About 296,000 school and career counselors work in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). School and career counselors provide students academic, mental health, and career guidance. There is a possibility that school counselors will be assigned to one of these areas only in large school districts. Depending on needs, a school counselor may handle all three in small school districts.
Besides working in K-12 schools, where 45% of school counselors are employed, school counselors also work in other institutions:
- Colleges and universities: 35%
- Healthcare and social assistance agencies: 6%
- Other educational settings: 5%
- Self-employed professionals: 2%
Getting into school counseling, the requirements you need to meet, and school counselors’ salary and career outlook are all covered in this article.
Steps to Become a School Counselor
The path to becoming a school counselor does not always require being a teacher first. To become a school counselor, you’ll need a college degree. As part of this education, you must earn a master’s degree in counseling, focusing on the requirements for certification in school counseling.
Step 1. Earn a bachelor’s degree
Typically, it can take four years to earn a bachelor’s degree to become a school counselor. It’s possible to earn an undergraduate degree in any field and become a school counselor. Ideally, earn a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field.
Step 2. Find a master’s in school counseling
To become a school counselor, you must earn a master’s degree after earning your bachelor’s degree. It usually takes two to three years to complete a master’s degree in school counseling or a counseling degree with a concentration in school counseling.
Depending on the program, you may have to complete 60 credits in school counseling, but upon graduation, you’ll be able to sit for the National Counselor Examination. It’s important to note that these programs combine rigorous coursework with research and internships.
Step 3. Complete an internship or clinical experience
Depending on the state where you plan to practice, you’ll also need to complete a set number of internship, practicum, or clinical experience hours as part of your master’s degree.
A practicum is an in-person experience designed to help you gain more understanding of what it takes to become a school counselor. An internship and clinical experience are more hands-on and require you to apply what you know in practice.
Step 4. Pass your state’s school counselor exams
To become a school counselor, you must pass the licensure exams. In addition to literacy and mathematics, basic skills tests also assess a person’s knowledge of psychology, social sciences, counseling practices, and theories. You may be tested on the following.
- Role of the school counselor
- Development and growth of the human being
- Aspects of counseling that are ethical and legal
- Interventions and skills in counseling
- Counseling program management
Tests are administered via computer as multiple-choice examinations. Master’s degree programs prepare students for licensure exams, which should be a top priority.
Step 5. Apply for School Counselor Certification
Your school counselor certification will be granted once you have passed your exams. Each state has its own process, and if you’re having difficulty navigating the certification process, you may need to contact advisors in your program to ensure all relevant materials are included in your application.
Step 6. Start Your Job Search
As a school counselor, the final step is to seek a job. As a graduate of a high-quality school counseling master’s program, you should be prepared to pursue a career in school counseling.
How to Become a School Counselor in California
In California, professional counselors must earn a master’s degree that meets the requirements for their practice area. In California, you can prepare for licensure through several counseling programs. Applicants for some counselor licenses must also meet testing and experience requirements. Here are the basic requirements:
- Choose a counseling area that interests you.
- Prepare for your counseling practice area by earning the required degree(s).
- Become a California licensed counselor.
After earning the appropriate degree, the final step is obtaining a license from the appropriate California licensing board for the type of counseling you wish to provide. The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing licenses school counselors.
How to Become a School Counselor in Texas
To practice as a professional counselor in Texas, you must be licensed. Obtaining a counselor degree and completing a supervised practicum are prerequisites for starting your career. Texas counseling schools offer a variety of programs that meet this requirement. Before completing the final licensing qualifications, you must apply for a temporary or probationary license. Here’s a quick rundown of what you’ll need to do.
- Identify your area of interest and level of counseling.
- Obtain the degree(s) you need to practice counseling. Complete a master’s degree approved by the Texas Education Agency.
- Become a licensed counselor in Texas. The Texas Education Agency accredits school counselors.
How to Become a School Counselor in Florida
Consider volunteering with the students you wish to work with as a Florida counselor. You’ll quickly learn whether the school counselor path is right for you. To gain the experience you need to make the right career decisions, you should take the following steps.
- Determine which areas of school counseling you’d like to pursue.
- Earn the appropriate degrees. You might start with an associate degree program and move on to a bachelor’s degree program in psychology or counseling.
- Complete the College Level Academic Skills Test (CLAST), the Subject Test in School Guidance and Counseling, and the Professional Education Test.
- Complete the online certification application.
- Submit fingerprints to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and the FBI for processing.
If you have certification in a different state, as long as it’s currently valid and compatible, you can complete the Florida certification application. The Florida Department of Education will issue you a certification for Florida School Counseling.
What Does a School Counselor Do? A Day in the Life of a School Counselor
Depending on their workplace, school counselors assist school-age children, teenagers, young adults, and older adults with academics, careers, and mental health. Counselors may work in all three areas depending on their role and employer. They might also specialize in one or two.
A school counselor may work with students to identify their strengths and goals and develop a plan to reach those goals. Providing mental health counseling in a school environment is also a typical part of a guidance counselor’s responsibilities.
In K-12 school environments, school counseling degree programs focus on adolescent mental and social needs. School counseling helps students plan their academic and career paths and reach the highest possible level of achievement. As needed or requested, school counselors also provide one-on-one and group counseling to support students’ mental and social development.
Students who struggle with an important class may request counseling to work on coping mechanisms and stress management techniques. Your performance levels and the school’s focus may differ, however. School counselors working with elementary school students, for example, are more interested in helping children develop social and basic academic skills.
