What Is a Career Coach?

Career coaches play an important role in the lives of job seekers; in addition to introducing them to tools and resources to help them further their careers, they also provide much-needed support and encouragement. Unfortunately, not all job seekers know that a coach can transform their career.


There are many different types of career coaches and it is important to understand the difference between them. Career coaches can come from many different educational backgrounds: some have a master’s degree in counseling or career development, others have a bachelor’s in social services or psychology, and some have no degree at all. That being said, the requirements to become a career coach vary state by state; there is no universal certificate. That is why we’ve outlined the types of career coaches and the differences between them. Check out which kind of career coach may be best for you in the list below!

Career Counselors

Career counselors are often found in post-secondary institutions such as community colleges and universities. They give students guidance about the number of credits and classes they need in order to receive their degree and help them plan their careers. They help students write resumes, improve their interview skills, and connect them with apprenticeships, internships, and job opportunities. A career counselor can build a student’s confidence that they will graduate with the skills and knowledge they need to be successful in the job market.

For-Profit Coaches

For those with some extra money looking to switch careers or find a job, a for-profit career coach may be right for you. These coaches can help their clients set clear and personalized career goals, update resumes, explore career opportunities, and more. According to Forbes, many small-group career coaching programs, and even some one-on-one coaching plans, tend to cost roughly one or two weeks' salary.

Employer-Sponsored Coaches

The American unemployment rate recently hit its lowest point since the 1960s; in such a tight labor market, employers are offering competitive pay and benefits to attract skilled talent. One of these benefits is employer-sponsored coaching. The idea of providing workers with career coaching as a benefit gives employees impartial support in their career development. Companies that offer this benefit to their employees believe that helping workers understand their motivations and address their insecurities is ultimately good for business—even if employees ultimately decide they would be happier working elsewhere.

Career Coaches at Job Centers and Other Non-profit Organizations

Established by the Workforce Investment Act, and reauthorized in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA) of 2014, job centers are designed to provide a full range of assistance to job seekers under one roof. The names for these job centers vary state by state. For example, in Oregon job centers are referred to as WorkSource Centers, in New York they are called Career Centers, and in Colorado workers find assistance at Workforce Centers. Job centers are a great (though often overlooked) resource for job seekers and incumbent workers as they offer a wide range of free services, such as computer and internet access, career coaching, resume help, mock interviews, career planning, and more. Local nonprofits may also be able to help job seekers find rewarding work. 


Even though career coaches play an important role in the lives of their clients, career coaches in the public sector are often overlooked, underfunded, and many work in isolation.


“Career coaches help their clients tell their stories. The way a job seeker frames their previous job experience, their skills, and their career goals is important, and it’s different for everyone. That’s why it’s critical for career coaches to be there and facilitate the process.” - Max Mascarenas, career coach and Skillful Associate

If you are interested in finding a career coach, consider:


At Skillful we recognize career coaches’ need for professional development so they can better serve job seekers. That’s why we created the Skillful Governor’s Coaching Corps (SGCC). The SGCC is an intensive leadership and skills development program that brings together exceptional coaches from agencies like workforce centers, colleges, high schools, and nonprofit organizations to hone their leadership skills, leverage new practices and technologies, and build a supportive cohort to serve job seekers. Skillful launched the first Skillful Governor’s Coaching Corps in Colorado in 2017 with Governor John Hickenlooper, and Indiana’s Skillful Governor’s Coaching Corps in 2019 with Governor Eric J. Holcomb.


Group picture of Skillful Governor's Coaching Corps participants.
Group picture of the second Skillful Governor's Coaching Corps cohort at their first retreat. 


If you are a career coach and you would like to find out more about the SGCC and other resources we have available for career professionals click here.