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Vocational Specialist Salary and Career Profile

Vocational specialists, also known as vocational counselors, help individuals understand their capabilities and interests, and set career goals. They explore a client’s potential as it relates to the job market. A vocational specialist career can begin with enrolling in a bachelor’s degree in applied psychology program.

Vocational Specialist: Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment in the broader career category of rehabilitation counselors, which includes vocational rehabilitation counselors, will increase by 9% between 2014 and 2024. That’s faster than the average growth rate of 7% for all occupations nationwide.

Job growth will occur as multiple career changes become more common and awareness of vocational counseling increases. Vocational specialists with advanced educational qualifications should enjoy stronger career opportunities.

Job Duties

Vocational specialists help individuals determine their career options, interviewing clients to evaluate skills, work history and personality. They match a client’s education, experience, training and interests to available jobs. Often, they arrange for aptitude tests to help the client make career decisions.

Coaching clients for interviews or arranging for training to help them develop marketable skills is another way vocational specialists help job seekers. Assisting with résumé preparation or revision, keeping client records, and preparing reports and correspondence are additional job duties.

Vocational specialists often work for state governments, hospitals, mental health clinics, veterans programs or private agencies. Some specialize in working with people with mental or physical disabilities, clients referred by social service organizations or individuals who have difficulty in finding and keeping a job. In addition, vocational specialists provide support for individuals in times of job loss or layoffs.

At times, travel to visit with clients or provide services in the community may be required.

Vocational Specialist Salary Potential

The BLS reports that the average annual wage for vocational counselors nationwide was $57,620 as of May 2016. Salaries for the top 10% of earners exceeded $90,030 a year. Recent bachelor’s degree program graduates will typically start out at the lower end of the salary scale and can increase their earning potential with experience and advanced education.

Salary potential and employment opportunities are affected by a range of factors, including a candidate’s educational qualifications and work experience, as well as the specific employer and regional market conditions.

Education and Training

Entry-level vocational specialist positions often require a bachelor’s degree. Some employers prefer to hire candidates with work experience.

The first step to a vocational specialist career can be a bachelor’s degree in applied psychology with a concentration in organizational psychology. Coursework typically includes introduction to psychology, psychology of leadership, program development and evaluation, and multicultural issues.

An applied psychology education program should prepare graduates to:

  • Apply critical-thinking skills to the key concepts of organizational effectiveness on human behavior
  • Understand the concepts and complexity of socio-cultural diversity

Many organizations offer opportunities for continuing education to eligible employees. It may be possible to gain an entry-level job with a bachelor’s degree and use an employer’s tuition assistance or reimbursement program to enroll in a master’s degree.

Considering a Career as a Vocational Specialist?

If you have a strong desire to help others, can work independently, possess high integrity and outstanding communication skills, and can inspire respect, trust and confidence, a career as a vocational specialist may offer personal and professional satisfaction.

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