Training of Guidance Counsellors in the UK

The UK is divided into four countries England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Each country has a different career guidance system. The recent limited devolution in the UK, has meant that in Scotland and Wales responsibility for careers services has passed from the UK government to the regional assemblies for those countries. The policy change for both Careers Scotland and Careers Wales has led to the development of the careers services into all age guidance services. In Northern Ireland career guidance remains part of the civil service. In England careers services have become largely subsumed into the Connexions Service or continue as contractors to Connexions. This new service aims to deliver all support services (drugs advice, health advice, youth services, careers etc.) to young people aged between 13 to 19 years of age through a single umbrella organisation. Connexions renames all the different professionals working in these services as “personal advisers”.  Although all professionals working in Connexions are personal advisers they fundamentally retain their individual areas of expertise. However, in the future there is an expectation that personal advisers will become a new profession with their own training route and qualification. Adult guidance is now the province of the IAG Partnerships (Information, Advice and Guidance services for adults), which operates under the auspices of the Learning and Skills Councils.

Careers Scotland

Careers Scotland was established in April 2002 and provides services, information and support to individuals at all ages and stages of career planning and to employers wanting to recruit and maintain a productive workforce.  Further information is available on their website

Careers Wales

Careers Wales is the national brand for all age information advice and guidance services to individuals and employers.  It was established in April 2001 and combines the seven Careers Companies.  Further information is available on their website

Northern Ireland

The careers Service in Northern Ireland is part of the Training and Employment Agency and provides a careers service to young people and adults, as well as employment service.  Further information is available on their website

Connexions in England

Connexions was introduced in April 2001 and provides a support service for young people aged 13-19. The service brings together the work of the Careers Service, Youth Service, Education Welfare Service and some aspects of health through local Connexions Partnerships.  A new role of Personal Adviser has been developed within the Connexions Service to act as a single point of contact for young people.  The Connexions website gives further information.


Where is Careers guidance delivered?

Career Guidance is available to both young people and adults from a number of different sources in the UK. The majority of career guidance practitioners work within publicly funded agencies. Services are provided through Careers/Connexions Centres, in schools, and in community settings. Career guidance practitioners also work in commercial companies, Further Education Colleges, private practice, recruitment agencies and Universities.

There aren’t regulating bodies for career guidance practitioners working in the private sector but to work in the statutory sector guidance practitioners must undergo specific training and this is relevant for the whole of the UK. There are three different routes to qualify as a guidance practitioner.

  1. Qualification in Careers Guidance (QCG) Followed by specified S/NVQ level 4 units in first year of employment.
  2. Diploma in Careers Guidance (DCG) Parts l and ll. Followed by specified S/NVQ level 4 units in first year of employment.
  3. S/NVQ (Scottish/National Vocational Qualification) Level 4 in Advice and Guidance. This replaced S/NVQ in Guidance in August 2001 but registrants for S/NVQ in Guidance have three years in which to complete their award.


Qualification in Careers Guidance (QCG)
The QCG, which replaced the Diploma in Careers Guidance, is the initial professional qualification for the careers guidance sector. Usually but not necessarily it is taken as a post-graduate qualification. The course lasts either one-year full-time or two-years on a part-time basis (not all centres run part-time courses). The QCG consists of academic study, assessed activities, reflective personal development and practical work-based learning with a variety of agencies that are involved in guidance, education, training and employment and is always delivered in a Higher Education institution.

Presently, the Secretary of State for Education and Skills stipulates that careers guidance practitioners working within the Connexions Service in England must complete the NVQ Level 4 in Advice and Guidance after completion of the QCG. A portfolio of evidence has to be produced by students for the QCG, which can be mapped across and used as evidence for S/NVQ Level 4 in Advice and Guidance.

S/NVQ (Scottish/National Vocational Qualification) Level 4 in Advice and Guidance

This replaced S/NVQ in Guidance in August 2001 but registrants in Guidance have three years in which to complete their award. To achieve the full S/NVQ candidates are required to undertake ten units, four of which are mandatory and six optional from a choice of sixteen units. The NVQ learning takes place within the work base backed up with some theoretical learning days and study days. In England to be fully qualified practitioners must have skill level 4/NVQ level4 or equivalent in a relevant professional discipline (e.g. careers guidance, youth work, social work) and have attended either the Diploma for Connexions Personal Advisers or the Understanding Connexions training programme.

For more detailed information the Institute of Careers Guidance gives clear information on the following link:

In the UK there are currently 14 universities offering the courses leading to the ICG-awarded Qualification in Career Guidance (QCG), developed by the Department for Education and Skills between 1999 and 2002. Many universities also offer master’s degrees in career guidance or related subjects, and a few offer doctorates. In addition, there are a number of other universities with research or other interests in career guidance or related subjects.

Useful Websites

Association of Graduate Recruiters

Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services

Careers Education Support Programme

Careers Europe

Careers Research an Advisory Centre (CRAC)

Careers Scotland

Careers Wales


Department for Education and Skills


European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training

Federation of Professional Associations in Guidance


IAG Partnerships

Institute of Careers Guidance

International Association of Career Management Professionals

International Association for Educational and Vocational Guidance

Learning and Skills Council

Learning and Skills Development Agency

Life-long learning

National Association of Careers and Guidance Teachers

National Association for Managers of Student Services

National Association for Careers Education and Counselling

Office for Standards in Education

Organisation for Economic Co operation and Development

Qualifications and Curriculum Authority

The Guidance Council

Third Age Network




Systems of Vocational Counselling in the UK (PDF)