Topic from April 2006

What's the difference between academic advising and career counseling? In what ways are they distinct? Where do they overlap? Does an academic adviser need to know everything about careers? Does a career counselor need to know everything about majors? What about “career advising”—is this an activity that's different from academic advising and career counseling? Can you be a good academic adviser without knowing much about careers? What's your opinion?

Your Responses
Academic advising pertains to counseling, advising, goal setting, mentoring, schedule planning, and giving students valuable resources to achieve success. Academic advising may or may not lead to an immediate career upon graduation because some advisees plan to attend law and/or graduate school. Career counseling involves specific planning for a given career path. However, both academic advising and career counseling overlap on the basis of planning academic course work to meet specific career goals. Academic advisers can provide necessary planning and goal setting for specific goals; however, campus career centers have the staff to help our advisees to complete resumes, cover letters, mock interviews, career fairs, teleconferences, etc.

-Scott Kelly, Penn State Altoona, April 4, 2006


Every parent and most students want to know what career options they will have with their degree. Some students are very focused on what the title of their degree and the classes they take will affect the job opportunities they have, but they know little about how the job market currently functions. The job market that existed twenty years ago is no more. No longer are students able to go to college to get a job. No degree guarantees a job. I believe career counseling and academic advising although may be defined as separate entities are very close knit on the whole. One may purely advise academically, but how is it to benefit the student in the long run? As a career counselor, it is almost impossible to do so with out some use of the knowledge and skills students are gaining academically. As a career counselor and an academic adviser, it is neccessary to know what possible jobs exist for the major being pursued. In my position as an academic adviser for a virtually new program in a fast-paced freelance field, I feel it is vital for me to know about the career field. Having a background in career counseling, knowing basic theory, current trends, etc. has given me an edge in advising and I feel more effective in my role as academic adviser.

-Tara Riall, University of Texas at Dallas, April 4, 2006


Right now, I am handling both advising and career services on my campus. There are certainly times advising and career counseling overlap. However, I do find that if the student needs more than one session, it is usually not around advising and scheduling but that they need to go more in depth on career plans and need career counseling. I think the challenge is to help students understand the difference and to help them see when they may need one or the other or both!

-Clare Tauriello, Penn State Mont Alto, April 6, 2006


Career counseling involves the unique understanding of a student's interests, skills, values, personality, decision-making style, and a host of other background factors that ultimately impact career choice. A good career counselor also understands the personal dynamics that are involved in a counseling relationship while also understanding the demands of the marketplace such as career responsibilities, expectations of employers, and sound practices for getting hired. It is my opinion that the career counselor also needs to have a comprehensive understanding of the majors offered by a university and the selection of major process. While many majors are suitable for many careers, it is my experience that some employers care about the specific majors and academic backgrounds of students.

-Dulin Clark, Penn State University Park, April 12, 2006


Academic advising, in my view, is helping students develop and implement their personal,academic, and career goals. Good academic advising incorporates discussions about careers and how majors may or may not impact career choice. I think that academic advisers are in a better position to discuss these issues if they have a working knowledge of career development theory and career planning strategies. Career counseling can be very time intensive and may be a long developmental process. For students needing these services, a specialist in career counseling is a wonderful resource!

-Caryn Asleson, Ohio University, April 14, 2006


Practitioners of academic advising and career counseling share some functional similarities such as listening, clarifying, researching, referring, challenging, and supporting. The academic adviser helps the student navigate the sometimes confusing academic waters. It is crucial that an academic adviser know her/his academic program and general studies requirements. In order to help students “make meaning” of the academic experience, it is important for academic advisers to have a general idea what occupational field people with degrees in various programs tend to go into. It is also helpful to have basic knowledge of where to find occupational related information (Occupational Outlook Handbook or O*NET). An academic adviser's focus is primarily on teaching the student to understand the academic program.

Career counselors are primarily concerned with the career development of the student. Career counselors need to have a strong understanding of career development theories, various forms of assessment, career/life planning resources, job search techniques, and other career-related technologies. A career counselor needs to have a solid understanding of the academic programs offered at her/his institution. Career counselors also need to know who to contact for more in-depth information regarding the specific academic programs.

Academic advisers might help a student understand how specific courses fit into her/his academic program. A career adviser might help a student understand why particular courses are more relevant than others based on the student's career goals, and a career counselor might teach a student how to market particular educational experiences in the job search process.

-Gary Sager, Waldorf College, April 18, 2006

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