Overview of Guidance Systems in the United Kingdom and the impact they have of their communities.

The UK, although often referred to as one country, is in effect four countries; England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, each with their own degree of autonomy and extending from that, their own career guidance system.  As a result, each of the careers services provided, and the way in which they are provided, differ from one another.

In England career guidance for young people is provided by schools which have the responsibility for providing access to “independent and impartial” IAG (information, advice and guidance). As a result, careers guidance providers and organisations have been competing to sell their services to schools and have consequently been criticised for saturating the market. In some areas the local authority and local schools have joined together to secure guidance services from a guidance company via a single contract, in other areas it is left to the individual schools to source this support themselves.

In England the National Careers Service provides guidance about learning, training and work for adults. This is delivered both through their digital service and the local National Careers Service centres offering face-to-face guidance with a qualified career professional.

The guidance system in Scotland (Careers Scotland – part of Skills Development Scotland), Wales (Careers Wales/Gyrfa Cymru) and Northern Ireland (Careers Service Northern Ireland) are fairly similar as they are private companies or charities that receive direct funding from the central government. In all of these nations, an independent careers service sends expert practitioners into schools to advise young people on their choice of study and career.  This service continues to support young people through their secondary schooling and also when they are “in transition” – i.e. leaving school, changing job etc.  In these three countries the guidance service is also extended to adults.

Alongside these mainstream guidance services colleges and universities may also provide a guidance service or careers centre to assist their students.


In December 2017 the UK Government’s new Careers Strategy set out its ambitions and plans to expand the quality and quantity of career provision for all ages. It highlights high-quality careers support, world class technical education and high-quality labour market information as key areas of investment, as well as outlining the crucial role of Government, employers, careers services, local authorities and other actors.

Social mobility is also a key theme throughout the Careers Strategy and is directly linked to increased productivity and GDP. Central actions associated with increasing social mobility for all ages and backgrounds is effective cooperation between employers, education providers and guidance services; upskilling adults for jobs for the future and ensuring accessible lifelong guidance.

Since the Careers Strategy recognises the ‘variable quality’ of career provision in English schools, several measures will be put in place to improve the situation by 2020 – notably the appointment of a named ‘Career Leader’ to lead the career programme in every school. In addition the Gatsby Benchmarks (developed by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation) are promoted to ensure that every secondary school in England offers quality career guidance to young people (from the ages of 11 through 18). Eight benchmarks outline what ‘good’ provision looks like.

The Scottish Government has its own Careers Strategy and Lifelong Guidance policy with the overall aim to increase economic growth in a sustainable manner and deliver high levels of employment. With the leadership of Skills Development Scotland (SDS), universal, high quality and impartial careers information, advice and guidance should be accessible to people of all ages through the website, telephone calls and face to face guidance. SDS aims to work with schools to support teachers in providing career related learning to enable young people recognise their own strengths, weaknesses and interests as well as making use of the experience and expertise of different professions in order to develop young people’s employability skills. There is also a focus on supporting and informing parents about the options available for their children.

Careers Wales has produced a ‘Strategic Vision’ document to support the Welsh Government’s aim of securing a more prosperous, healthy and ambitious Wales by producing an adaptable and resilient workforce. One aim of theirs is preventing young NEET’s by increasing awareness of opportunities available to young people in regards to higher education, apprenticeships and training and raising ambition, motivation and confidence in personal skills. This will be delivered by creating a new curriculum where careers education and work and enterprise activities are integrated with learning. In addition, online tools will be made available such as psychometric tests to help with identifying personal skills and career paths, tools to support teachers by showcasing best practices and schemes such as the ‘get hired programme’ to target those in danger of becoming NEET. There is also a focus on supporting adults back into work by creating a variety of digital services including a skills assessment tool and an employment route tool as well as proving redundancy support through Career Advisors.

Northern Ireland has A Strategy for Careers Education and Guidance, with the overall aim to support economic and social prosperity by helping people develop the skills and confidence needed to make informed choices to follow the career paths that suits them best. One aim is to provide equal access to good quality work experience for all young people so they can experience the world of work and recognise their strengths. This will be achieved by creating an online tool for young people and parents about work experience as well as encouraging employers by introducing an awards / recognition scheme for those who provide impactful experiences for young people. In addition the ongoing target is to provide universal access to impartial and high quality careers education and guidance and helps adults to upskill, reskill and benefit from the opportunities available in emerging employment sectors. By implementing guidance through webchat, telephone calls and face to face meetings, adults can be supported in a way that is more up to date and convenient.



The Careers and Enterprise Company (CEC) further supports schools by coordinating employers, schools, colleges, funders and career programme providers so that there is strong work experience support for all 12-18 year olds. The CEC focuses on linking the curriculum to careers, implementing first-hand experience of work places, organising events where pupils can meet employers and introducing careers guidance at the beginning of secondary school means that students get a clearer understanding of the options available to them, their skills and the direction in which they may wish to go after secondary school.

The National Careers Service is the universal guidance service for Adults in England funded by the Department for Business, Industry and Skills. The National Careers Service provides information, advice and guidance to help adults make decisions about learning, training and work, as well as helping with the core skills needed to get a job (e.g. how to improve interview techniques and write a good CV and cover letter). Both an online and face-to-face service is available, with face-to-face guidance prioritising low skilled, unemployed and vulnerable groups. The online service offers a range of tools and resources, such as job profiles, labour market information and a ‘skills health check’ tool.

