The Current Landscape of Careers Advisers in Schools 


Jenine Smith is the President of the Careers Advisers Association of NSW & ACT (CAA). The CAA is a member association of the Career Industry Council of Australia and an Affiliate member of the CDAA. CAA has been supporting careers advisers in schools for 45 years. Since its inception, the CAA has committed extensive time and resources to supporting and researching the structure of the position of a careers adviser in schools and providing a framework and resources to support the delivery of quality Career Development Education.

All high school students (and their anxious parents) should expect to receive professional career guidance at school. As recommended in the Shergold Report, the proposed plan to support individuals through their lifetime of learning with career guidance will ensure ongoing employability and a strong and adaptable workforce for Australia. Professor Shergold noted that lifelong career development guidance is essential, and that starts with effective delivery in schools. There have been many reviews and inquiries in recent years about how Career Development Education is delivered in schools and there are many people who have perceptions and personal experiences that determine how they believe schools do, or do not, undertake effective Career Development of students. 

Career Advisers in schools have a key role of being entrusted to develop and implement a comprehensive and planned program of learning experiences in education and training settings that assist students to make informed decisions about managing their life, learning, and work. They are required to have knowledge across a broad range of work, training and study opportunities for students both whilst at school and post-school, in industry, business and tertiary education sectors. Their secondary curriculum knowledge provides the basis for mentoring, educating, assisting, and advising students as they navigate their school years and move to suitable post-secondary opportunities.  

Effective Career Development Education in schools ensures students have access to a qualified careers practitioner onsite who assesses, educates, and mentors students, ensuring they are informed about, and guided towards, support and opportunities relevant to their aspirations, and unique skills and abilities. School-based Careers Advisers are integral to introducing students to secondary and post-secondary skill enhancement programs (e.g., the NSW Government Regional Industry Education Partnership program, work experience, School Based Apprenticeships and Traineeships, community service, career expos, industry information sessions for students and parents, and industry visits).  Strategic partnerships and collaborative effort between Governments, industry and qualified Career Development Practitioners are recognised and acknowledged as crucial in the process of helping students to transition successfully between learning and work roles that support family and community responsibilities. 

The importance of the role of Careers Advisers is highlighted in a report by Stephen Cartwright, Chief Executive Officer of the NSW Business Chamber who states that “Business relies on our school system to provide the foundations for this future workforce. We rely on our schools to provide young people with the knowledge and skills that will prepare them for their transition to further study, work and for life as capable, valued members of society.” 

Research, both nationally and internationally, has consistently demonstrated there is a strong nexus between school career advice and positive transition outcomes for young people. In 2014, The European Lifelong Guidance Policy Network undertook a significant examination of the effectiveness of career guidance internationally and across all sectors of the community including schools. The research concluded that young people who receive quality school career guidance are “more likely to achieve better outcomes in the labour market” . Similarly, the Gatsby Charitable Foundation and PricewaterhouseCoopers report on career services in United Kingdom schools resolved that those who had access to quality career advice were “less likely to become NEET”  (i.e., Not in Education, Employment or Training). The report also stated that “When done well, these services: reduce dropouts from and backtracking within educational systems; improve pathways between different levels of education, thus raising levels of educational attainment; and improve transitions to the labour market.” 

All schools have a unique environment that reflects the needs, diversity and priorities of a school’s student population. This influences how Career Development Education is delivered in each school.  The CAA has found that the factors having the most significant impact on students and their Career Development Education at school are: 

  • the qualifications of the Careers Adviser; 
  • the time allocation for the role of the Careers Adviser; 
  • the importance and value placed in career education and development within the school, and by the school systems; 
  • the absence of jurisdictions which mandate careers education across all year levels within a school’s learning. 

In 2019, an extensive survey by CAA of our members highlighted that the greater majority of Careers Advisers possess a recognised Career Development Practitioner tertiary qualification, meeting the CICA’s Professional Standards for Australian Career Development Practitioners.  The survey also showed that a majority of Careers Advisers in NSW & ACT high schools also have a teaching degree enabling them to deliver Career Development Education in a classroom setting.

Professionally qualified, school-based, Career Development practitioners develop and deliver Career Development Education in accordance with the Australian Blueprint for Career Development, a national curriculum document.  This is supported by Careers Advisers in NSW who can deliver the Work Education curriculum, and in the ACT, the Work Studies curriculum to enhance the learning opportunities of students.  

Our survey also found time allocation for Careers Advisers in NSW & ACT schools varies from the equivalent of 1 day a week, to a full- time position. The position of Careers Adviser in a school, and the allocation of time, is at the discretion of the Principal and this can reflect the importance and value placed on Career Development Education. 

Time is the biggest challenge for Careers Advisers in schools to ensure they are effectively preparing students for their post-school options.   We know the best prepared students will display thorough knowledge of post-school options and a clear understanding of the connection between the subjects they study and the relevance of their learning to jobs they are looking to undertake. Parliament of Victoria Economic, Education, Jobs and Skills Committee stated in its report that “For school career practitioners to provide individualised support, they need time to spend with students, keep their knowledge current and connect with employers and higher education providers.” 

A Careers Adviser who is a trained teacher and possesses the tertiary careers-specific qualifications is able to:

  • Assess where each student is up to in their learning;
  • Identify learning difficulties a student may have and make the appropriate referrals;
  • Teach, using differentiation of the curriculum, to accommodate students’ individual needs;
  • Provide specialised career guidance, advice, and careers counselling to students;
  • Connect with Curriculum support, teaching and development which can enable a cross-curricular delivery of relevant components of career development for students.

Careers Advisers in schools develop a knowledge of, and relationship with, students over many years. They also engage with other staff to share insights on each student which assist with the tailored guidance provided to each student. We have seen some fantastic and inspirational outcomes for students, connecting them with optimal post-secondary opportunities and building confidence, skills and knowledge to navigate the next phase of their life.

Evidence of the positive and significant impact on quality student outcomes achieved includes -

  • Student success in post-secondary opportunities for work, training and education;
  • Completion of vocational education courses whilst at school;
  • Commencement of school-based apprenticeships and traineeships;
  • Completion of appropriate school subjects required for post-secondary study opportunities;
  • Attainment of early entry to university;
  • Community partnerships for students to engage in authentic, supportive work experience placements and volunteering across multiple industries, business and charities.

To ensure all students are afforded the opportunity to transition to post-secondary work, training or study, we need to address the prioritisation and importance placed on the role of the Careers Adviser in schools. We need to gain support in strengthening the role and recognise the value it has for school students. School-based, professionally qualified Careers Advisers oversee a whole school approach to ensuring students are well prepared for their future lives and then transition students to those with the expertise to guide them for the rest of their career development journey over their lifetime.