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Essential skills profile

This profile contains a list of example tasks that illustrate how each of the 9 essential skills is generally performed by most workers in this occupation. The levels of complexity estimated for each task are ranked between 1 (basic) and 5 (advanced).

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Educational Counsellors (4033)

Educational counsellors advise current and prospective students on educational issues, career planning and personal development and co-ordinate the provision of counselling services to students, parents, teachers, faculty and staff. They are employed by school boards, universities and colleges, technical institutes, correctional facilities and government agencies.

Reading Help - Reading
  • Read short e-mail from students, co-workers and colleagues. For example, they may read e-mail from students and colleagues asking to reschedule appointments and meetings. They may also read e-mail from teachers seeking referrals for students or expressing concerns about students who have missed classes without justification. (2)
  • Read text entries and comments written on forms. For example, guidance counsellors may read entries describing students' strengths, learning needs, diagnostic information and social and emotional developments in referral forms. Academic, career and vocational counsellors may read entries in college, university, scholarship, employment and co-op education application forms to learn about students' motivations, past experiences and future goals. (2)
  • Read institutional and community newsletters and bulletins to stay abreast of events affecting students, parents, teachers, faculty and staff. For example, a college counsellor may read a news article posted on the Intranet to learn about the results of a survey on student satisfaction with academic programs. A school counsellor may read a bulletin from a community organization describing volunteer opportunities for students. (3)
  • Read brochures, handbooks and texts from various sources for information to understand and help students. For example, a high school counsellor may read about the entrance requirements, qualification exams, fees and contents of academic programs offered at local universities and colleges. An elementary school counsellor may read medical compendia and on-line texts to learn about possible side effects and food and drug interactions for medications some pupils are taking. (3)
  • Read policies and procedures issued by individual schools, colleges and universities, school boards and provincial ministries of education. For example, a high school counsellor may review institutional guidelines for students' recourse after they receive failing grades. The counsellor may also review a provincial policy to determine ways of assessing and awarding credit for the knowledge and skills acquired by a student through work experiences outside of secondary school. (3)
  • Read a wide variety of books, trade publications and academic journals to expand their professional knowledge and competence. For example, they may read about a range of psychological conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, suicidal tendencies, alcoholism and chemical dependency, anxiety, eating disorders and phobias. An academic and vocational counsellor may read about new strategies for workplace learning and career development. In these articles, they may encounter complex terminology intended for expert audiences. (4)
Document use Help - Document use
  • Scan product and equipment labels for various data. For example, guidance counsellors may scan labels on file folders to locate students' names and personal education numbers. Elementary school counsellors may obtain dosages by weight on medication labels for children in their care. (1)
  • Locate data in lists, tables and calendars. For example, they may scan lists of students registered in workshops to verify attendance. They may scan tables provided in test booklets to locate standard scores. They may also scan college and university course calendars to identify courses related to students' goals and interests. (2)
  • May plot test results on graphs. For example, a college counsellor may plot a graph of student's results on the Differential Aptitude Test. (2)
  • Enter data into tables and schedules. For example, they may enter locations, dates, times and titles into workshop schedules. They may also enter appointments, activity codes, service types and students' names and phone numbers into daily log tables. (2)
  • Complete entry forms. For example, they may complete interview record and referral forms at the end of counselling sessions and refer students to psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and other specialists. They may also enter data such as referral dates, students' names and reasons for referrals. (3)
  • Locate data in college, university, scholarship, employment and co-op education work term applications, test records, consultation requests, client profiles and other forms. For example, a university counsellor may review a profile form completed by a student to locate data on date of birth, year of study, living arrangements during the academic year, marital status and past counselling experience. (3)
  • May interpret students' sketches and drawings to assess their mental states and progress. For example, a guidance counsellor may analyse the symbols and spatial arrangements on students' art work to understand how they feel about themselves, where they are in their development, what conflicts they are experiencing and how they are dealing with them. (3)
  • Interpret graphs to assess and provide information to students. For example, an academic, vocational and career counsellor may interpret a student's graphed results on intelligence, aptitude, interest, personality and vocational tests to determine suitability for specific careers. A guidance counsellor may interpret a series of graphs plotted by a student to verify the effects of cognitive exercises on anxiety levels. (3)
