The main aim of all guidance and counselling in Finland is to support individuals in making educational choices and managing their careers based on the principle of lifelong learning. Everybody in Finland is entitled to guidance and counselling services regardless of whether they are studying, working, unemployed or outside of the labour market.

The public education and employment authorities and the education providers, normally municipalities, are the main actors responsible for guidance and counselling services. Their functions and goals are mutually complementary. Education and training institutions bear the main responsibility for guidance and counselling of pupils and students, whereas the Employment and Economic Development Offices are primarily intended for those outside education and training. The youth sector is involved in offering information, guidance and counselling to young people. These services are provided by municipalities and various organisations (for more, see Koordinaatti).


In Finland, there is a strong legal basis for guidance service provision across all levels of education and training (from general to higher education) and for the services to be provided by the employment administration (such as vocational guidance and career planning). Also the youth information and guidance services offered by municipalities are stipulated by legislation. 

In the past years Finland has consistently worked towards creating a coherent and holistic lifelong guidance system that is easily accessible for all individuals at a time, place and method most appropriate to their needs. This has been done in close cooperation and in mutual understanding between the Ministry of Education and Culture, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment and other key stakeholders. They are represented in the National Lifelong Guidance Coordination and Cooperation Group that is set up to discuss the overall development and implementation of guidance strategies and measures (2015-2020). The national cross-sectoral policy development is complemented by 15 regional lifelong guidance working groups.   

The national strategy for lifelong guidance (2011) defines the objectives for developing the lifelong guidance provision in cross-sectoral and multiprofessional cooperation at national, regional and local levels. This national strategy is closely following the priorities identified in the Council Resolution on better integrating lifelong guidance into lifelong learning strategies (2008). The Finnish strategy covers equal access to services, career management skills, guidance practitioner competences, quality assurance, and cross-sectoral cooperation and coordination.


The pupils and students have a legal right with specified time allocation for guidance and counselling services at educational institutions. These services mostly consist of individual, group or class based guidance sessions as well as working life familiarisation. Services are provided by a wide range of personnel depending on the level and type of education and training.

In the comprehensive education there are school counsellors and class teachers (basic education). At the general upper secondary level guidance counsellors, group advisors and teachers are in responsible for offering guidance and counselling according to their professional roles and tasks. School counsellors and teachers provide guidance in vocational education and training (upper secondary level) and career counsellors and group advisors do that in adult education. The goals of the services are defined in the national core curricula. In higher education guidance counsellors (universities of applied sciences), student services staff, academic staff, careers and recruitment services (universities) are involved in guidance delivery.

Guidance and counselling in public employment services are offered by vocational guidance psychologists (vocational guidance and career planning services) and other experts according to their job profiles. The services provided by the employment sector are targeted mostly at unemployed and employed young people and adults, who are outside of education and training. The main aim is to support access and integration to the labour market by means of various forms of support that enhance the individual’s employability. This can be training, work try-outs, rehabilitation, language learning (migrants), and beyond.

In 2020, the current public employment services will be merged into new regionally organised Growth services and can be delivered by private companies, or companies established by current public sector or third sector voluntary organisations. This reform will include major challenges, e.g. overall coordination and management of the services, staff competences, and minimum quality of the services and coordination of the continuous development of the services.

Youth information and counselling is preventive youth work. It is one of the statutory services for young people, and its objective is to provide specialised information, guidance and counselling concerning different issues and situations in young people’s lives. Youth information and counselling work supports young people’s growth, independence and well-being. The basis for the services is the information and support needs of young people. Services are provided by municipalities and various organisations. They are directed at young people themselves, but also at young people’s parents and others who are professionally or otherwise involved with young people.


Finland has a strongly professionalised system of guidance certified to international standards. The qualifications of the career practitioners in comprehensive and secondary level education as well as of the vocational psychologists are defined in legislation. The qualification requirements for counsellors working in higher education are not laid down by law.

Beyond the required qualification for teachers (a master’s degree or a special qualification for vocational-school teachers), all school counsellors must have a certificate of completion of specialist training in guidance and counselling (60 ECTS) or a Master degree in guidance (300 ECTS).

