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Virginia N. Gordon, The Ohio State University

Academic advisors have long recognized that many college students consciously or unconsciously equate their academic major decisions with future career possibilities. Although academic advisors are not expected to be career counselors, they frequently find themselves in the role of assisting students in gathering and processing academic information that is directly or indirectly related to career exploration or planning. The need to integrate academic and career information is more vital today than ever before. Our students are entering a technological workplace that is complex and ever-changing. They need to take advantage of the opportunities in college to develop the knowledge and skills that are essential to compete in a knowledge-based economy. Advisors can play a key role in helping students understand how their educational decisions will affect their future careers and life-styles.

A Definition of Career Advising. Career advising may be viewed as helping students understand how their academic and personal interests, abilities and values might relate to the career fields they are considering and how to form their academic and career goals accordingly. Although the title of “academic counselor” is used by some institutions, a clear distinction must be made between career counseling and career advising. Career counselors provide more traditional counseling functions such as helping students with career self-assessment, job search and job placement activities, or counseling students who are experiencing more stressful personal situations relating to career decision making and maintenance.

Academic advisors need to be:

  • knowledgeable about how students develop vocationally;
  • able to recognize career-related problems;
  • career information experts relative to the academic area they are advising;
  • able to help students gather and process relevant information; and
  • proficient in referring students to career-related resources.

To assess some of your career advising knowledge and skills, consider how effectively you can perform the tasks listed below.

What Is Your Career Advising I.Q.? 

Check the items below for which you are knowledgeable and/or competent:

____ Name the work of a career theorist whose person-environment system is often used to help students connect their interests, aptitudes and values to specific academic majors and occupations
____ Name a student development theorist who provides insights into how and when students develop a “career purpose.”
____ Describe the characteristics of a good student career decision maker with whom you have had contact; a poor one. What is the difference?
____ Give one example of a student career-related concern that you as an advisor would refer to the campus counseling center.
____ Describe under what circumstances, if any, you would assume the role of career mentor.
____ Describe a career-related assessment tool (for example, a value checklist, computer-assisted career information system, interest inventory) with which you are familiar, and under what circumstances you would refer a student.
____ Name a career-related Internet Web site you use with students on a regular basis.
____ Name 3 sources of career information related to the academic discipline you are advising.
____ Name 2 topics you would suggest for advisor development workshops for your colleagues.
____ Describe how you use O*Net (web-based career advising tool) and the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) in your advising.
____ Describe the resources to which you refer students in your campus career center.
____ Describe the specific places of employment the graduates of the area(s) you advise are finding jobs.
____ Frame one career-advising related question that would make a good research project.


  # Items Checked Score
  0-4 need work
  5-8 you're a fair career advisor
  9-12 you lucky students
  13 you should be teaching graduate school!


Advisor’s Career Advising Role. Some advisors do not engage in career advising because they feel they lack the background and training or because they don’t view it as their responsibility. This may put students at a disadvantage, however, if they don’t receive the academically related occupational information that is critical for informed, timely decisions. If advisors don’t help their advisees with this task students will tap other sources that may not be as accurate, timely, or reliable. Career advising does not require advisor competencies that are not already known and practiced by academic advisors. Basic advising skills such as communication, teaching, and referral are no different from those used in regular advising contacts. Some areas of career-related knowledge and skills are emphasized, however. Expanded areas of career knowledge, for example, might be required to effectively offer students specific types of academically-related career information and advice. Theoretical frameworks provide insights into how students make career decisions and how their perceptions of the meaning of career change over time. Advisors’ technological and assessment competencies may need to be adapted to more specialized uses.

Academic advisors must be in tune with the remarkable changes unfolding in today’s workplace. By expanding or refining their career advising competencies they can play a vital role in helping students understand the importance of educational and career goal setting and how the decisions they make in college might influence satisfaction and success in their future personal and work lives.

Assistance is available in a forthcoming NACADA/Jossey-Bass publication, Career Advising: A Guide for Academic Advisors. The focus of this book is to help academic advisors who come from many academic disciplines and backgrounds to learn, expand, or refine their knowledge of career development theory, career information, and career advising practices. It can serve as a guide through the maze of career information sources that are available in many forms as well as an introduction to other important career-related resources and methods.

Virginia N. Gordon
The Ohio State University

Cite this article using APA style as: Gordon, V. (2005, December). What is your career advising I.Q? Academic Advising Today, 28(4). [insert url here]



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Academic Advising Today, a NACADA member benefit, is published four times annually by NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. NACADA holds exclusive copyright for all Academic Advising Today articles and features. For complete copyright and fair use information, including terms for reproducing material and permissions requests, see Publication Guidelines.