Writing Help - Writing
  • Write e-mail to students, co-workers and colleagues to plan appointments and meetings, respond to enquiries and ask for information. (1)
  • Write text entries and notes on forms. For example, they may write entries on referral forms to describe the conditions or contexts of students referred to psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and other specialists. They may also write accurate and concise case notes and text entries in students' files to keep running records of counselling sessions. (1)
  • Write letters to students, parents, colleagues and community members. For example, college counsellors may write to students and parents to invite them to information sessions on university programs and entry requirements. High school guidance counsellors may write letters to professionals and business owners asking for job-shadowing opportunities for students. (2)
  • May write intervention plans for students with learning and psychosocial difficulties. In these plans, they may present the results of intelligence and aptitude tests. They may also describe the results of assessments conducted jointly with teachers, parents, psychologists, social workers and speech-language therapists. They identify students' strengths, educational needs, goals, previous interventions and proposed strategies. They must carefully select their words to minimize the possibility of misinterpretation. (3)
  • Write text for newsletters, leaflets, brochures and websites to provide information about individualized and group counselling services, educational programs and career paths. They must address key questions about services and programs in an effective manner. They may have to gather, select and rewrite information from various sources for a mixed audience of students, parents, teachers and employers. For example, a high school guidance counsellor may write about an upcoming series of group sessions designed to help students manage their social anxiety and improve their listening and conversation skills. A college academic and vocational counsellor may write about a partnership between educational institutions and industry members created to help students explore career options and to enhance their employability skills. The counsellor may also write an information guide on the college's admission process. (4)
  • May write articles for professional and research publications. They may summarize research protocols, outline difficulties encountered in collecting data, discuss principles used to analyse data collected, present results obtained and explain their significance. For example, they may write about the effectiveness of specific educational strategies and the successful transition of students from one educational level to the next and from school to work. (5)
Numeracy Help - Numeracy Money Math
  • May make change for students, parents and teachers who pay cash for workshops and other group activities. (1)
  • Calculate travel claim amounts upon return from meetings, presentations, workshops and conferences. They may calculate reimbursement for use of personal vehicles at per kilometre rates and add amount for meals, accommodation and other expenses. (2)
  • Calculate purchase order amounts for textbooks, professional publications, software, assessment instruments, stationery and other supplies. They calculate line amounts, determine discounts and surcharges and add federal and provincial sales taxes. (3)
Scheduling, Budgeting & Accounting Math
  • Create schedules for their individualized and group counselling, training and information sessions. They may have to adjust schedules because of weather conditions and other unexpected events. (2)
  • Prepare budgets for students to help determine their capacity to undertake specific courses of study. They project cash receipts such as student loans, bursaries and scholarships and consider expenses such as program fees and books. (2)
  • May prepare and monitor the budgets for counselling services. They have to ensure that expenditures incurred for office space, supplies, wages and guest lecturers are fully covered by their budgets. They may have to change budget line items because of unexpected events. (3)
Measurement and Calculation Math
  • Determine the quantities of brochures, handbooks and assessment instruments to bring to their group counselling, training and information sessions. (1)
  • Determine numbers of course credits needed by students for eligibility to various academic and vocational programs taking into account credits already obtained. (2)
  • Measure students' cognitive abilities, educational achievements, reading mastery, aptitudes, personality traits, anxiety levels, interests and other characteristics using standardized tests. To obtain test scores, they generally need to perform several steps of calculations. (3)
Data Analysis Math
  • Compare and interpret students' scores between subtests and at different points in time for assessment purposes. For example, an academic counsellor may compare a student's scores between subtests to identify greatest strengths, weaknesses and learning needs. A personal guidance counsellor may compare a student's self-ratings before and after cognitive exercises to determine their effects on anxiety levels. (2)
  • Collect, analyze and interpret numerical data about the effectiveness of specific educational strategies and the successful transition of students from one academic level to the next and from school to work. For example, a high school counsellor may collect, analyze and interpret data about the effectiveness of a learning assistance project for students with low initial scores on reading mastery tests. A college counsellor may collect, analyze and interpret data about the effectiveness of employment services for students graduating from technical programs. (4)
