5 Critical Components for Career Advising for Equitable Student Success

Published: August 10, 2021

Are career development conversations left to chance? Or are they integrated into your student services, curriculum or advising? Maybe somewhere in between? 

The majority of career and academic advising services are not integrated nor designed to work for specific student groups. According to the Guided Pathways Initiative (2020),[1] only 44% of students reported that someone at their college had talked with them about the types of jobs related to their pathway of study, and only 41% noted that they used their college’s website to explore career options. When career development is left to chance, it reduces opportunities for all students and potentially magnifies challenges disproportionately experienced by specific subgroups such as Black, Latinx, Indigenous and low-income students. Simply put: career and academic integration is important to improving your campus approach to equity as it creates a more holistic advising student experience. 

As part of the Advising Success Network (ASN), the American Association of State Colleges & Universities (AASCU) in partnership with the Career Leadership Collective (The Collective) outline five critical components that are foundational to integrating academic and career advising services (see below). These components work together to both catalyze strategic conversations around improved career/academic advising, but also to implement and sustain changes once they are made.  Details of the components and how they may apply to your institutional context are described in a Career Advising Landscape Analysis that details how career/academic advising integration is happening across higher education nationally and provides applied examples from the field.

Below are highlights of the critical integration components that every campus should consider when pursuing holistic advising redesign with a focus on integrating career and academic advising.

Data, data, data!  

  • Who is accessing career services on your campus?  

The first critical integration component for understanding the who, what, where and how about  integration of career development is, of course, data! Using data to further understand who is accessing career services on campus and determining what the impact of those activities are, and for whom, is crucial to having more informed conversations and the planning that lies ahead.  

Topic, Timing & Teams

  • What information is critical for the student and how can it be shared? 

Providing a student with critical career development information and opportunities at the right time during their academic career and by people who have access and relationships with the student is the hallmark of integration.  Thinking through the vital information students should know throughout their educational life cycle identifies who is working with a student during those critical touchpoints and how the information can be provided.    

Scalable Solutions  

  • How can we increase and improve access to career development information?  

The establishment of touchpoints throughout a student’s career provides the opportunity to scale career development activities throughout the institution.  This critical integration component supports the intentional work underway to understand your data and design critical and timely touchpoints for students.  It is an opportunity for career development information and activities to be accessible synchronously and asynchronously, present across the institution, resulting in reaching students who may not otherwise engage in impactful career development milestones.

Instruction & Curriculum

  • Where are the opportunities within our curricula to embed career development learning outcomes? 

The fourth integration component is critical to equal access for students but also likely one of the more challenging aspects of integrating career development throughout the institution. However, this component likely will have the biggest return on investment for your students, shifting career development from an opt-in activity to strategically unavoidable.  There are many examples included in which you can work with your department chairs, First Year Experience faculty, academic advisors, and others to determine how this type of knowledge can be shared throughout the curriculum.  

Faculty and Staff Champions

  • Where do we already have buy-in for the integration of career development activities?  

You may be surprised that you have champions on your campus already – faculty and staff who regularly have conversations with students about their future. It is time to build on that passion and commitment by providing more structured learning and development opportunities for faculty and staff broadly. Buy-in is needed across campus. These efforts cannot reside in career services offices alone.  Professional development and access to networks and communities around career development can help you meet your goal of integrating career development throughout the institution by empowering faculty and staff to meaningfully engage with students about their future.  

Now is the time to intentionally design an approach where career advising is integrated across the institution – whether it is in academic advising or within the broader curriculum, or both. The critical integration components allow for the implementation and scaled adoption of student-centered activities and opportunities designed to empower our students to make informed decisions for themselves. These efforts are vital to providing equitable access and improving student outcomes for the new majority of students.  Check out these resources that include national data, campus examples, ideas and action plans!


[1] 22 Center for Community College Student Engagement, “Building Momentum: Using Guided Pathways to Redesign the Student Experience,” (2020), https://cccse.org/sites/default/files/BuildingMomentum.pdf.