Become an Elementary School Guidance Counselor in 5 Steps

Explore the career requirements for elementary school guidance counselors. Get the facts about education and licensure requirements, salary, and potential job growth to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Counseling degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information At a Glance

Elementary school guidance counselors address the academic, personal and social needs of students in kindergarten through fifth grade. A master's degree and certification as a teacher are typically required. The table below offers important statistics for school guidance counselors, followed by the five steps to pursuing this career option.

Degree RequiredMaster's degree
Training Required Internship and/or supervised practicum
Educational Field of StudyPsychology, education
Certification RequirementsState licensure or certification usually required
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022) 12% for all school and career counselors*
Median Salary (2013) $53,600 for all school and career counselors*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What is an Elementary School Guidance Counselor?

As an elementary school guidance counselor, you would work with young children individually and in the classroom. Your job would involve communicating with parents and teachers to provide the necessary academic aid for students who have learning disabilities or are not developing at the same pace as the rest of their class. In some situations, you might have to contact law enforcement or social workers to intervene with troubling situations. Through observation, you would assess social, emotional and educational issues involving students.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), some schools require their guidance counselors to hold teaching credentials ( Thus, before declaring a major, you may want to seek out the requirements for the state where you wish to work.

Two majors you may want to consider are psychology and education. A psychology degree program can educate you in the counseling methods and theories needed to enter a counseling master's program.

As an education major, you could gain the knowledge and skills necessary to work with children. You'd likely study classroom management, curriculum building and childhood development. Completion of an education program can prepare you for a teaching license.

Step 2: Gain Licensure as a Teacher

If you plan to work in one of the states that requires guidance counselors to have teaching credentials, you'll need to meet the mandates for licensure. These requirements vary by state but typically include completion of an education program at an accredited college or university and passage of one or more exams. You'll also have to provide proof of student teaching experience.

Step 3: Pursue a Master's Degree

Most schools and states prefer that guidance counselors have a master's degree in school counseling. Master's degree programs provide a mix of lectures, coursework and supervised internships.

You may find master's degree programs in school counseling online; however, you'll need to complete your internship at an approved school. Some of the topics you may study include human development, abnormal behavior, curriculum delivery, child counseling, personality theory, special needs students and counseling ethics.

Step 4: Obtain Licensure as a School Counselor

Most states require elementary school guidance counselors to have a license and all public institutions require it, according to the BLS. While you need to check with your state's licensing board to find out about licensing requirements, most specify a number of supervised work hours in a professional setting.

Step 5: Apply for Certification

The National Board for Certified Counselors offers voluntary national certification programs for school counselors ( The National Counselor Examination leads to the designation of National Certified Counselor (NCC). You also might sit for the National Certified School Counselor Examination, which consists of 40 multiple choice questions and seven simulated scenarios.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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