Professional pathways

Guidelines for use


The AGCAS Professional Pathways are mapped out to support and enable the articulation of the professionalism of individual AGCAS members and the high standards of the higher education (HE) careers and employability profession.

They are designed to complement the AGCAS Membership Quality Standard which, through a process of peer review, demonstrates the professionalism of AGCAS member services, and the standards that we set ourselves in order to provide high quality services to all our stakeholders.  The AGCAS Code of Ethics applies to both individual and service members and adherence to the code is an expected dimension of individual professional practice. 

The pathways are for use by individuals, managers, and leaders in their institutional and service context in order to support: 

  • The individual articulation and maintenance of standards as a careers professional
  • Individual or service engagement with professional development
  • Induction, progression, and achievement of career goals
  • Guidance and direction that maintains high levels of professional practice.

The pathways are not:

  • Prescriptive
  • Job descriptions
  • A standard that must be met for AGCAS membership
  • A detailed outline of specialisms such as a focus on international students or on postgraduate research students, or a focus on contexts such as civic engagement or social mobility


The articulation of these pathways focuses on twelve facets of HE careers and employability work, mapping out the professional knowledge, distinguishing professional skills, professional attributes and indicative professional qualifications and training that should be reasonably expected at an Entrant, Established or Experienced level of practice.  These stages are defined as:

  • Entrant: Typically 0–2 years. New to sector, new to responsibilities and has foundational knowledge.
  • Established: Typically 2–5 years. Proficient, with a sound understanding of responsibilities while actively maintaining high standards of delivery.
  • Experienced: Typically 5 years or more. Has worked in the sector for a significant period, owns and is comfortable with their responsibilities. Has the contextual understanding and ability to apply their experience across and on behalf of their institution in changing and complex environments.

A member may move through these stages through career progression that increases responsibility, or through gaining experience while remaining in the same role. The pathways are designed to address both, on the assumption that someone in the same role for a sustained period, would continue to develop their knowledge and professional attributes and actively maintain their skills, in order to continue to fulfil their responsibilities. Where a member remains in the same role for a period of time, we would expect their professional qualities to be cumulative so that, for example, the knowledge outlined at the ‘Established’ stage of a facet is in addition to the knowledge specified for ‘Entrants’. The knowledge described under ‘Experienced’ will be a further addition as part of the transition from ‘Established’ to ‘Experienced’.

Reflecting role diversity across the profession

It is recognised that HE careers and employability services are varied in their composition, structure, focus, and approach. In order to accommodate this diversity while maintaining relevance across the sector, the pathways are not prescriptive and do not single out particular specialisms such as a focus on undergraduates, taught postgraduate students, postgraduate researchers, international or commuter students, students from non-traditional backgrounds or those with particular needs. Nor do they reflect every role that might exist within a careers and employability service; enabling functions relating to finance and organisational infrastructure are not captured here as those role holders will be working to their specific professional standards in order to deliver effectively in the careers and employability context. 

Additionally, these pathways do not set out to replicate job descriptions for any particular role, recognising that as services evolve, roles across the sector are increasingly distinct and incorporate a diverse range of responsibilities. We have grouped the facets into five categories:

  • Information, advice and guidance
  • Education and skills development
  • Business engagement
  • Cross-cutting activity
  • Cross-cutting themes

This is to make the pathways easier to navigate while also working on the assumption that diverse and hybrid roles will retain a functional focus.  An individual may find that their role encompasses a number of facets and that they are an ‘entrant’ in one area of their role and ‘established’ or ‘experienced’ in another.  They may also be funded to focus on a particular priority, for example Civic Engagement, Social Mobility or Graduate Support, in which case they can select the facets and stages that reflect the requirements of that role.

Indicative professional qualifications and training have been identified to reflect good professional practice. They are indicative, as we recognise that entry requirements for particular roles and availability of professional development opportunities will vary in line with individual circumstances as well as institutional policies and approaches.

The cross-cutting themes are those areas with which we would expect engagement by all HE careers professionals in order to uphold and advance the standards of practice across our profession.  These themes have been identified as: Data-informed practice, Engaging with research and Managing your own career.


The role of AGCAS

We encourage all individual members to access the wealth of AGCAS resources and learning and development opportunities to help individuals engage with their professional development and progress in their service and institutional setting. We hope these pathways also support managers and leaders to guide, direct and maintain the high levels of professional practice to which we all subscribe.


Information, advice and guidance

Information   Advice, guidance and coaching  

Education and skills development

Careers education  Entrepreneurship and enterprise  Skills development  

Business engagement

Internships and placements  Employer engagement

Cross-cutting activity

Student and graduate engagement  Leadership and management

Cross-cutting themes

Managing your own career within the higher education careers and employability sector 

Data informed practice  Engaging with research  

Full professional pathways document


Thanks are due to my fellow Professionalism Working Party members:

  • Lorna Dargan, University of St. Andrews 
  • Darcey Gillie, Sheffield Hallam University
  • John Kirwan, Oxford Brookes University
  • Elizabeth Mortimer, University of Edinburgh
  • Jim Reali, Aston University
  • Iwan Williams, University of Liverpool
  • Marcus Andrews, Head of Member Services (AGCAS)

for their work to develop these pathways. This has been a highly professional and enjoyable team effort, which has exemplified the standards to which we all hold ourselves to account.

Dr Nalayini Thambar
AGCAS Quality Director