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 special needs..), 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 locally these services, the public regional guidance service (le service public régional de l'orientation) is legally established.

Guidance is ensured 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 Authorities coordinate actions of many career guidance services such as career development advice (conseil en évolution professionnelle) or validation of prior acquired experience (validation des acquis de l’expérience)

At the national level, four ministries are mainly in charge of guidance issues: National education and youth, Higher education and research, Labour, health and solidarity and Agriculture and food sovereignty.


Some sectorial initiatives

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

– Universities have autonomy. It is their responsibilities to provide guidance and career services. They develop practices of workshop and skills portfolios in order to support students to enhance their employability.

– The public employment service France Travail has the mission to receive, inform and guide active people unemployed or under employment. Some organisations called «Missions locales», focused on young jobseekers, complete this.

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.

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 and after baccalaureate (at the end of upper secondary school) “continuum bac – 3 – bac + 3”(2013).

Compulsory work placements are part of the secondary education curriculum: one week during 3rd grade (9th year) and another at the end of 2nd grade (10th year) from 2024.

In 2018 the law " for the freedom to choose one's professional future" reformed the system of initial (apprenticeship) and continuing vocational training as well as the functioning of unemployment insurance.

A public institution, France compétences has the responsability 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. Other competences were given to the regional authorities for delivering 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 and youth are linked to secondary schools. They are opened to all kinds of clients, from secondary schools until higher and further education institutions.

The Ministry of education and youth has also the responsability 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 outs.
E-guidance service is provided by ONISEP through

The local offices “Missions Locales (ML)”, target youngsters (16-25 years old) with social and work integration difficulties. There are also more and more private guidance centres, media organisations 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 SCUIO “Service Commun Universitaire d’Information et d’Orientation”. The activities of each SCUIO differ but they all include : 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 out of 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, change their career or upskill. These services are mostly provided by the staff of the public employment service «France Travail». Some 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 different agencies involved in a restricted area (local authorities, France Travail, Missions locales), 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 policies.

The national network for career counseling and guidance provision for executives is called APEC (Agence pour l’emploi des cadres).

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 research 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 the main research institutions on guidance psychology in France with «Conservatoire national des arts et métiers» (CNAM).

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


In France, ethical guidelines are strictly defined by the psychologist code of ethics, last updated in 2021.

The French national education psychologists for guidance organisation, APsyEN, belongs to the International Association for Education and Vocational Guidance 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: March 2024