job market requirements

Though they help clients in similar ways, career counselors are not the same as career coaches. Career counseling takes a more holistic approach to supporting a person who is navigating their professional life, including mental health support. A career counselor must have a degree in behavioral Sciences or psychology, or vocational psychology. Career coaching services, on the other hand, are results-oriented and coaches are not required to have studied psychology. 

Who needs career counseling?

According to a recent survey of 131 undergraduate students, only a small percent of students (12%) were undecided in terms of what major they want to pursue in college. However, 56% of the people surveyed were unclear about what kind of education they wanted to pursue in terms of their career. These results suggest that while many students have an idea about their interests or goals, they experience uncertainty surrounding the best career path and how it should be navigated. This is where career counseling can be beneficial. 

Take, for example, a situation in which a student who is majoring in microbiology wants to help control and prevent infectious diseases but isn’t sure how to do so. A career counselor can talk with them to find out what their specific career goals are, learn more about their aptitudes, and explore future career options. The counselor and student may find that the individual is actually well suited for an administrative-style role in an organization that studies infectious diseases. From there, the counselor might suggest the student pursues an MBA or looks for an entry-level job in a lab for a recent graduate.  

You may come to the table with some ideas about how best to land the job you’re seeking, or you might be looking for professional advice because you’re not sure at all about what you want to do. Either way, a counselor can help you. Often, your interests will be a guiding force—in addition to your skills—as you think about potential career opportunities. 

As a student, you may find career counseling helpful if you:

  • Need help figuring out your skills before applying to your first or next job.
  • Would like help seeking out summer internships or with the job search process.
  • Want to speak with other professionals who can offer advice, provide guidance, and give you industry insights based on past experiences.
  • Receive a job offer as a student or recent graduate and need help negotiating the terms and salary.

Finding the right career path

From proctoring and interpreting aptitude tests to reviewing resumes, career counselors do a number of things to help college students prepare for post-grad life. The following are some of the benefits of career counseling.  

Aptitude tests

One valuable tool that career counselors use is the aptitude test, which is a type of exam that helps evaluate your proficiencies. An understanding of strengths can help young adults determine how, and in which roles, their abilities might be best utilized. There are many different assessments—relating to your skills, preferences, personality, etc.— that can be administered during career counseling sessions.


One of the most common assessments is the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), which measures a variety of different facets of an individual’s personality to gauge their potential strengths and weaknesses, as well as the types of jobs that might be a good career fit. There are numerous other tests that evaluate similar things—some may focus on your reading comprehension or mathematic ability, while others can even include evaluations of physical skills, like dexterity. With the information that these assessments provide, the career counselor and student can identify potential career fields (e.g., someone who is dexterous and science-minded may have the right skill-set to become a surgeon).

Career centers

A career center is a hub where you'll typically find counselors and career-related resources on a college campus. The career center is normally centrally located—at some universities, each individual college might have a career center—and may also have its own website with useful information for contacting counselors or getting career resources. You can make an appointment to meet with a counselor or, usually, just walk in to discuss career-related topics. A career center may have job boards or directories that can help you discover potential openings. They may also have departments that are dedicated to reviewing resumes, honing communication skills, and teaching specific job skills, among other career services.

Job searches

Once you've figured out what kind of career you'd like to pursue, a career counselor can help with resume building and job searching. Most companies will require that you have a CV and cover letter to apply for jobs. A career counselor can help you craft a resume that will be compelling to employers and a cover letter that explains your skill set and suitability for the job to hiring managers. 

A career counselor might be able to give you tips for job interviews, including how to prepare, dress, and interact. They can also conduct mock interviews that will give you a better idea of what to expect so you can build self-confidence in your interviewing abilities. Additionally, your counselor may have insights into the industry that you’re looking to join. For example, they may know that the finance sector is hiring at a high rate, but that there are few openings within the venture capital field of finance.

What should a college student ask a career counselor?

To get the most out of your appointments with a career counselor, you may find it helpful to go in with a list of questions. Here are some good questions to ask during career coaching:

  • How should I go about a job search in my specific field?
  • What resources are available to me?
  • Can you look over my resume?
  • How do I write a cover letter?
  • Will you look over my social media and tell me how it might come off to a potential employer? 
  • How do I find a job if I don't have any experience? 

Career counseling through online therapy

You can build a rewarding career with the right support

Studies show that online therapy can prepare individuals for professional life. For example, in one study, researchers found that online career counseling could help college students better evaluate the job opportunities available to them and determine how to take advantage of them. It also helped them feel better about their college major, potential careers, and the chances of being employed as college graduates. 

If you’re looking for advice and guidance regarding your career or similar life challenges, the online therapists at BetterHelp are available to help. With online therapy, a licensed mental health professional can connect you with useful resources that you can utilize on your own time, such as at-home exercises meant to help you further assess your skills and determine a career path. Online therapy can also be a cost-effective option for college students—BetterHelp subscriptions start at $65 to $100 per week (based on factors such as your location, referral source, preferences, therapist availability and any applicable discounts or promotions that might apply). 


It can be challenging to know which steps to take after college. Career counseling can help college students evaluate their skills and interests, find a career that suits them, and take action to start on the road to a rewarding career. If you’d like to discuss your career, academic life, or similar concerns, consider chatting with a licensed therapist online. With the valuable guidance and useful resources provided by online therapy, you can build a successful and fulfilling career. 
Explore career challenges with a professional
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