Career guidance is considered to be crucial to a vast array of Norwegian policy agendas. It involves several sectors and Ministries and is a key factor in reducing the number of young people who are neither in education or training (NEETs), in increasing the level of employment in the population and in making career transitions in all stages of life easier. The thriving interest for career guidance was to some extent a result of the OECD Review of career guidance policies in 2014, saying that Norway should develop and implement a coherent system for lifelong guidance.

In 2015, a national committee was appointed the mission of investigating the status quo and suggesting measures for achieving the government goals. The subsequent government white paper, “Norway realigning-career guidance for the individual and the society” (NOU 2016:7) sparked a major readjustment process with two main outcomes:

Skills Norway, now a part of the new Norwegian Directorate for Higher Education and Skills (HK-dir), has had the main responsibility for developing both initiatives. Together, they build on the existing system of career guidance, contribute to quality enhancement, increase the availability to guidance for the public, and link education and employment closer together for a more streamlined coherent lifelong guidance system.



The overall aim of the lifelong career guidance policy in Norway is closely connected to the national skills strategy. All citizens are entitled to education and training in a lifelong perspective to increase the population’s employability.  Career guidance early in the educational path may prevent dropout from upper secondary education. Furthermore, better access to career guidance for all may promote a faster transition to work for unemployed and disadvantaged groups and better equip seniors for future challenges in the labour market.

In order to meet these needs, the Ministry of Education and Skills gave Skills Norway (now a part of the Directorate of Higher Education and Skills) the responsibility to create a national framework for career guidance. Different working groups delivered reports on standards of competencies, which competencies that were to be included in the framework, quality assurance and ethical standards. The national framework was ready by 2020.

The national quality framework assumes the following understanding of career guidance:

The goal of career guidance is to make individuals better equipped to handle transitions and to make meaningful choices related to education, learning and work throughout life. Career guidance gives an opportunity to explore the individual’s situation, wishes and opportunities, and provides the support of action, choices, and participation in society. Career guidance may take place individually or in groups, both physically and digitally, and within the framework of different sectors and organizations. Career guidance is offered by competent actors and is performed with a high degree of ethical awareness.

The Norwegian Directorate for Higher Education and Skills (HK-dir) is responsible for the national coordination of the career guidance field in Norway. From the 1st of January 2021, HK-dir is also professionally responsible for the career guidance part of the counselling system in primary and secondary education and training. The goal is to increase the access to career guidance services, enhance quality and contribute to an equal offer to young people and adults in all stages of life. The directorate also develops and manages the national digital career counselling service and the national quality framework for career guidance.



Lower and upper secondary education

In lower and upper secondary compulsory education, guidance is a statutory/legal individual right for all pupils, regulated by the present Education Act. Both career guidance and social guidance is mandatory to provide. The new Education Act which is currently going through a hearing process (Oct. 2021), proposes to extend this right to also include apprentices who are receiving vocational training in enterprises.  

Guidance counsellors in lower and upper secondary education are described as persons employed to fulfil the tasks described in the Act. In 2009, the Directorate for Education and Training issued regulations on what competences are needed to perform guidance. However, these requirements are only guiding and serve as a recommendation. The recommended formal competence is that anyone working as a guidance counsellor in schools should have at least a bachelor-level relevant education with a minimum of 60 ECTS in guidance, of which 30 ECTS should cover career guidance and/or social guidance. Furthermore, the guidance counsellor should hold relevant practice and knowledge of the school system. In a white paper on the status of upper secondary education (Meld. St. 21. (2020-2021)), the government notifies their wish to improve and further develop in-service training for those working with career guidance in schools.  

In 2008 the subject selection of education became a compulsory subject in lower secondary school. This is the first organized career guidance Norwegian pupils face in the education sector. The subject curriculum was legislated in 2015 and consists of career learning activities over a total of 110 school hours. The subject assessment is without marks.

Career guidance is also given by teachers in a subject in vocational learning and training called in depth study project. The subject consists of short time placement and training in local vocational enterprises.


Higher Education

University students as a group have no statutory right to career guidance. Students are either under education or adults and thus referred to regional career guidance centres or NAV (The Norwegian PES).  However, most universities and university colleges have career units. In addition, all departments have student service staff assisting students planning their studies and careers.


Public Employment Service (PES) and adult guidance

The main responsibility for the Norwegian PES, the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration - NAV, is employability. Every citizen applying for services of NAV has the right to have their needs assessed and matched and is entitled to services that assist them in entering or re-entering the labour market. The priorities and tools of active labour market measures are currently changing through the focus on social and work inclusion as well as an increased emphasize on using ordinary working life as a training and a placement arena. In 2014, a national guidance training programme for NAV employees was enrolled to strengthen the focus on employment and how to provide

Regional governments responsible for upper secondary education and NAV have jointly formed Career Guidance Partnerships. Initially, their aim was to reduce the drop-out rate from upper secondary school by using labour marked training instead of in-school education. Now, the mandate is strenghtened, and these centres currently form a basis for the adult in-house and online career guidance to the general adult public.

In June 2020, the Norwegian Parliament passed an amendment to the Education Act whereby the regional governments were given a statutory obligation to offer career guidance to all the region’s inhabitants. This amendment was made as a direct consequence of the already mentioned government white paper NOU 2016:7 on career guidance. 

Furthermore, the new Integration Act passed in June 2020, gave newly arrived refugees both the right and the obligation to receive career guidance.  



Professionalizing guidance practitioners is of major importance. In 2014, two master programmes in career guidance were established. You need to have a bachelor and work experience to be enrolled. Several university colleges also offer further training at master level in career guidance. There are currently no bachelor’s degrees in career guidance in Norway.

To work at NAV, there is no requisite to have a guidance- related education. However, the “platform for guidance in NAV” was rolled out in NAV in 2014. This was a recognition of NAV employees really working as career guidance practitioners and that they need continued professional training in guidance.



Currently Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences offers the master education in career guidance. Two newly published PhD theses are the first genuine academic publications that directly connect to the term career guidance, R. Kjærgård (2012), and E. H. Haug (2017). Both researchers were members of the committee publishing the White paper on career guidance in 2016 (NOU 2016:7).

The close connection between research and development work in Norway stems from the Norwegian model for tripartite cooperation. The social partners, government and research community are working together to form public policy. The work on the national quality framework for career guidance was done in working groups where all members came from research, stakeholders in the field of guidance, practitioners and government employees.



The Norwegian Association for guidance counsellors Rådgiverforum has developed ethical guidelines. As public servants, NAV employees are regulated by the statutory ethical guidelines. To make them vivid, the Agency for Public Management and eGovernment (Difi) offer e-training. 

Last updated at: October 2021