What They Do
School counselors help students at all levels, from elementary school to college. They act as advocates for students’ well-being and are a valuable resource for their educational advancement. Counselors help students with issues such as bullying, dealing with disabilities, low self-esteem, poor academic performance and relationship problems. They refer students to a school psychologist for further treatment if necessary.
In addition, they evaluate students’ abilities, interests and personalities to help them develop academic and career goals. They also administer aptitude tests and show students different paths to success.
Skills You Need
Learn which personality traits and professional skills you’ll need to be a successful school counselor.
You should have…
- Excellent communication skills
- Goal-setting skills
- High ethical standards
- Clear boundaries
- Good mediation skills
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How to Become a School Counselor
Most states require a master’s degree and two years of practical experience for school counseling licensure. In some jurisdictions, a teaching certificate is also necessary. Once you’ve fulfilled the requirements, you’ll be given a state-issued license (sometimes referred to as an endorsement or certification). Licensing and certification guidelines for school counselors vary by state. Make sure to check the guidelines in your state before you start your studies.
In researching education programs, you’ll find an abundance of schools offering online and on-campus bachelor’s and master’s degrees in school counseling and psychology.
You can even earn a PhD in school counseling or school psychology online. If you want to take advantage of federal financial aid resources for your online courses, however, you should make sure to choose a school and program that are accredited.
Accreditation for school counseling programs can come from a few organizations. The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) and the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation (NCATE) give their seal of approval for master’s degree programs.
As a school counselor, you can work in a number of environments, including schools for grades K-12, secondary schools, and higher educational institutions, including state and private colleges and universities.
You will need to complete continuing education throughout your career, as your license renewal often hinges on the completion of a set number of units. Most states require school counselors to renew their license every 5 years by completing a certain number of CE hours. For example, Colorado requires 6 semester hours of college credit or 90 clock hours of professional development. Your state regulatory board can provide you with a list of approved courses.
Compared to other counselors, school counselors make a good living. But salaries do vary a lot based on location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. The median salary for School and Career Counselors is $56,310, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
School & Career Counselors
Marriage & Family Therapists
Mental Health Counselors
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook.
*The salary information listed is based on a national average, unless noted. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.
Employment of school counselors is expected to grow 13% through 2026. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.
Here are some other fields you might like if school counseling isn’t exactly what you’re looking for: