Career Development Curriculum for Queer-Identified Students

Jamie Piperato, higher education, NASPA


Fouad and Bingham (1995) state that vocational research has been primarily produced by White scholars; specifically, it is founded in Western European culture and within a framework of masculinity. Savickas (as cited in Vespia et al., 2010) states that there is a 100-year tradition of career development work that has silenced the experiences of marginalized clients. As a result, it is vital to encourage career development centers to increase their services to marginalized individuals by providing identity-conscious programming. It is important for all identities to be represented in the services provided by career development centers. For this particular document, an argument will be made that calls for the inclusion of services for queer-identities in particular. Specifically, four areas will be addressed as reasons to why career development curriculums should include queer-conscious education: (1) providing vocational support; (2) providing role models; (3) preparing students for experiences; and (4) the intersect of identities.

First, in a study conducted by Nauta, Saucier, and Woodard (2001), results showed that sexual minorities felt significantly less supported and guided compared to others in the areas of academic and career guidance. In addition, Nauta et al (2001) state that sexual minorities’ career decision making and implementation are influenced because of reasons such as “stereotypes, discrimination, environmental barriers, and other forms of bias that typically impede the development of minority groups” (Herr & Cramer, 1998, p. 154, as cited in Nauta et al, 2001). Currently, many institutions do not educate students on topics of career development through an identity-conscious approach; although the lack of this inclusion in an office’s curriculum can impact a student’s success. Institutions must provide more support to LGBTQ+ students than resources in the form of hyperlinks on their website.

Second, it is vital for institutions to provide role models for students in the LGBTQ+ community who can speak to the experiences of living openly as queer employees. It is a proven fact that individuals are more likely to seek out other individuals who are similar to themselves. This is supported by the social learning theory introduced by Albert Bandura in 1977. It is of high important for both sexual minority and trans* students to have role models who are out in the workplace (Nauta et al., 2001). Students are able to gain confidence and reassurance about the job search process when they are able to confide in people who have experienced similar encounters due to their identities. This can be especially important to students who have androgynous gender identities and expressions. By providing services that emphasize the queer experience, students are able to gain insights and become more prepared for what they will experience as marginalized individuals.

Third, it is vital that institutions prepare students for their experiences. Negrete & Purcell (2011, p 83) state, “as individuals across the continuum of sexual orientation and gender identity continue to gain acceptance in society through increased visibility, they face a more covert kind of discrimination.” This discrimination often takes the form of micro aggressions that students, faculty, and staff alike may have difficulty naming and therefore addressing. As educators, it is important for our institutions to create comprehensive trainings to better understand how to recognize and combat such covert discrimination, moving beyond rudimentary teachings and toward informed solutions that combat the root of the problem. Discrimination in the workplace is a reality for many queer-identified people and it has “a profound effect on the well-being of this population (Coteau, 1996; Croteau & Hedstrom, 1993; Driscoll, Kelley, & Fassinger, 1996; Elliott, 1993; Fassinger, 1995, 1996; Griffin, 1992; Hetherington et al., 1989; Levine & Leonard, 1984; Morgan & Brown, 1991; Orzek, 1992; Pope, 1995, 1996; Worthington, McCrary, & Howard, 1998 as cited in Chung, Williams, & Dispenza, 2009). It should be the role of career development centers to provide students with effective coping strategies so that they can increase their self-efficacy and well-being (Chung et al., 2009).

Fourth, career counselors should be aware of how the intersection of various identities may impact a student’s experience.  Purdie-Vaugns and Eibach (2008) explain that “because people with multiple subordinate group identities (e.g. ethnic minority women) do not fit the prototypes of their respective identity groups (e.g. ethnic minorities, women), they will experience what we have termed ‘intersectional invisibility’” (p. 377). In similar ways, queer people of color, queer students with disabilities, and students who are otherwise marginalized in addition to their sexual orientation and gender identity are often made invisible by current education practices, but face compounded forms of oppression that must also be addressed. McCann and Kim (as cited in Abes, Jones, and McEwen, 2007), note, an intersectional approach to different personal identities “[recognize] how socially constructed identities are experienced simultaneously, not hierarchically” (p. 3). Particularly as the demographics and visibility of students’ identities are growing and changing, it is our responsibility as educators to address the identities of our students simultaneously and with equal measures of respect, instead of treating them as separable entities that can be examined and solved in singular, isolated training sessions. In order to adhere to our students’ individual needs, we must recognize that their identities and struggles will also be unique, and structure our programs accordingly.

