COUNSELOR EDUCATION PROGRAM -- North Carolina Central University

We have set some guidelines for you as you begin to move into your practicum and internship. Before you begin your practicum/internship, check with your advisor about dress expectations. It is widely accepted that there is a “dress code” for presenting yourself in a professional way to clients and to potential employers. Remember, many of you will secure your first counseling job either directly or through connections made in your on-site experiences. We want you to present yourself in a way that gives you an edge for success. Amy Reece Connelly of ACA (Online Counseling Today, 10/1/07) offered reminders of what works in presenting yourself in the job market. Here is a summary of her advice:

  • Professional appearance invites professional treatment.
  • Dress for the position to which you aspire.
  • Dress with sensitivity to your audience.
  • Always wear clothes that fit you now.
  • Invest in classics such as black, navy, tan, brown pants/skirts and traditional tops, jackets, sweaters.
  • Pay attention to details of grooming such as hair, nails, shoes, hygiene, unwrinkled & mended clothes.
  • Avoid the “too’s”…too much of anything isn’t advantageous whether it is makeup, jewelry, patterns, colors, high heels, etc.

In that same spirit, here are our expectations of how you will present yourself on-site:

  • Dress to support your role not to engage attraction for yourself personally. You are forming important perceptions in the eyes of others to whom you are offering service or representing yourself as a professional counselor. 
  • Absolutely no jeans are to be worn on-site or at professional meetings/conferences. 
  • Men should wear basic dress pants, shirts, and shoes. Avoid athletic shoes or sandals. Avoid t-shirts or slogan shirts. Ties and jackets are appropriate at times when you want to make a presentation. 
  • Women should wear basic dress pants, tops, and shoes. Avoid athletic shoes, flip-flops, high heels, and only wear lower heel dress sandals or boots. When wearing skirts, just above the knee length or longer is appropriate. Tops should not be at all revealing therefore off the shoulders, strapless, thin strapped and low cut tops are not professional. Short sleeves are better than sleeveless tops. Clothes should not fit tightly. 
  • Dress with simplicity. It is not necessary to buy expensive clothes in order to project professionalism. 
  • Stick with neutral colors and solids as a base to mix and match. Professional dress does not include glittery anything! 
  • Exposure of body piercings or tattoos is unacceptable. 
  • Keep jewelry minimal and small. 
  • For women, makeup should also be less instead of more. Avoid heavy color, shine, or glitter. 
  • Think of details in grooming with hair, nails, shoes, purses, etc. 
  • Present yourself as organized, unhurried, on time and prepared (e.g., planner).

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NCCU Counselor Education Program

H.M. Michaux, Jr. School of Education Building
700 Cecil Street
Durham, NC 27707
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