Putting the Career Counselor Hat On

By Natasha Barnes

The Many “Hats” that Students Wear

Graduate level counseling programs accept students from many walks of life. These students enter the program wearing many different “hats”, such as spouse, parent, child, employer/employee, etc. As they embark on the journey of counselors-in-training, they begin to wear hats that are more specific to the profession. The most common hats worn by counselors-in-training are clinical mental health counselor or school counselor. Coursework in a career counseling is often as little as one required class.

Because of the profession-specific “hats” that students wear into a career counseling course, it may be difficult for an educator to get them to change their primary area of interest. Students may have already taken courses specific to clinical mental health counseling, school counseling, and/or general counseling prior to taking a career counseling course. This can make their transition into career counseling a little difficult because their minds are set in other areas of specialization. Students do not understand why they should take off their clinical mental health or school counseling hat when they are in the career counseling course, because these are the hats that they have worn since the beginning of the program. Not only are these the hats that they have worn, but these are the only hats that they see as beneficial to them in their future endeavors.

Students may have a negative attitude regarding career counseling, (e.g., they may think career counseling is unrelated to their chosen specialty), and it can be difficult for educators to engage students in the subject matter. While engaging students in career counseling may present some challenges for an educator, it is not an impossible task and it is important. Educators should identify innovative ways to help students see the benefits and importance of using career counseling for themselves and their clients. Educators must assist counselors-in-training in trying on the career counseling “hat” by engaging the students through personal application in real-world ways.

Tips for Engaging Students

Personable, Applicable, and Relatable

While students may enter a career counseling course wearing different hats with many skepticisms, it is the responsibility of the career counseling educator to help students try on different hats. Effective ways of piquing students’ interests are making the course material personable, applicable, and relatable. A counselor educator’s main objective should be to open the minds of students while providing them with a broader view of the world of counseling. Students need to understand the different “hats” available to them professionally.



Natasha BarnesNatasha Barnes, Ed.D, is an Assistant Professor at Delta State University, where she teaches Career Development and Planning to masters-level counselor education students. Previously, she was an Adjunct Professor with Argosy University, where she taught Career Counseling to masters-level clinical mental health counseling students. In addition, Natasha is establishing a consultation practice with a focus on career development and planning. She can be contacted at natashabarnes1984@gmail.com.


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1 Comment

Sylvia Withers    on Thursday 08/15/2019 at 11:35 AM

Great article, really like the tips for engaging students in the classroom.

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