The German Guidance system provides in principle access to educational and career guidance services for all citizens at any stage of their lives – whether they are in education or training, employed, unemployed or looking for continuing education.

The provision of career guidance is traditionally based on the distinction between educational guidance and vocational guidance in the vocational training and employment sector.

Educational guidance comprises

  • School Guidance and counselling,
  • Guidance on educational paths,
  • School Psychological Service,
  • Vocational and Career Guidance by the Federal Employment Agency (FEA),
  • Higher Education (HE) counselling services.

Vocational guidance includes

  • Placement and counselling in the Employment Agencies (EA)/Job Centre,
  • Career guidance in the FEA,
  • Municipal educational guidance,
  • Adult education centres,
  • Career Guidance in the chambers (eg. commerce or industry) and
  • Guidance by providers of further training.



The structure of guidance provision reflects the German education and  employment system with its shared responsibilities between the Federal Government, the federal states and the municipalities. A key player in the implementation of guidance provision is the Bundesagentur für Arbeit (BA) with its more than 150 local Employment Agencies (EA) and career information centres (BIZ). In addition to Federal institutions, the local municipalities play an important role by providing guidance services either through Adult Education Centres or their social welfare services.

Further, the National Guidance Forum for Education, Career and Employment - an independent network of politically responsible institutions, organisations and experts - promotes the professionalism and quality delivery of guidance in the education and employment sector in Germany. Along with members of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (KMK) and the Federal Employment Agency (FEA), it also contributes to a strategy of Lifelong Learning in Germany in which a coherent system of lifelong guidance is an integral component.

In this context, reference should be made to the National Skills Strategy (Nationale Weiterbildungsstrategie) which was developed by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, together with the social partners, the Länder, the Chambers of Industry and Crafts and the Federal Employment Agency.

The National Skills Strategy was officially adopted on 12 June 2019 and is based on the Skills Development Opportunities Act  (Qualifizierungschancengesetz), which already contains a binding right to counselling on continuing education and training by the Federal Employment Agency. In future, the focus will no longer be on formal qualifications alone, but also on individual skills. The aim is to help all current and future employees to maintain and adapt their qualifications and skills in a changing world of work and to enable them to up-skill or to change careers.



Institutions of general education are responsible for the provision of guidance services in schools which are offered throughout schooling. Specially trained teachers, social workers, school psychologists and cooperating vocational guidance practitioners from the FEA provide guidance in school.

In higher education central counselling services as well as faculty-based expert guidance are provided to students and applicants to inform on all study-related topics such as choosing a university, a field of study, subjects, and examination preparation. Career Services within the institutions of HE offer support in the transition from university to employment.

Guidance in the fields of employment, continuing education and avoiding unemployment is provided by the FEA free-of-charge to all citizens. This is mainly carried out by placement officers, who are usually trained counsellors and who assess skills and competences of their clients before defining an action plan for the latter. Young jobseekers (under 25) are served by a special unit and receive more intensive coaching (one case manager for 75 young people). Further, most municipalities maintain adult education centres. They provide both general education as well as continuing vocational education and training (CVET).

Besides the FEA and municipalities, the chambers of commerce, industrial federations and social partners provide services for information related to VET and CVET to all stakeholders. Guidance practitioners in the chambers, e.g. give advice on different topics concerning apprenticeship in the dual system such as information on the course of the apprenticeship, youth protection in the workplace etc.

Furthermore, Trade Unions provide career guidance to their members on questions related to further training while management consultants, private career guidance practitioners and a growing number of non-profit organisations offer guidance services within the private sector.

Finally, a variety of guidance services is offered to special targets groups, among others people with disabilities, disadvantaged youth and people with a migrant background.



There is no legal regulation of the qualifications, training and professional status of career guidance practitioners and counsellors in Germany. Each sector or provider of guidance defines its own requirements – normally a higher education degree (Bachelor or Master) and some additional further training are a prerequisite.

The FEA runs its own University of Applied Sciences (Hochschule der Bundesagentur für Arbeit (HdBA)) where career counsellors study a three-year multi-disciplinary Bachelor programme which closely links theory to practice in the Employment Agencies. The fields of study include public management, employer-oriented work incentive counselling, employee integration and social security. Further, the HdBA offers a Master Programme (5 terms) focusing on labour market-oriented guidance. In addition to the study programme at the HdBA, there are in-house training and further education for staff in local Employment Agencies and Job Centres who have various academic backgrounds and move from other posts to career guidance.

The University of Heidelberg (Universität Heidelberg) offers a Master Programme in “Job and Organisation-related Guidance Science” (5 terms with 120 ECTS points) for students who hold a university degree and who have relevant professional experience. The same entry requirements apply to the “Master Programme of Counselling “of the  University of Applied Sciences for Social work, Education and Nursing in Dresden (Evangelische Hochschule für Soziale Arbeit Dresden)  which is spread over 8 terms (120 ECTS points). There, the field of study focuses on Psychodynamic counselling and system coaching.



Research on the evaluation and effectiveness of guidance is still a young field of research in Germany. Research and development on the subject guidance in education and employment is being conducted in Germany by various actors, particularly universities and research institutions and is being promoted by the National Guidance Forum for Education, Career and Employment. In 2017 the National Guidance Forum for Education, Career and Employment has  published an anthology that presents current research approaches from education, labour market and guidance research and discusses the results and significance for strengthening the evidence base of lifelong guidance.

In addition, the National Guidance Forum for Education, Career and Employment and the Research Quality Group for Guidance at the University of Heidelberg (IBW) as well as numerous actors and stakeholders of the German guidance community have developed the so-called BeQu Concept. This quality concept is part of a professionalization strategy to promote the social and political value attached to professional career guidance and counselling. It also includes ethical standards and aims at becoming the benchmark for the guidance practice and policy in Germany.

In the field of empirical educational research the Federal Ministry of Education and Research published in 2017 the Framework Programme for Empirical Educational Research, which runs for the next ten years. The programme’s objectives are to increase the knowledge base for education policy and practice, to encourage cooperation between researchers and practitioners, to drive innovations improving education and to extend the structure of outstanding educational research.

The  IAB - the Institute for Employment Research conducts labour market research to provide competent advice to political actors at all levels. The tasks of the Federal Institute for Vocational Training (BIBB) include conducting research on vocational education and training, developing vocational education and training, serving in an advisory capacity and providing services in the field of vocational education and training. The Leibniz Institute for Research and Information in Education (DIPF) delivers empirical educational research, digital infrastructure and targeted knowledge transfer, thus contributing to coping with challenges in education.



Ethical standards play an important role among German guidance counsellors and associations. While there is no national ethical guideline, they commit themselves to act in accordance with the ethical standards defined by the IAEVG.


Further information on the German guidance system and practices can be found at Cedefop (2020). Inventory of lifelong guidance system and practices – Germany: CareersNet national records Germany


Last updated at: October 2021