How to Become a School Counselor

School counselors do more than handle discipline problems and attend parent/teacher nights.  They are an integral part of the education team.  School counselors work in all types of state, local and private schools, colleges and universities with students of all ages.   They help students explore career options and interests beginning in elementary school.

They are part of the school safety team, helping students get along with each other.  They teach about dangers of bullying and school violence.  School counselors work together with students, teachers and parents to help the students succeed in school and make good academic choices for a productive future.

What School Counselors Do      

School counselors are licensed professionals who delivery a variety of services to students, their parents or guardians and educators.  They deliver classes to help K-12 students meet their required competencies and provide the skills and knowledge for their individual development level.

They work with students to select the right courses and complete graduation requirements.  They help them explore career choices and plan a course of study to meet prerequisites for college admission requirements or a technical/vocational course of study.

School counselors respond to the needs of students in interventions or crisis situations.  They provide counseling for students who have a death in the family, are victims of abuse, or those with behavioral or emotional problems, like anorexia or depression.  They may offer group counseling after an incident at school that affects a group of students or the entire student body.  They also provide referrals to other counselors or therapists.

School counselors administer the school counseling program.  They also help students apply for scholarships.

Education Requirements to Become a School Counselor

In most states, school counselors must have a Master’s degree in counseling with an emphasis on career development.  School counselors can be licensed or hold another type of certification recognized by the state.  School counselors must pass a criminal background check as part of the credentialing process.

Licensing for School Counselors

Private practice counselors must be licensed, which requires a Master’s degree and up to 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience.  They must pass a state licensing exam and complete the required annual continuing education courses.

School Work Culture

School counselors work in elementary, middle and high schools; colleges, universities and technical schools.  They often have private offices to hold confidential counseling sessions with students.  They work the regular school schedule, but may be required to attend after school functions and parent/student meetings.

School counselors work with schools to plan and hold college and career fairs to expose parents and students to career tracks and meet representatives from business, industry, colleges and other post-secondary educational institutions.

Potential Earning Levels for School Counselors

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the annual median salary for a school counselor was $54,000.  The lowest paid counselors earn less than $32,000 and the highest paid earn more than $86,000 per year.

State, local and private elementary and secondary schools employ the most school counselors, followed by state, local and private junior colleges.

back to What to Do with a Psychology Degree