Career Resource Centers

A career resource center (CRC) refers to a physical facility and to the location of materials, resources, and personnel delivering career services to individuals and groups. A CRC is typically located in the career center, counseling center, human resources office, library, or training and development unit of an organization. In contrast, a career center is an administrative unit of an organization—for example, school, business, or agency—that employs staff who deliver a variety of career programs and services. Comprehensive career centers provide career counseling and assessments, experiential career opportunities such as internships and cooperative education, educational and career information, job hunting assistance, and employment information. They may also provide services to employers seeking to fill their hiring needs. Less comprehensive career centers may provide only some of these services. A career center would almost always include a CRC.

When the vocational guidance movement in the United States emerged in the early 1900s, the development of CRCs was one of its most tangible and lasting accomplishments. The roots of the movement sprang from the social reform and humanitarian activities in urban areas in the Midwestern and Eastern United States. CRCs were often located in settlement houses, which provided a variety of social services including vocational guidance to immigrants and others. Career counseling developed in the context of these CRCs. A distinguishing CRC feature was and remains the provision of resources and information about occupations, jobs, training, financial aid, employability, and career planning. This entry briefly reviews some of the characteristics of the first CRCs that have carried forward to the present time and describes the characteristics of modern CRCs.

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The Development of Career Resource Centers

Frank Parsons, generally regarded as the father of vocational guidance, at the turn of the last century created one of the first CRCs. His Vocation Bureau was located in the Civic Service House, a Boston settlement house that provided a variety of social and civic services to citizens and Italian immigrants. Parsons created this early CRC with a private grant provided by a wealthy Boston matron, and he formulated a technique for providing career counseling in this context. His book, Choosing a Vocation, was published posthumously in 1909 and included details about the resources, materials, and staffing of the Vocation Bureau.

With the passage of time, CRCs moved from community settings such as settlement houses mostly into colleges, universities, and high schools and less often into business organizations, governmental, and social service agencies. The Vocation Bureau, for example, found a new home at Harvard University. In educational settings, CRCs were typically housed in either a counseling center or a career planning and placement center. More recently, CRCs are most likely to be located in a career center and provide the resources used by staff and clients to solve career problems and make career decisions.

The resources in a CRC can include inventories and tests, card sorts, books, descriptions of occupations or educational and training institutions, CDs and DVDs, pamphlets, clippings, Web pages, instructional modules, multimedia resources, training materials, magazines, take-away materials (free handouts), and procedures for locating information or preparing for a job campaign, for example, resume writing and interviewing. Career counseling is another resource that might be available in a CRC, and professional counselors or paraprofessionals, sometimes called career development facilitators, could provide it. The intended outcome of using career resources, including career counseling, is client or customer learning and a change in career-related behavior.

Career resources can be grouped into three broad categories: (1) assessment instruments, (2) information sources, and (3) instruction. Assessment resources include instruments that enable persons to examine their self-knowledge, typically interests, values, skills, and abilities, in order to create information for career problem solving and decision making. These instruments may be used in a self-help format or with the assistance of a professional counselor.

Information resources describe the characteristics of occupations, education, training, and employment that individuals use to refine their career options. Occupational information describes the nature of work, the nature of employment, and the requirements for employment in occupations (e.g., accountant) and categories of occupations. Occupational information is also used to identify and learn about job targets in employment decision making. Educational information describes the nature of education or training, the nature of the institution or training provider, and admission to individual institutions or categories of institutions (e.g., community colleges). Employment information describes sectors, industries, employers, and positions in the job market.

Instructional resources are used to help persons clarify self-knowledge, knowledge of their options, and knowledge of the decision-making process. In this context, career counseling could be considered as a form of instruction. Instruction is related to career assessment and career information described previously, although several differences exist. For example, instruction or counseling integrates several sources of information in a meaningful sequence designed to achieve a specific learning outcome, for example, a booklet on how to make a career decision. In comparison with assessment and information, instruction or counseling is a less commonly available type of career resource.

Career Resource Center Operations

Staffing and Operations

Successful operations in a CRC require special management and administrative staff. A hierarchy of professionals, paraprofessionals, and support staff work together to maintain the library and resources and to provide effective career service to users. A media specialist or librarian should be available to manage the materials, and information technology professionals are needed to monitor computer software. A manager, often a professional counselor, should oversee CRC operations and provide supervision to the counselors and other staff.

The manager or consultant knowledgeable about all aspects of both career development and organizational structure, perhaps aided by an advisory committee, designs and implements the CRC program. After conducting a needs assessment, the manager proceeds to create a mission statement, design a program plan, coordinate existing programs, and ultimately run a pilot study prior to implementation.


A CRC budget varies according to the size, location, and complexity of the center, as well as the needs of the users. It typically includes funds for salaries, tests and inventories, furniture, equipment, technological support, books and materials, printing, subscriptions, staff training, and office materials.

Location and Facilities

As noted earlier, a CRC can be located in various settings, ideally in a high traffic area with easy user access. It is important that the site and facilities have interior open space with windows and have walls for displaying posters and signs directing users to resources. Facilities should include an ample amount of shelf space and file cabinets to store the materials, as well as counseling offices, meeting rooms, study tables and chairs, display racks, bulletin boards, and a copier. With the advent of the Internet, CRCs have increased user access to materials and resources via the Web resulting in virtual CRCs.

Materials Acquisition, Management, Collection, Cataloging, and Evaluation

Typically, the counseling staff and the media librarian or specialist are responsible for selecting, managing, and collecting materials for the CRC. It is crucial for these staff members to consider the population utilizing the materials most often, as well as the funds available to maintain, update, and acquire new resources. Both the staff (counselors and professionals) and the community should be able to locate and use the resources with little or no assistance if necessary. Scores of vendors—for example, professional associations, commercial publishers, government agencies, news organizations—offer materials for a CRC, materials that include many free and low-cost products. Some professional associations, such as the National Career Development Association (NCDA), have established guidelines for evaluating career information and resources.

Marketing and Public Relations

A CRC requires continuous marketing of programs and resources. In a college or university setting, for example, incoming students can be targeted as well as those in other transitions, for example, those about to graduate. A Web site and electronic mailing lists are used in marketing along with varied print media. Conducting workshops at various locations and writing articles for community publications can disseminate news of CRC programs. These marketing techniques should explain the CRC’s mission and objectives as well as how users will be treated when they seek services.


  1. Brown, D. (2007). Career information, career counseling, and career development (9th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
  2. Epstein, S., & Kinsley, K. (2004). The career resource library: Development and management issues. In J. Sampson, R. Reardon, G. Peterson, & J. Lenz (Eds.), Career counseling and services: A cognitive information processing approach (pp. 249-266). Belmont, CA: Thomson.
  3. Parsons, F. (1909). Choosing a vocation. Tulsa, OK: National Career Development Association.
  4. Sampson, J. P., Jr., Reardon, R. C., Peterson, G. W., & Lenz, J. L. (Eds.). (2004). Career counseling and services: A cognitive information processing approach. Belmont, CA: Thomson.
  5. Vernick, S., Garis, J., & Reardon, R. (2000). Integrating service, teaching, and research in a comprehensive university career center. Career Planning & Adult Development Journal, 16, 7-24.

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