Career guidance has a long tradition in Portugal, going back to the first decades of the 20th century. Currently guidance services are delivered by many players, in a wide variety of contexts, throughout the lifespan of clients. Since the creation of the PES in 1965, guidance is an activity in all job and training centres.

In the education sector, encouraged by faculties of psychology, the Educational and Guidance Psychology Services (Serviços de Psicologia e Orientação, SPO) was implemented in schools in 1983.Recent legislation has created new opportunities to help schools face challenges in education and reinforced and redefined guidance in schools. The last “Exit profile for students leaving compulsory schooling”, put in place in 2017, highlights the need to foster students’ autonomy, exploration, planning, creativity, critical reasoning and social respect, among other transversal competences. These competences are embedded in the curriculum.

The Qualifica centres are more recent but have a national outreach. All universities have career centres or other bodies with competences in career guidance.In addition, many NGOs, alone or in cooperation with public authorities, provide guidance to people with vulnerabilities.

All these players allow universal access to career guidance, free to all national or foreign citizens.

Career guidance interventions should be coherent, integrated, systematic, continuous and complementary, according to the competencies of each service, taking into account their users profile and needs.


Guidance and counselling services are mainly organized under the responsibility of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Employment, Solidarity and Social Affairs.

Guidance is mentioned in many documents on lifelong learning, education, social inclusion, training and labour market policies.


Lower and upper secondary schools

Every public school has guidance services for children from 5 to 16/17 years old, at the end of compulsory education. Information, guidance and counselling are delivered by school psychologists.

Information, guidance and counselling are delivered by school psychologists. Teachers and parents as the other stakeholders are engaged in the guidance process.

The interventions could be individual/group sessions, study-visits, work-experiences, exhibitions and job placements. A wide range of online tools to support career education are available. The main tasks are to:

  1. support students in the process of developing their identity;
  2. foster autonomy in information research;
  3. support the acquisition of career management skills;
  4. carry out information actions on the education and training system and on the existing offer at national and community level;
  5. collaborate in the organisation and follow-up of study visits and activities to approach the labour market;
  6. support mobility experiences;
  7. prepare the transitions along the educational and professional path;
  8. encourage learning initiatives in concrete contexts of activity, such as volunteering, internships and job shadowing;
  9. supporting information and awareness raising activities among parents and guardians and the community in general, on aspects inherent to career decision-making.

Higher Education institutions

Career Centres at universities are providing information, guidance and counselling. Development of career management skills, information about labour market, provision of internships and support in the transition to labour market are the main interventions.

Public Employment Services

Adult and young unemployed, employees willing to change job and companies are the target groups of the guidance services in the Public Employment Service (PES).

Information, coaching, guidance and counselling; employability skills development are delivered face to face, via group sessions or on-line.

Vocational and Educational Training Institutions

VET participants, adults or young people could have guidance in PES, Centros Qualifica and professional schools. Guidance in this context supports citizens in choosing a training course, promoting learning during the course and supporting the transition to the labour market.

The professional schools in Portugal, most owned by companies, business associations, foundations, cooperatives, trades unions and local authorities, delivery guidance intervention to young people. The intervention has different phases:

  1. before enrolling at school: set up the challenge, enthuse the student about different courses;
  2. during the selection process: give information about the course, get to know students’ strengths and weaknesses. Is the student up for the school challenges?
  3. during the three years at school: follow-up, provide support and prepare the students for the studies. Support in the transition to university and/or job market; knowledge of current information on studies pursuit, monitoring, be available, be present.

Unemployed, adult or young, registered in PES, whose personal employment plan is for qualification, benefit from guidance intervention in the employment and training units. In addition, the employment unit provides psychological assessment with the aim to enable the unemployed jobseeker to explore information about themselves and integrate it with other context information, about the world of work and occupations and about the characteristics of the several types and areas of vocational training to decide which training action is most appropriate for them. Furthermore, the training unit provides psycho-pedagogical support, with the aim to help the trainee adapt to the context of training, to assure training success/ prevent early leaving, to improve/ optimise the learning process.

The Qualify programme (Programa Qualifica) is dedicated to the qualification of adults and aims at improving their education and training levels as well as at contributing to the improvement of the overall population employability. It is based on a qualification strategy that integrates educational and training tools which promote an effective qualification. Within this context, guidance has a relevant role in the recognition and validation of the learnings adults have had in their multiple life contexts.

Private companies

Privately owned companies either have an HR department that sometimes offers career development services or they hire HR companies to recruit, develop and improve their workforce.


The majority of guidance practitioners in Portugal are qualified psychologists, with a variable degree of specialization in career guidance. Other professionals involved in information activities may have studied social sciences.


The Portuguese Association for Career Development – APDC – was founded in 2009 and aims to be a reference and point of contact and synthesis of multiple agents who , in Portugal, are contributing to the advancement of research and intervention in the areas of career development and guidance.

The faculties of psychology have research centres on guidance:


The Order of the Portuguese Psychologists is the national body responsible for the accreditation, training and regulation of the psychologists in Portugal.                  

Regulamento Nº 258/2011 is a referral document that integrates ethical principles of the profession in Psychology in any area and context of application.

Last updated at: June 2021