New Minimum Multicultural Competencies Announced

By Belinda McCharen and Shawn Utecht

We live in an increasingly multicultural society.  In the United States alone the make up of our population, and thus the clients we are likely to see, is changing fast.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau projections, in the next half century the Asian and Hispanic population will triple, and by 2050, non-Hispanic whites will account for only one-half of the total population (2004). 

It is not just the country's racial make up that is changing.  In 2005 over 54 million people, some 18 percent of the population, reported having some type of disability (U.S. Census Bureau, 2007).  Currently, about one in eight U.S. residents is an immigrant, the highest level in 80 years (U.S. Census Bureau, 2007).  By 2030 almost 20% of our population will be over 65 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2004).  And by 2042 non-Christians are expected to outnumber Christians in the U.S (American, 2008). 

While these numbers may be surprising, do not forget to take into account a host of other factors including: gender, gender identity, language preference, sexual orientation, marital/partnership status, socioeconomic status and a myriad of other categories we divided ourselves into.  As practitioners, if we want to ensure the competent delivery of services to our clients, it is increasingly important we recognize and are trained in the Minimum Competencies for Multicultural Career Counseling and Development

Located on the NCDA website, under the heading Guidelines, these competencies will become an essential part of any training program. From theory and skills, to resources and ethics, the competencies are comprehensive and meant to inform the totality of our practice.  There are 9 key components which make up these competencies:

1. Career Theory

2. Individual and Group Counseling Skills

3. Individual/Group Assessment

4. Information, Resources, and Technology

5. Program Promotion, Management, and Implementation

6. Coaching, Consultation, and Performance Improvement

7. Supervision

8. Ethical/Legal Issues

9. Research and Evaluation.

Whether used for educating the next generation of professionals in the field, or continuing our own education, these new competencies are meant to guide us as we strive to improve the professional services we deliver to our clients. 

These new competencies can be used in multiple ways.  A counselor may be working with clients who have an ethnic or other categorical background that is different than their own.  It is an appropriate professional endeavor to examine the competencies for Individual and Group Counseling Skills to guide your reflections in your own beliefs. You might ask yourself: Do I know my own assumptions toward the ethnic group? Can I be effective? Do I need additional training to be effective with different ethnic groups? Do I need to refer to another more culturally sensitive counselor?

For example, in working with a Native American client, the career counselor must be aware of the strong role the extended family may play in decision making.  A major goal might first be to gain the family's support in the career development process.  It is also important to note that tribes differ in value orientation, so familiarity with specific tribal values and those specifically of the client is critical.  The counselor must be aware of his or her own values related to ambition, individual self-determination, and reliance upon family approval and refrain from placing culturally inappropriate expectations upon the Native American client.

The Competencies could also be used to guide the decision making of a GLBT client who may be seeking a career counselor who would be in tune with issues faced in society by a GLBT individual. The Multicultural Competencies could serve as an objective basis to evaluate a counselor to assure that the counselor is able to engage in a productive relationship with a GLBT client. The Multicultural Competencies are an educational tool for both the practicing counselor and the potential client to assure they are able to share the counseling experience in the most productive manner possible.

It is important that we not only recognize the effect increased levels of diversity will have on our practice but also prepare ourselves to effectively meet the changing demographics of our clients. Developed to ensure that practitioners promote the career development and functioning of individuals of all backgrounds; the NCDA's new Minimum Competencies for Multicultural Career Counseling will play a much needed role in informing the future of our profession These new minimum competencies will provide a strong foundation as we build our knowledge and skills to provide professional services to all our clients, in an increasingly diverse world. 



The Graduate Center of the City University of New York (2008). American Religious Identification Survey, 2008. New York, NY.

National Career Development Association. (2009). Minimum Competencies for Multicultural Career Counseling. Broken Arrow, OK.

U.S. Census Bureau. (2004, March).  More diversity, slower growth. Washington, DC.

U.S. Census Bureau. (2007). Immigrants in the United States: A profile of America's foreign-born population. Washington, DC.

U.S. Census Bureau. (2007, May). Americans with Disabilities Act: July 26. Washington, DC. 


Shawn Utecht Shawn Utecht is a Lead Career Counselor at Pennsylvania State University.  With a background in international development and community organizing he currently serves as a member of the NCDA's Multicultural Committee.  To contact Shawn: sru2@sa.psu.edu.


Belinda McCharen Belinda McCharen, Ed.D., LPC, NCC is the Francis Tuttle Endowed Chair for Occupational Education Studies at Oklahoma State University.  She current serves as the newly appointed Chair of the NCDA's Multicultural Committee.  To contact Belinda: belinda.mccharen@okstate.edu.



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