Numerical Estimation
  • Estimate times needed to perform job duties. For example, an educational counsellor may estimate the time required for an individualized session with a student by assessing the nature and complexity of topics to be discussed. (1)
  • Estimate attendance at group counselling, training and information sessions. (1)
Oral communication Help - Oral communication
  • Give instructions to clerical staff. For example, they may ask receptionists to take telephone messages while they are in meetings. (1)
  • Talk to suppliers and purchasing officers to order and enquire about textbooks, professional publications, software, assessment instruments, stationary and other supplies. For example, a guidance counsellor may talk to a test publisher to enquire about cost increases for an assessment instrument. (1)
  • Speak to representatives from corporations, educational institutions and community organizations to share information on special projects and coordinate activities on joint programs and activities. For example, a college counsellor may speak to university representatives to organize information sessions for students. The counsellor may also speak to small business owners and human resource officers from large corporations to coordinate the placement of co-op students. A secondary school counsellor may talk to a representative from a community organization about volunteer work assignments for students. (2)
  • May provide directions and advice to graduate students in counselling programs. For example, counsellors who are supervising and mentoring graduate students critique the approaches they used during individualized and group counselling sessions. (3)
  • Participate in meetings with other counsellors to obtain guidance with particular cases and coordinate the implementation of educational policies, procedures and programs at the provincial, district and institutional levels. At these meetings, they may present information about projects they have initiated, resource materials they have used and topics covered at conferences and workshops they have attended. For example, a secondary school counsellor may speak with co-workers about the implementation of a new learning assistance project for students with low initial scores on reading mastery tests. A college counsellor may speak with co-workers about the implementation of a new school-to-work transition program for graduating students. (3)
  • Share information about students and discuss intervention plans with supervisors, teachers, psychologists, social workers and speech-language therapists. They may review students' academic achievements, discuss students' behaviours, strengths, needs and support systems, determine goals to be reached by school interventions and propose strategies. They may also share views with parents on ways to contribute to the success of school interventions. Elementary school counsellors may accompany children and their parents to appointments with doctors, psychiatrists and social workers to reassure children and parents and discuss interventions which best suit family needs. In dual roles as truancy officers and school counsellors they may meet with children and their parents to investigate chronic absenteeism and develop appropriate strategies. (3)
  • Counsel students about educational, career, vocational, personal and social matters. They interact with students with interest and empathy to establish trust and credibility. Personal academic advisers may counsel students about selecting courses and planning class schedules. They may help clarify the causes of decreased academic performances and stress the consequences of increased absenteeism. They may suggest restructuring individual academic programs to adjust workloads to students' abilities. They may also recommend program changes in response to students' interests. Vocational counsellors may provide information and advice to students about career avenues and labour market opportunities. Guidance counsellors may help students interpret the results of standardized tests of cognitive abilities, learning styles, reading mastery, aptitudes, personality traits, school adjustment, motivation, anxiety level and career interests. Elementary school counsellors may interact with children to build positive and supportive relationships which serve to improve problematic behaviours such as aggression towards other children. (4)
  • Facilitate and lead group counselling, training and information sessions on academic, career planning and personal development topics for students, parents, teachers, faculty and staff. During group sessions, counsellors present information and concepts, facilitate discussions and question participants to ascertain their understanding. At the end of group sessions, they solicit participants' feedback and elicit suggestions for making future activities more effective. For example, a college counsellor may facilitate group sessions for college students on note taking, study skills, test preparation strategies, job interview skills, resume preparation, job search strategies, self-confidence improvement strategies and other topics. The counsellor may also facilitate and lead group information sessions for secondary school students, parents and counsellors on college and university programs and entry requirements. A co-op officer may facilitate and lead group information sessions for students on reporting procedures to be followed during work terms. (4)
Thinking Help - Thinking Problem Solving
