Vocational specialists, also known as vocational counselors, help individuals understand their capabilities and interests, and set career goals. They explore a client’s potential as it relates to the job market. A vocational specialist career can begin with enrolling in a bachelor’s degree in applied psychology program.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that employment for vocational, educational and school counselors is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations in coming years. Job growth will occur as multiple job and career changes become more common and awareness of vocational counseling increases. Vocational specialists with advanced education will enjoy the best career opportunities.
Vocational specialists help individuals and groups sort out their career options. They first conduct an interview with each client to evaluate skills, work history and personality. Then, they match a client’s education, experience, training and interests to available jobs. Often, they arrange for aptitude tests to help the client make career decisions.
Coaching clients for interviews or arranging for training to help them develop marketable skills is another way vocational specialists help job seekers. Assisting with résumé preparation or revision, keeping client records, and preparing reports and correspondence are additional job duties.
Most vocational specialists work for state governments, hospitals, mental health clinics, veterans programs or private agencies. Some specialize in working with people with mental or physical disabilities, clients referred by social service organizations or individuals who have difficulty in finding and keeping a job. In addition, vocational specialists provide support for individuals in times of job loss or layoffs.
Typically, vocational specialists work in an office setting, and a 40-hour work week is customary. At times, travel to visit with clients or provide services in the community may be required. While clients’ employment issues may present ongoing challenges, most vocational specialists find great satisfaction in helping others. A high energy level and creative problem-solving skills can ensure a successful career in this field.
The BLS reports that the median salary for vocational, educational and school counselors was $52,550 in May 2009. The middle 50% earned between $40,260 and $67,160. Salaries for the lowest 10% were around $31,140, while the highest 10% brought in roughly $84,080. Recent bachelor’s degree program graduates will typically start out at the lower end of the scale and will move up in salary with experience and advanced education.
Most entry-level vocational specialist positions require a bachelor’s degree. Some employers prefer to hire candidates with work experience, which can be obtained through summer jobs or internships while working toward a bachelor’s degree.
The first step to a vocational specialist career can be a bachelor’s degree in applied psychology with a concentration in organizational psychology. Coursework typically includes introduction to psychology, psychology of leadership, program development and evaluation, and multicultural issues.
An applied psychology education prepares graduates to:
Many organizations offer opportunities for continuing education. It’s possible to gain an entry-level job with a bachelor’s degree and use an employer’s tuition assistance program to pay for a master’s degree.
If you have a strong desire to help others, are able to work independently, possess high integrity and outstanding communication skills, and can inspire respect, trust and confidence, you could be an ideal candidate for a vocational specialist career.