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 of career guidance in Norway 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, English summary) sparked a major readjustment process with two main outcomes:

  • A national, public, and free digital career counselling service that was launched in 2020. The e-guidance offers guidance services by phone or chat. Additionally, it provides information and self-help tools for anyone interested. 
  • A Norwegian National Quality Framework for Career Guidance that was presented in 2020 (You can read the full report in English here. The web version is found here.) This is a cross-sectorial framework with an overarching aim to contribute to high quality career guidance services in all sectors.  

Skills Norway, now a part of the new Norwegian Directorate for Higher Education and Skills (HK-dir), was given 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 and challenges, the Ministry of Education and Research gave Skills Norway the responsibility to create the already mentioned national quality 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 in 2020. The report was translated to English in april 2022, and can be found here


The Norwegian Directorate for Higher Education and Skills (HK-dir) is responsible for the national coordination of the career guidance field in Norway. As of January 2021, the directorate 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 of services 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 recommendations. 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 organised 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. A core element in the curriculum is career management skills. 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 a short time placement and training in local vocational enterprises.

 The follow-up service is in charge of guiding young people who are neither in education nor training (NEETs). This service provides assistance to young people until they turn 21 by offering educational or training options, jobs or other forms of employment. It collaborates with county, municipal and state agencies that are also responsible for young people.  


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, e-guidance (karriereveiledning.no) 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. 

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. The Career Guidance Partnerships have resulted in regional career centers, and these centres currently form a basis for the adult in-house and online career guidance to the general public over the age of 19. 

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 came as a 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.  



Professionalising guidance practitioners is of major importance. In 2012, the offer of education in career guidance in Norway was mapped out in a report. The offer was assessed to be fragmented with 51 different offers in 16 institutions. The lack of a common definition and understanding of the concept of career guidance, made the different courses very different in their content and  organisation. One of the report’s recommendations, was to establish a career guidance degree both at a bachelor and a master level.

In 2014, two master programmes in career guidance were established at the Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences (INN) and the University of South-Eastern Norway (USN). These degrees are experience-based and offered as part-time studies. Skills Norway, now a part of the Norwegian Directorate for Higher Education and Skills, was an important driving force together with the two universities in establishing the degree. You need to hold a relevant bachelor’s degree and have relevant 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.




The two Norwegian universities offering master programmes in career guidance, USN and INN,  work in close cooperation with each other and with other partners and networks, such as the regional career centres, the Norwegian PES, partners in primary and secondary education and training, and adult learning, and the Norwegian Directorate for Higher Education and Skills. Two of the first genuine academic publications that directly connect to the term career guidance were written by 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 National forum for career guidance (Nasjonalt forum for karriereveiledning) consists of representatives from 28 different organisations and actors.  The forum offers central actors the possibility to discuss status, development and research questions related to the career guidance discipline. The forum acquires recent research and information, and contributes to the National Unit for career guidance (within the Norwegian Directorate for Higher Education and Skills).

The work on the national quality framework for career guidance (2020) was carried out in working groups where all members came from research, stakeholders in the field of guidance, practitioners, and government employees. 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 development of the National quality framework for career guidance is part of the development of a comprehensive system for lifelong career guidance. The framework consists of four main elements:

  1. Competence standards: Provides an overview of what competences those working with career guidance should have to be able to attend to their roles in a way that enhances quality in their services.

  2. Career competence: Provides suggestions and inspiration on how to facilitate career learning that enhances each individual’s career competence.

  3. Ethics: Provides common ethical values and guidelines that contribute to a joint ethical foundation of career guidance. (See more information below.)

  4. Quality assurance: Provides a quality model (shorter version in English) and the tool “Our quality” which together aim to secure a more comprehensive and common understanding of ‘good quality’ as well as to inspire to work on quality development.   

A concrete goal for the quality framework is that it is used as a tool for the development of quality in career guidance in all sectors. The framework is meant to be advantageous both to the development of quality among the practitioners as well as for administrative management and steering. The framework has not been a goal in itself, and the process of developing and implementing the quality framework has been regarded as at least as important to reach the goal of increased quality in career guidance.  




In the previously mentioned government white paper on career guidance (NOU 2016:7), it was concluded that the establishment of common ethical guidelines is part of the professionalisation of career guidance, and it was recommended that common ethical guidelines specific to career guidance services were developed. The Ministry of Education stated that the ethical principles and guidelines should contribute to enhancing the quality of the career guidance services, to provide support in ethically challenging situations for those offering career services, to maintain and strengthen the ethical competences by the offerors as well as facilitating systematic ethical reflection in the specialist environment.

Skills Norway was given the main responsibility to develop the national quality framework for career guidance (presented in 2020), and one of the four working groups was assigned the task “Ethics- principles and guidelines for good practice”.  The working group consisted of experts with broad experience within career guidance and ethics.

At the time of the publication of the white paper, three sets of ethical guidelines for career guidance in the Norwegian context already existed, all of them related to guidance within a confined area. Those were “Ethical guidelines for counsellors” by the Norwegian Association for guidance counsellors (Rådgiverforum, last revision 2018); "Ethical guidelines for career guidance" by the Career Forum for Higher Education (Karriereforum for høyere utdanning, 2009); and “Ethical guidelines for regional career centres” (Skills Norway and the regional career centres, 2016). In addition, there were general ethical guidelines that some employees working with career guidance in schools and the Norwegian PES responded to. One example is “The teaching profession’s ethical guidelines” by the Union of Education (Utdanningsforbundet) which is the largest trade union for teaching personnel in Norway. Moreover, NAV-employees had to adhere to “Ethical guidelines for the Public service”.

The ethical guidelines that were already in force influenced the development of the common ethical guidelines in terms of content, extent, and form. The new ethical guidelines are based on career guidance in different sectors. They are meant to cover not only the performer, the career counsellor, but also the career guidance activity and the facilitation of the same. The guidelines are formulated to be relevant to all types of career guidance, such as face-to-face conversations, group guidance, career learning, career teaching and digital career guidance. They serve as a supplement to the other ethical guidelines that the practitioners respond to, and the working group was not supposed to suggest a formal status of the guidelines.  

The 12 ethical guidelines are distributed in three categories: Competence, relation and cooperation, and reflection. They can be read here (in English).

 Tools and resources on ethics

The last sentence in the definition of career guidance in the national framework states: “Career guidance is offered by competent parties and  performed with a high degree of ethical awareness”. The Norwegian Directorate for Higher Education and Skills has developed various tools to enhance the ethical awareness in the sector. Below are some examples:

  • «Ethic cards” (Etikkort) which provide conversation starters and accurate descriptions of situations which can be used as a basis for shared ethical reflection and discussion. The tool also allows individual career practitioners to develop their own ethical competence and practice.
  • An ethical reflection model has also been developed as ethical reflection is a condition for ethical awareness. This model can be used to structure and systematise the reflection.
  • In the series “The ethics relay” (Etikkstafetten) on the webpage “Veilederforum.no” run by the Norwegian Directorate for Higher Education and Skills, articles on ethical reflections and ethical dilemmas in career guidance are frequently published.


Further information can be found at Cedefop (2020). Inventory of lifelong guidance systems and practices - Norway. CareersNet national records. 

Last updated at: September 2022