Guidance System in France


The French system is characterized by a great diversity of information and guidance services. These services have been designed, in view of the different target groups (pupils, adults, unemployed, people with disabilities..), the type  of services (individual counselling, skills assessment, training, information...), practitioner qualifications (psychologists, counsellors, teachers, social workers...), the status of facilities (public, private, professional, commercial....) and financing (state, local authority, users, companies...). 

In order to organize these services, the public regional guidance service (le service public régional de l'orientation, SPRO) was established by a law.

Guidance is offered both at national and regional level. At national level, the state is dealing with guidance policy regarding pupils and students at schools and universities. At regional level, the regions coordinate actions of other guidance institutions, the professional development (conseil en évolution professionnelle), and the accreditation of prior learning (validation des acquis d'experience).

At the national level, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation and the Ministry of Employment are mainly responsible for guidance issues, while the Ministry of Agriculture also holds certain responsibilities.


Recent policy developments in the field of guidance in France:

Recent sectorial initiatives:

– A framework for the knowledge, skills and abilities in compulsory education (socle commun de compétences). The guidelines issued by the Ministry of Education in 2009 define the activities for career exploration and training for young people. In upper secondary schools (lycées)  time is dedicated to guidance including knowledge about careers and about technical and higher education courses.

– Universities are autonomous. It is in their responsibilities to provide guidance and career services. They develop practices of skills portfolios in order to help students to enhance their employability. (Law n°2007-1199 of Aug 10th 2007)

– The reform of the public employment service gives the new body (Pôle Emploi) the task to receive, inform and guide active people unemployed or under employment.( Law n° 2008-126 of Feb 13th 2008)

Several decisions on youth conditions (coordination to prevent drop out, apprenticeship, solidarity income for autonomy of unemployed young workers) originate from the “livre vert pour la jeunesse” (EU Youth strategy) of High Commissioner for Youth in 2009.

In the framework of Lifelong guidance and vocational training, a «public lifelong guidance service» was  created to organize and “to guarantee all people access to free, full and objective information on occupations, training, certifications, job opportunities and remuneration levels as well as access to quality, networked guidance, advisory and assistance services.” (Law promulgated on November 24th 2009)  

Guidance support is strengthened for upper secondary and university students. The Law called “loi d’orientation pour la refondation de l’école” strengthen the possibility for upper secondary school graduates (with professional, technological or general diploma) to go on in undergraduate studies. At the same time, the Law called “loi d’orientation pour l’enseignement supérieur et la recherche” conclude the necessity of a general frame for all students’ success whatever the field of study. These new dispositions lead to a better harmonization between the three years before graduation (upper secondary school) and the three years after graduation “continuum bac – 3 – bac + 3”. (Laws n°2013-595 of July the 8th and n°2013-660 of July the 22th)

Law of 5 September 2018 "For the freedom to choose one's professional future" reforming the system of initial (apprenticeship) and continuing vocational training as well as the functioning of unemployment insurance

A new public institution, France compétences, is responsible for financing, regulating, monitoring and evaluating the vocational training and apprenticeship system. Its action promotes the development of skills, the acquisition of certifications and equal access to vocational training for all workers.This law gives new competences to the regions that are responsible for information on professions and training for lifelong guidance audiences (schoolchildren and adults)



Guidance services for young people:

There is no guidance provision in primary schools. Around 400 guidance services called “Centre d'information et d'orientation (CIO)”, depending on the Ministry of Education, are directed towards post-primary schools, higher and further education institutions.

The Ministry of Education is also in charge of the national information provider “Office national d'information sur les enseignements et les professions (ONISEP)  and of the “Mission de lutte contre le décrochage scolaire (MLDS)” which is an entity focusing on school drop outsE-guidance service is provided by ONISEP.

The local offices “Missions Locales (ML)”, target youngsters (16-25 years) with social and work integration difficulties. There are also more and more private guidance centres and private press agencies in the field of information and guidance, such as L’Etudiant, Studyrama targeting pupils and students.

Guidance services for students:

At each university, there is a guidance service available to students called SCUIOP “Service Commun Universitaire d’Information et d’Orientation et d’Insertion Professionnelle”. The activities of the individual SCUIO differ, but they all comprise: information and counselling for students, organization of fairs and open days, production of information material, information to upper secondary school students, workshops on job seeking and occupational integration etc. Students, who are enrolled in higher education but not at a university can use the services of the CIOs.

Guidance services for adults:

The agencies of the Ministry of Employment are in charge of information and guidance for job seeking adults who would like to retrain or change their career or develop additional skills. These services are mostly provided by the staff of the public employment service (“Pôle Emploi). Pôle Emploi’s, digital services and online tools for employment, information on jobs, are available through the Emploi Store.

Another network under the authority of the Ministry of Employment is the network of employment centres Maisons de l’emploi”. Their purpose is to help the various agencies involved in a restricted area (local authorities, Pôle Emploi), to work more closely together. This Ministry also coordinates the National Information Centre for continuing training, Centre INFFO, which disseminates information about vocational and continuing training.

The National network for career counseling and guidance provision for executives is called APEC.       

Tools to support career transition:

  • Skills assessment ("Bilan de Compétences") enables active individuals to review their level of skills to prepare for professional mobility and to stay in work. More info on skills assessment.
  • A right offers to individuals, the opportunity to be granted a diploma (degree) or vocational qualification training by the  validation of their acquired skills, (Validation des Acquis de l'Expérience/VAE). More info on VAE portal.
  • Any active individual can engage a Career Guidance Counselling (CEP - conseil en évolution professionnelle)  based on his/her situation: in anticipation of professional mobility, during the professional transition period or for creating or taking over a business. 


Around 17 % of the 30.000 people employed in guidance and counselling in France are psychologists. In the guidance centers (CIO) of the Ministry of Education, all counsellors are “national education psychologists” (around 4500) and civil servants. They are recruited on the basis of a competitive exam held after a Master’s degree in Psychology and trained for one year.

Other practitioners have various levels of psychological training. Around 25 % received only a very limited education in social sciences.

There are some Master degree programmes delivered by universities or institution as INETOP specialized on guidance and on guidance psychology (ie.Master in Career development and counselling, Industrial psychology and management of transitions).

Nowadays, a lot of people not specialized in guidance and counselling are delivering guidance information as teachers, educators, social workers etc.


«Institut national d’étude du travail et d’orientation professionnelle (INETOP)» and its 'Observatoire des politiques et des pratiques pour l'innovation en orientation (OPPIO) is one of the main research institutions on guidance psychology. 

« Centre d’études et de recherche sur les qualifications (CEREQ) » provides research, publications, statistics in the field of occupational integration, jobs, skills, guidance and lifelong learning. 


In France, ethical guidelines are defined by the psychologist code of ethics: in the website menu click on “Topics” and then on “Déontologie”.

The French Guidance counsellors’ (Psychologist) association, ACOP-F, belongs to the IAEVG .

The framework and limits of the work of a guidance counsellor in the educational system are set out by the different regulations imposed by the Ministry of Education through the so called «BO» (Official publication/Regulations handbook) 

For more details, you can consult Cedefop's European inventory of lifelong guidance systems and practices, the detailed description for France


Last updated at: October 2021