By Mario R. Gravelle

When it comes to educational background, aspirations to join management or social media savvy, responses to CERIC’s survey varied according to work setting.

(A detailed Sectoral Analysis from CERIC’s Survey of Career Service Professionals can be found on the web site.)

The Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counselling (CERIC) undertook a recent survey to uncover the opinions of career service professionals. Released in 2012, the survey delved into professional development, research, career competency and mobility, and technology issues. A total of 1,013 respondents from the field completed the online survey.

This articles explores differences between sectors engaged in career development – corporate, government, secondary education, post-secondary education, private, registered charity or a non-profit organization (non-charity) – based upon the findings of CERIC’s Survey of Career Service Professionals. The comparative data shows that some notable demographic differences exist between the different sectors. Attitudinal differences about professional development, career competency/mobility as well as issues around technology also emerge when comparing data by sector. Here are some of the main findings:

Demographic information

A total of 27% of survey respondents indicated they were from the post-secondary sector compared to 23% from a non-profit organization (non-charity), 19% from the private sector (including career management/transition firms and independent career professionals), 14% from government, 12% from secondary education, 9% from a registered charity and 2% from the corporate sector. Seventy-seven survey respondents noted “other”. One key demographic difference that emerges in the survey data is that the secondary education sector has a significantly higher proportion of younger practitioners than the other sectors in the field. While only about a third (38%) of practitioners in the secondary education sector are 45 years and over, the average in the other sectors is closer to two-thirds. The corporate sector has the highest proportion of older practitioners as 74% are 45 years and over. The private sector has the second highest proportion of older practitioners as 69% of those in this sector are in the 45 and over age category.

Differences in level of education are also apparent when comparing data by sector. It is noteworthy to mention that the field is relatively well-educated compared to the general population. However, the overall high levels of post-secondary education attainment among practitioners in the field is largely due to the fact that career service professionals in Quebec are required to have at least a master’s degree to be part of the province’s Ordre des conseillers et conseillères d’orientation du Québec. Consequently, 82% of survey respondents from Quebec indicated they have a master’s degree compared to 35% of those from Atlantic Canada, 32% of those in Ontario, 24% of those in the Prairies and 33% of those in British Columbia. That being said, over three-quarters of respondents across all sectors had at least completed a bachelor’s degree. Those working in the secondary and post-secondary sectors have completed the highest level of education in the field. The secondary sector has the highest proportion of practitioners with at least a bachelor’s degree (89%). The post-secondary sector is the next closest at 88% followed by the corporate sector at 86%.

What is your highest level of education completed?

Differences by sector also emerge when looking at the findings from the question “what was your main area of focus in the highest level of post-secondary studies applicable to the career services field?”. While roughly one-fifth of respondents across all sectors concentrated their studies on “career development and counselling/educational psychology”, those in the secondary sector were more than twice as likely as their peers to have focused on “education” before becoming career service professionals. Those in the corporate sector were a lot more likely to have focused their studies on “organizational behaviour/human resources” before becoming career practitioners than those in the other sectors (26% versus an average in the other sectors of less than 10%).

The survey data does however show some commonalities across sectors in pathways to working in the career services field. Specifically, “educational background” was the most common response (this was the answer of choice for most respondents in five out of seven sectors) when we asked “how did you find yourself working in the career development field?” While “fell into it” was the second most likely answer choice across a majority (four out of seven) of sectors, “worked my way up” was the least likely career path (it was ranked last by five out of the seven groups).

Professional development and learning

The survey included several questions delving into professional development and training interests. We asked respondents to tell us which area of professional development they would like to focus upon over the next year. The resultant data shows that all sectors share a common opinion about professional development priorities. “Career assessment tools” was chosen most often by respondents across all sectors followed closely by “career and labour market information”.

“Group facilitation skills” and “ethical/legal issues” were chosen the least often irrespective of sector allegiance. There is also cross-sectoral agreement about the leading challenges to training opportunities currently available in the field. A majority of representatives from six of the seven sectors noted that costs are the primary impediment to accessing training opportunities. This is less of a concern for those in the corporate sector as they feel that their primary obstacle is the fact that the training opportunities do not address the skills/knowledge gaps relevant to them. A lack of time was the second most common answer across a majority of respondents by sector (five out of seven). Only a majority of those in the respective private and corporate sectors mentioned that time constraints is not a significant obstacle to being able to meet their training needs. It is important to note that a lack of time is the most common answer across all sectors to the follow-up question about obstacles to meeting research and information needs. No other factor was within 10 percentage points irrespective of the sector of the respondents.

Career competency/mobility

Our survey data about the importance of professional certification showed some interesting differences by respondent sector group. Those in the corporate sector were the most adamant about the importance of being professionally certified. Over half of respondents from this sector answered that being professionally certified was “very important”. Conversely, only 23% of respondents from the registered charity sector answered the same while 15% of them stated it was “not at all important”. The latter is at least one-third higher than the rate in any of the other sectors. Greater consensus can be found across sectors regarding interest in becoming a manager in the field of career development. The survey findings show that very few career practitioners are interested in ultimately taking on a managerial role in this field. While “not at all interested” was the first choice for respondents in five out of seven of the respective sectors, “very interested” was the last choice for six out of the seven groups. Respondents from the corporate sector contradicted their peers as this group had the highest proportion of “very interested” (22%) and lowest proportion of “not at all interested” (17%).

Technology: access and awareness

The last section of the survey explored technology issues. Different attitudes exist between sector groups about the significance of social media as a career service tool. Most notably, those in the other non-profit organization (non-charity) sector are quite convinced that social media is important in terms of the work performed by career service professionals. Over two-thirds (75%) believe it is “very important” or “important”. Respondents from the secondary sector are less convinced as only 13% of them answered the former and 32% answered the latter.

How important is social media in terms of the work performed by career service professionals?

It is interesting to note that the same respondents from the secondary sector use social media for professional purposes by far the least compared to their colleagues in other sectors. Less than one-fifth (16%) of secondary sector career service professionals indicated using social media tools in the work that they do “often” or “always”. The average for the entire field is nearly 30%.

More detailed findings by sector and across the entire field can be found on the CERIC website ( A comparative report examining the findings of this survey against data from similar surveys CERIC undertook in 2007 and 2006 is also available along with breakdowns by regions.


Mario R. Gravelle joined The Counselling Foundation of Canada in early 2011 as Learning & Innovation Analyst. His responsibilities include instituting and overseeing knowledge capture and knowledge transfer activities about projects that the foundation supports. Gravelle is completing his doctoral dissertation in history at York University (BA from Concordia University and MA from the University of Ottawa).