Careers England is the trade association for employer organisations and traders involved in the provision of products and services promoting careers education and guidance in England. The association is mainly comprised of the National Careers Service providers across the country.


Skills Development Scotland is the national skills agency of Scotland. It is an executive non-departmental public body of the Scottish Government. Careers Scotland is the part of the agency responsible for providing guidance to young people and adults. It offers a universal service of free, impartial career information, advice and guidance. The service employs 4 types of advisers to deliver guidance in schools, SDS careers centres, the Customer Contact Centre and community venues across Scotland. The main products and services include:

  • Face to face guidance in a SDS centre and guidance over the phone
  • Redundancy support
  • Help fund training
  • Apprenticeship advice
  • Online tools and resources
  • My world of work
  • Apprenticeship Scotland
  • Help with CV, applications and interviews
  • Career events


Careers Wales/Gyrfa Cymru is a subsidiary of the Welsh government that provides independent and impartial Careers information, advice and guidance for people of all ages in Wales. Careers Guidance is delivered face to face in centres and partner locations, over the phone, online via social media and the website. The main products and services include:

  • Online guides – e.g. understand the job market, coping with redundancy, your rights and responsibilities etc.
  • Work with schools to engage with employers and implement the World of word Curriculum
  • Support government projects including: Jobs Growth Wales, Apprenticeship matching scheme, Redundancy support for adults
  • Individual skills gateway support for unemployed adults.

Northern Ireland

Careers Service Northern Ireland is part of Northern Ireland Direct, a government website for Irish citizens which brings together information from a variety of government departments and agencies. They provide Careers guidance for people of all ages across Northern Ireland in order to help people make informed decisions about their career. The main services are:

  • Careers advice and guidance available face to face in national centres, over the phone or online
  • Online Job application guide
  • Online tools to assess skills and career options for 11-13 year old, 14-19 year old and adults
  • Online information about Higher education, Skills, Adults learning etc.

National Services

The Career Development Institute CDI is a national body dedicated to working for and on behalf of all career development professionals and to continuously raise the quality and standard of career development activities in the UK. The CDI achieves its aim through:

  • Support universities in post-graduate programmes
  • Moderate the qualification in career guidance/development to ensure professional requirements are met
  • Maintain the UK register of Career Development Professionals
  • Organise the annual UK Career Development Awards to highlight the innovation and best practice of both organisations and individuals
  • Produces reports and publications such as the industry magazine ‘Careers Matters’

The Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services AGCAS is the professional association for higher education (HE) careers practitioners. It aims to promote excellence and innovation, equality of opportunity and continuous quality improvement in IAG in Higher Education

In addition, to help career advisors broaden their knowledge and receive recognition for their work, a variety conferences and awards have been set up. AGCAS holds a variety of conferences within the Higher Education Careers and Employability sector.


In England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales a Qualification in Career Development (QCD) can be obtained for guidance practitioners. This is a 1 year full time or 2 year part time course incorporated into postgraduate career guidance programmes, which then needs to be followed by appropriate further in-service training. The award is built on benchmark statements which are divided into sections, which are in turn subdivided into knowledge, skills and attitudes. It also includes a required placement of minimum 20 days followed by 10 days of work based learning.

Institutions that offer the QCD:

Canterbury Christ Church University

Coventry University

University of Huddersfield

Nottingham Trent University

University of Derby

Edinburgh Napier University

University of the West of Scotland

Qualifications in career guidance can also be achieved through a work based route.

This training leads to the Level 6 Diploma in Career Guidance and Development (QCF) and allows practitioners to provide careers guidance and development. A QFC level 4 Diploma in Career Information and Advice can also be obtained but this is only relevant for practitioners who provide career information and advice and not in career guidance. These qualifications can be obtained through SHINE CAREERS CEIAG QUALIFICATIONS . Other organisation in the UK also offer the qualification.


The International Centre for Guidance Studies (iCeGS) is an applied research and development unit based within the Faculty of Education, Health and Sciences at the University of Derby. Its main research areas are:

  • Assessing and Measuring Impact
    • Mapping Provision
    • Organisational Reviews
    • Literature Reviews and Policy Briefings
    • Learning and Teaching Services

The Institute for Employment Research (IfER) at Warwick University main research areas are:

  • Labour market assessment
    • Labour market forecasting
    • Work, welfare and public policy
    • Apprenticeships, work based learning and training
    • Guidance, learning and careers
    • Employment relations and employer behaviour
    • Labour market classification and measurement
    • Higher education and the graduate labour market

The National Institute for Career Education and Counselling (NICEC) is a fellowship of people committed to understanding and developing career education and guidance practice and policy in the UK and across the globe. Its Journal of the National Institute for Career Education and Counselling is published twice a year in partnership with the Career Development Institute (CDI). The Journal publishes articles on the broad theme of career development in any context including:

  • Career development in the workplace
    • Career development in education
    • Career development in the community


Name of guidelines

The Code of Ethics for members of the Career Development Institute

Sectors covered


Issuing organisation

CDI – Career Development Institute

Link to guidelines (national and English versions)

The Code of Ethics for members of the Career Development Institute covers all sectors and is issued by CDI – Career Development Institute: The CDI Code of Ethics

Last update by ©Euroguidance UK (May 2018)

Got a Specific Question?

Visit The Community
Skip to toolbar