Research Highlights

Research Highlights top

Support for Career Counselors at UniversitiesThinking about the meaning of the word “career”

writer: SENOO, Asami (Ritsumeikan Global Innovation Research Organization, Researcher) published: 2017-8

I think all of you have heard the phrases “career support” and “career education” before. Many researchers at this institute are conducting research related to these terms. But it is only since the 2000s that they have become widely used. Before that the word “career” [as a loanword in Japanese] was used to refer to high-level bureaucrats, and its more general use, particularly in the context of university education as discussed here, was rare.
One reason this word has come to be used in the context of university education was the provision of assistance to university students to address the difficulty of finding employment during a prolonged period of economic stagnation. The improvement of career education at universities was highlighted in a report entitled “On strategies for improving student life at universities” released by the Ministry of Education, Science, and Culture in 2000 (Yatagawa 2016). In accordance with this movement, Universities changed their “employment departments” into “career centers.” Ritsumeikan University, for example, had already made this change in 1999.
The terms “career support” and “career education” have become common, but the vagueness of the word “career” has been identified as problematic (Yatagawa 2016). This word comes from the Latin “carraria,” a roadway meant for wheeled vehicles, and was then used as a metaphor for an individual’s professional or personal path or history (Suwa 2017). It therefore tends to be a bit unclear what sort of experience or history is being referred to by the term “career.” A detailed discussion of the technical usage of this word can be found in the April 2017 issue of the Japanese Journal of Labor Studies. While [in Japanese] “career” generally refers to a person’s path through life as a whole, it may also refer to their professional or employment history (Yatagawa 2016, Suwa 2017). As a result, it is often unclear what sort of experience or history is to be called a “career.”
This vagueness in the meaning of “career” creates the potential for the content of “career support” and “career education” to be similarly vague; if what universities or other providers of these services refer to as a “career” differs, the support and education provided will presumably differ as well. Of course, in today’s society in which a certain number of people experience changes in their employer or employment conditions, it is important to deepen the knowledge concerning professions in university education. But if the knowledge transmitted to students differs between different universities or other providers, this can invite their confusion and anxiety.
The preferences and desires of each individual are given particular emphasis when professions are considered within “career education” and “career support.” For example, various factors are connected to professions, such as employment conditions, wage systems, working hours, and gender norms. There is thus a need to think about how to create “career education” and “career support” that, based on knowledge of each specific field of specialization, can enable every individual living in society to move toward a fulfilling professional life.


  • Rumi Yatagawa, 2016, Career and Gender for University Students: Gakubunsha.
  • Yasuo Suwa, 2017, ”Careers (Law)” The Japanese Journal of Labour Studies (No.681), pp.67-69.


Ritsumeikan Journal of Human Sciences


Find us on facebook


Institute of Ars Vivendi. Ritsumeikan Univ.