  • Occasionally unable to complete job tasks as planned because equipment is not working properly. For example, a college counsellor about to deliver a computer-assisted slide presentation to a large group of parents and students realizes that the equipment is not working. The counsellor tries to troubleshoot the equipment with the assistance of colleagues. When these troubleshooting efforts are unsuccessful, the counsellor delivers the presentation orally without audio-visual support. (2)
  • May get low participation in group sessions. In these cases, counsellors often look for scheduling conflicts with other activities and events and, when they find them, reschedule their own sessions to encourage attendance. For example, a personal guidance counsellor may discover that a new weekly group session on stress management is conflicting with a students' soccer practice. The counsellor reschedules stress management sessions and attendance returns to normal. (2)
  • Experience difficulties in getting students with strong emotional defence mechanisms to talk to them during individualized counselling sessions. They try different verbal and non-verbal techniques in order to build trust and establish safe and open environments in which these students will be comfortable and willing to talk. If counsellors are unsuccessful in getting students to open up, they may discuss these cases with other counsellors to gain their insights and see if they can suggest new approaches. They may also refer students to psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and other specialists. For example, a counsellor may experience difficulties with some students dealing with personal problems such as failure to adjust to the deaths of friends and family members, substance abuse, generalized anxiety, depression, eating disorders, lack of self-esteem, suicidal tendencies and anger management. (3)
  • May encounter difficulties in obtaining resources for students in need from social service and community networks beyond school systems. They use their experience and consult with co-workers and colleagues to identify key people within these networks. They may develop alternate strategies to answer students' needs. They may also advocate for better services on behalf of their clients when appropriate. (3)
Decision Making
  • Select the academic, career planning and personal development topics for the group sessions they offer to students, parents, teachers, faculty and staff. They use professional knowledge to choose topics that will respond to the needs and interests of large numbers of participants. (2)
  • Select corporations, educational institutions and community organizations with which to build working partnerships. They start by approaching the ones they feel will be the most beneficial for their student populations. They build other partnerships as needs arise. (2)
  • Select the textbooks, professional publications, assessment instruments and software to purchase for their counselling services, academic institutions and school boards. For example, counsellors at the secondary and college levels may select career counselling software. They have to consider the initial purchase and ongoing costs, reliability of information, user-friendliness and privacy protection offered by each available option. (2)
  • Decide to refer some students to psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and other specialists when they need expert help. To make appropriate decisions, they have to assess the severity of the students' situations. For example, a counsellor may decide to refer a student who is exhibiting suicidal tendencies to a psychiatrist. (3)
Critical Thinking
  • Assess participants' satisfaction with group counselling, training and information sessions. At the end of group sessions, counsellors may facilitate feedback sessions. They may also design and distribute evaluation forms to be completed by participants. (2)
  • Assess participants' understanding of topics covered during counselling, training and information sessions. For example, secondary school counsellors may assess students' understanding of topics covered in career preparation classes. They may choose or design appropriate assignments, tests and quizzes. They may administer, correct, mark and interpret them. (3)
  • Judge the suitability of counselling approaches for specific students. They consider students' situations, difficulties, needs, goals and wishes. For example, a guidance counsellor may assess the suitability of administering a battery of tests to clarify a student's interests and abilities. A personal guidance counsellor may assess the suitability of offering group bereavement counselling sessions to students suffering from unexpected losses. (3)
  • Evaluate students' development on a regular basis. They look at cumulative records, carry out testing and assessment activities and discuss students' development with teachers, parents, psychologists, social workers and speech-language therapists. (3)
  • Assess students' mental health using a variety of approaches and techniques. For example, a secondary school guidance counsellor may analyse the symbols and spatial arrangement on students' art work to evaluate how they feel about themselves, where they are in their development, what conflicts they are experiencing and how they are dealing with them. (3)
  • May lead teams which evaluate the effectiveness of educational and counselling strategies, projects and programs. They may also publish their results and recommendations in professional and research publications. For example, a counsellor may lead the evaluation of a program designed to address the educational needs of students with learning and psychosocial disabilities. The counsellor organizes a team of teachers, school administrators and other counsellors to determine evaluation criteria and design protocols to collect and analyze data on these criteria. The counsellor writes reports to describe evaluation methodologies, discuss findings, offer conclusions and recommend changes to educational strategies. (4)
Job Task Planning and Organizing