Most of the career practitioners in Finland have obtained their certificate within a work-based programme (60 ECTS) in one of the training units [University of Eastern Finland; University of Jyväskylä; Universities of Applied Sciences: HAAGA-HELIA, HAMK (in Finnish), Jyväskylä, Oulu (in Finnish) and Tampere (in Finnish)]. The Åbo Akademi provides similar training (60 ECTS) in Swedish language (in 2018 no guidance counsellor training available). All of these programmes use a blended learning approach and many of the students have some previous experience of school counselling in temporary jobs.

There are also two Master degree programmes available. The University of Eastern Finland provides a Master degree (180 + 120 = 300 ECTS), where the students can have their major in either education, educational sociology or adult education. The pedagogical studies required for qualification as a teacher are also included in the training programme. Since 2002 University of Jyväskylä has been providing a two-year Master programme (120 ECTS) in guidance for those who already have a Bachelor degree in Education.

A prerequisite of a vocational guidance psychologist in the public employment services in Finland is a Master’s degree in Psychology. The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment organises in-service training for all labour administration staff. Many vocational psychologists also pursue (while working) postgraduate studies in working life and organisational psychology. It is equally common to obtain a diploma in therapy, for example in cognitive, cognitive-analytic or psychodynamic therapy. As for the other professional groups working on information-advice-and-guidance related duties at the employment and economic offices, no official qualifications prescribed by law are required. Nevertheless, almost everybody in these groups has a vocational qualification or a university degree.

As a whole, there is a shift in the guidance counsellor training units to more competence-based curricula. The training units cooperate in curriculum development and the following processes are embedded in all training programmes: awareness of the society, educational system and the labour market; life span in societal and cultural contexts, theories in education, educational psychology, sociology and philosophy; theories in counselling; research in the field of counselling, promoting practice and research; counselling in practice, meeting the clients; the work of a teacher; cross-sectoral networks in guidance and counselling.

Since 2000 all the guidance counsellor training units in the education sector in Finland are using internet platforms to support the implementation of the programme and communication between the participants. The materials used in the training courses are available on the platform and the design of the website is structured by the learning assignments of the students. The learning process is planned to help students combine theory and practice from this new perspective.


The guidance counsellor training units (i.e. universities and universities of applied sciences) continuously conduct academic and applied research to address new phenomena and themes in the field of lifelong guidance in Finland. Many of these actors collaborate with universities and research institutes in other countries in international research and development projects.

Digitalisation of guidance services is an area of increasing importance and relevance for research and development in Finland. For example, the digital guidance competences and related development needs among teachers and guidance counsellors are being studied. Also how to develop cooperation among training providers on the use of technology in accordance to the goals of the national core curricula for career education requires more attention.

Other themes addressed by research and development are, for example, network-based service delivery, employability skills, educational/labour market segregation and NEETs, and what the guidance service system possibly could do there. Another challenge faced by guidance practitioners is the diversity of their clientele. Multicultural and international aspects and clients’ highly individualized demands are a growing part of guidance counsellors’ daily work. These aspects should be addressed more explicitly in the initial training and continuous professional development of guidance practitioners.

In order to promote active citizenship, inclusion and transition to employment, Finland has established a network of locally operating one-stop guidance shops (Ohjaamo in Finnish). They provide young people with information, advice and guidance on a walk-in and easy-access basis. At these guidance shops personal guidance and counselling, specifically focusing on learning and employment and related transitions and pathways, are offered to youngsters by experts representing different fields of expertise as well as different administrative sectors involved in guidance service provision. The services are tailored according to the needs of the clients and the aim is to assist and support the young person until a more long-lasting or permanent solution has been found in terms of a job, study place or other type of activity. Services are provided through multi-channeling (e.g. face to face, electronic, online, phone). A new online platform is underway to allow a better interaction and service provision between the guidance practitioners and their clients. In 2019 there are 60+ centres in Finland. In May 2017 the Government decided that the pilots will have a sustainable status alongside the reform of guidance services within the employment sector and allocated national budget funding for the centres from 2018 onwards.


The Finnish Association of Guidance Counsellors (SOPO; in Finnish) is a pedagogical association under the Trade Union of Education in Finland. In 2009, SOPO released its ethical guidelines for correct professional conduct among guidance counsellors working in the educational sector. Ethical issues are an integral part of guidance counsellor training, too.

The Finnish Psychological Association has its own ethical guidelines for psychologists. They guide the work of vocational guidance psychologists who are employed by the Finnish public employment services. Moreover, the national legislation, governmental decisions and guidelines apply to the work of psychologists.

Last updated at: June 2020