Furthermore, it is vital for institutions to expand their career development services to include identity-conscious services. The purpose of this document is to provide a framework for institutions of higher education on the foundational necessities required to provide proficient career development for queer-identified students. This document was developed by Jamie Piperato, a higher education consultant and speaker, who identifies as a member of the queer community. This information was created in an effort to close the educational gap found throughout our current career development curriculums. This is a working document. Any and all suggestions are welcome to create a more comprehensive framework.

Curriculum Design

The following section will provide recommendations for the logistics and education that must be covered in a career development curriculum for queer-identified students.


Below you will find information regarding assessment, objectives, and the recommended timeframe.


Before creating and implementing a career development curriculum for queer-identified students three questions must be asked:

  • What is the focus of the curriculum?
  • What are the characteristics of the participants who will benefit from this curriculum?
  • (Influenced by the two questions above) What should be the goals of the curriculum?

To obtain this information, professionals should assess the student demographics at your institution and the students who use the career development center, queer resource center, multicultural student services, and student life. An assessment should be conducted in all four of these areas (or in areas congruent to these offices) about the career development needs of the students in these areas as well as the student’s identities. This assessment can then be used to determine the areas of importance for your career development curriculum. In addition, it will provide adequate information and accountability to ensure that the trainings are conducted using an intersectional approach. Furthermore, career development centers can make use of the surveys conducted before and after mock interviews and/or resume/cover letter reviews.

(Obtained from Bell & Griffin, 2007)

Curriculum Objectives

The below objectives are examples that you may choose to use as goals for your curriculum. In order to achieve success, professionals should determine which objectives are attainable for their institution.

Objective One: By the end of the curriculum, participants will be able to identify at least one person who serves as a role model for their development as a professional.

Objective Two: By the end of the curriculum, participants will be able to identify three key pieces of information that will help them become successful when applying for jobs as a queer-identified student.

Please note: Each program/event should also have their own objectives.

Allotted Time

Below is a table of three suggested timelines (each is dependent on staff and resources).


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Below you will find some educational topics, events, and supplemental resources to aide in the construction of your career development curriculum for queer-identified students.

Educational Topics

Below you will find four topics regularly discussed about the job search process. Within each section, you will find a list of topics that relate to the identity of both sexual minorities and trans* individuals. Each of these topics must be included in the career development curriculum for queer-identified students.


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Educational Events/Resources

Below you will find a table of educational events and resources that should be incorporated into your career development curriculums for queer-identified students.

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It is important to note that the above suggested programs and educational topics should be provided to queer-identified students in both identity-conscious events as well as in pre-existing programs. It is not guaranteed that the sexual identity or gender identity of all students in career development workshops is known. Therefore, we must be mindful of incorporating identity-conscious information into the mainstream information that is provided to all students.

Supplemental Resources

Below you will find additional resources in the form of website links. Use these links to further your own education on these topics as well as to provide educational resources to your students.

Career Development Curriculum for Queer-Identified Students Worksheet

Coordinators should use the following table to conduct a SWOT Analysis of the career development opportunities geared towards students in the queer community. Then, three action steps should be developed.


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Action Steps

Develop three action steps that will aide in the development of queer-identified students at your institution. Then, incorporate these action steps into the career development curriculum.

Step One:

Step Two:

Step Three:

Career Development Curriculum for Queer-Identified Students Worksheet

Coordinators should use the following worksheet to determine events and/or resources that career development centers can implement in order to educate the queer community about the job search process. In order to provide a comprehensive curriculum for queer students, career development centers should strive to plan and implement more than a single event each semester.

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Abes, E.S., Jones, S.R., & McEwen, M.K. (2007). Reconceptualizing the model of multiple dimensions of identity: the role of meaning-making capacity in the construction of multiple identities. Journal of College Student Development, 48(1), 1-22.

Fouad, N. A., & Bingham, R. P. (1995). Career counseling with racial and ethnic minorities. In W. B. Walsh & S. H. Osipow (Eds.), Handbook of vocational psychology: Theory, research, and practice (2nd ed., pp. 331-365). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Nauta, M. M., Saucier, A. M., & Woodard, L. E. (2001). Interpersonal influences on students’ academci and career decisions: The impact of sexual orientation. The Career Development Quarterly. 49, pg. 352-362.

Purdie-Vaughns, V., & Eibach, R.P. (2008). Intersectional invisibility: The distinctive advantages and disadvantages of multiple subordinate-group identities. Sex Roles, 59, 377-391.

Vespia, K. M., Fitzpatrick, M. E., Fouad, N. A., Kantamneni, N., & Chen, Y.  L. (2010). Multicultural career counseling: A national survey of competencies and practices. The Career Development Quarterly. 59, pg. 54-71.

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