School Counselor Salary and Job Outlook
As part of their certificated faculty contracts, school counselors’ salaries and job outlooks are often closely associated with the statistics for teachers and other faculty members in public schools. Salary guides and policies for school counselors are typically the same as those for teachers and other certificated staff.
School Counselor Salary
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for a school counselor is $46,664 as of October 27, 2022, but the range usually falls between $45,277 and $55,658. You can earn a wide range of salaries depending on many factors, such as your education, certifications, additional skills, and years of experience.
School Counselor Job Outlook
According to the BLS, they project school counseling to create 32,400 new jobs by 2031. They expect the school counseling profession to grow by 10%.
School Counselor Education Requirements
Here are a few accreditation organizations that focus on assessing and accrediting universities and colleges:
- Distance Education & Training Council (DETC)
- Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
- Council on Occupational Education (COE)
- Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET)
- Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC)
A master’s degree is usually required for substance abuse counselor jobs. Depending on their specialty, school counselors must complete supervised work during graduate degree programs. You may also need on-the-job training. With a master’s degree, you may find unique internship opportunities in your field, giving you a glimpse into your future career options in substance abuse and addiction.
3. Licensure Credentials
School counselor certification requirements vary by state. You should possess a certification and a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in school counseling. Prior work experience in a school setting is generally preferred, but it’s not required.
4. Would Continuing my Education Help?
The benefits of continuing education for school counselors include learning new skills and developing a deeper understanding of the latest treatments, approaches, and research. A higher salary and more prestigious position, such as a substance abuse counselor, may also result from education and skill development.
How Long Does it Take to Become a School Counselor?
Before entering school counseling, candidates must complete a four-year bachelor’s degree and usually a two-year master’s degree. Additionally, some jurisdictions require at least two years of supervised clinical practice, typically extending the length of the program to six or eight years.
Resources for School Counselors
- American Counseling Association (ACA) Knowledge Center: Members and non-members of the ACA can get the latest counseling news and trends through The Knowledge Center, which the ACA maintains. Find free articles, webinars, podcasts, and more on topics like ethics, licensure requirements, trauma counseling, substance abuse, and bullying.
- School-Counselor.Org: This site is a resource for educators interested in becoming school counselors. Besides listing certification requirements by state, it provides insight into the day-to-day life of an educational counselor. The toolkit links to useful online resources in categories such as anger management and career counseling.
- School Counselor Resources: A comprehensive resource for elementary, middle, and high school counselors, School Counselor Resources provides school counselors with the tools they need to create effective counseling programs.
- Elementary School Counseling: Besides book reviews, you’ll find lesson plans and activities relating to specific topics, such as bullying. The site provides counseling schedule planners, individual counseling forms, informal observation forms, and other useful items to help counselors stay organized.
- Teachers Pay Teachers: You’ll find countless printable kits, forms, and templates for school counselors, including behavior charts and emotion cards. This site instantly makes the ideas and knowledge of teachers worldwide accessible to everyone.
School Counselor FAQ
What does a school counselor do? School counselors support people with drug or alcohol addictions, eating disorders, or other behavioral problems. Their goal is to support students in daily school life, consult with family members, and refer them to specialists, as needed, to recover and do well in school. Here are some frequently asked questions about school counselors.
Do You Need a Master’s Degree to Be a School Counselor?
The minimum educational requirement for school counselors is a bachelor’s and master’s degree. A bachelor’s degree can be earned in psychology, counseling, social work, education psychology, or sociology. A master’s degree in school counseling is not always required.
Is Licensure Required to Become a School Counselor?
After earning your graduate degree, you will apply for licensure through the correct state department or board. Every state requires certification or licensure to become a school counselor. So checking on the requirements with your state board is best.
School Counselor vs. School Psychologist: What’s the Difference?
Students are supported and encouraged to develop healthy skills by school counselors and school psychologists. Typically, however, they approach these goals differently. Students who struggle with mental health receive comprehensive mental health care from school psychologists, not school counselors. Psychologists specialize in certain areas, whereas counselors offer more general services.
School psychologists undergo extensive training and education. To become a school psychologist, you typically need a master’s degree and state licensing. Employers often prefer candidates with doctoral degrees and professional experience.
A wide variety of responsibilities are associated with a school counselor’s job, but they also pursue specialized training. To become a school counselor, you must typically earn a master’s degree in counseling and pass an examination. Some states also require one or two years of teaching experience as part of their licensing requirements.
There are usually two counselors on staff in most schools, but a school psychologist may work with several schools or even an entire district. Counselors may request school psychologists to visit with students if they suspect they need more advanced mental health evaluations. In these cases, counselors and psychologists sometimes collaborate when developing intervention plans for individual students.
How Many Years Until You’re a School Counselor?
Each state has its requirements for becoming a school counselor. It could take four years to complete a bachelor’s degree in a related field for a school counselor. Besides a bachelor’s degree, school counselors usually need to earn a master’s degree. For certification, most states require passing an examination, and you should take the time necessary to prepare and pass it.
How Can You Become a School Counselor with a Psychology Degree?
You may be able to become a school counselor with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. However, school counselors typically earn a master’s degree in school counseling, but state and university requirements may differ.
What Is the Difference between Guidance and School Counselors?
School counselors and guidance counselors are similar in technical terms. However, the term “guidance counselor” is considered out-of-date since roles have evolved and school counselors have broader responsibilities.
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