Own Job Planning and Organizing

Educational counsellors plan and organize job tasks to meet the counselling and information needs of a maximum number of students, parents, teachers, principals and peers. Their ability to schedule their own activities and manage priorities is critical to their jobs particularly when they work in more than one school. They need to reorganize job tasks frequently in order to accommodate drop-in visits from students and co-workers and emergencies.

Planning and Organizing for Others

Educational counsellors may play a central role in organizing, planning and scheduling day-to-day academic, personal, social, career and vocational counselling services. They may contribute to strategic planning at the provincial, district and institutional levels. They may be responsible for assigning tasks to graduate students in counselling and clerical staff.

Significant Use of Memory
  • Recall the names of the many students, parents, counsellors, teachers, psychologists, social workers, speech-language therapists and administrators to facilitate communication.
  • Remember details about the lives, academic achievements, aptitudes, personality traits, personal difficulties, academic plans, career preferences, languages and cultures of students to save time, show genuine interest and build trust. For example, an elementary school counsellor may memorize some sign language to communicate with children who are deaf.
Finding Information
  • Find information on new assessment instruments by consulting colleagues, contacting test publishers and searching their websites. (2)
  • Find information on entrance requirements, qualification exams, fees, scholarships and content of academic programs by consulting educational institutions, reading their handbooks and brochures and searching their websites. (2)
  • Find information about psychological conditions and counselling approaches with which they are not familiar by talking to psychologists, psychiatrists and other specialists, attending conferences and workshops and searching textbooks, professional publications, journals and websites. (3)
  • Find information about students by interviewing them, consulting teachers, parents, psychologists, social workers and speech-language therapists dealing with them, administering and interpreting standardized tests and reading permanent school records. They need to analyse and synthesize the information from a wide range of sources so that they can counsel students effectively. (3)
Digital technology Help - Digital technology
  • Use word processing. For example, they may write and edit text for class and workshop outlines, letters, intervention plans, brochures, leaflets, websites and articles using word processing programs such as Word. They generally use common page and character formatting features. (2)
  • Use graphics software. For example, they may create slide shows using presentation software such as PowerPoint. In order to develop effective presentations for students, teachers, parents and employers, they may import scanned images, tables and graphs. (2)
  • Use databases. For example, they may enter, update and retrieve student information from institutional databases. They may also search, display and print data from these databases. (2)
  • Use the Internet. For example, they may access professional association websites for updates on professional resources and conferences. They may also perform keyword searches to get information about new assessment instruments. (2)
  • Use communication software. For example, they may create and maintain distribution lists, receive correspondence and send e-mail with attachments to students, co-workers and colleagues. (3)
  • Use other computer and software applications. For example, they may use career counselling software such as REPÈRES and Career Cruising to search information on academic training programs and career avenues which are relevant to students' interests and abilities. (3)
Additional information Help - Additional information Other Essential Skills:

Working with Others

Educational counsellors perform some tasks independently but also work with other counsellors, teachers, psychologists, social workers, speech language therapists and with representatives from businesses, educational institutions and community organizations. They coordinate the implementation of educational policies, procedures and programs with other educational counsellors. They collaborate with teachers, parents, psychologists, social workers and speech-language therapists to establish and implement intervention plans addressing the special needs of students with learning and psychosocial difficulties. (4)

Continuous Learning

The dynamic character of education in Canada forces educational counsellors to place a premium on continuous learning. Educational counsellors are expected to expand their knowledge of psychological conditions and stay abreast of changes in academic training programs, career avenues, labour market opportunities and educational policies and procedures at the provincial, district and institutional levels. On a daily basis, they acquire new learning by speaking with co-workers and colleagues, browsing the Internet and reading books, trade publications, academic journals, brochures, handbooks, newsletters and bulletins. They also view videos, visit campuses and attend conferences and workshops on topics relevant to counselling offered by provincial ministries of education, professional associations, school boards, colleges and universities. (4)

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