High School Guidance Counselor: Education and Career Profile

As a high school guidance counselor, you'll advise students in making decisions about postsecondary education and careers. You'll also help students deal with school and other life stresses. Learn more about what high school guidance counselors do, the job outlook and what kind of education and training you need to qualify for this job. Schools offering Counseling degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a High School Guidance Counselor Do?

High school guidance counselors help secondary school students make decisions about their careers and future academic endeavors. As a guidance counselor, you'll advise students on college admission requirements, financial aid and degree options. You also might help students enter special programs or classes and create resumes.

Along with academic advising, you'll provide support for students dealing with personal, social or behavioral problems. You may help students deal with bullying or domestic abuse. In addition, you'll likely work with your school to create programs and 1-on-1 sessions to teach coping strategies for stressful situations, conflict resolution skills or cultural awareness. You also may promote awareness of suicide, sexual activity, violence and substance abuse.

What is the Career Outlook?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of jobs for school guidance counselors was predicted to grow by 14% from 2008-2018 (www.bls.gov). The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) stated that the ratio for students to counselors was 457:1 in the 2008-2009 school year (www.schoolcounselor.org). The average salary for a school guidance counselor was $55,970 as of May 2010, reported the BLS.

What Education Do I Need?

While specific requirements vary, most states require that high school guidance counselors hold a master's degree in counseling. Several schools offer Master of Education programs with a specialization in school counseling. These programs can provide the education and psychology background that you'll need for licensing and certification, including courses in human development, counseling methodology, ethics and cultural awareness. You'll also take part in field experiences where you'll practice your counseling skills under the supervision of a licensed counselor.

Prior to earning your master's degree, you might consider a bachelor's program in education or counseling. An education degree can be particularly helpful if your state includes a teaching credential as a requirement for licensure.

How Do I Obtain Credentials?

Legal requirements for school counselors depend on the state in which you'll work. As mentioned above, some states require school counselors to have teaching credentials. Other requirements might include passing an exam and having a certain number of hours of supervised experience.

You also might consider gaining voluntary credentials. The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) offers a generalized National Certified Counselor (NCC) certification, as well as a specialty certification for school counselors. Both are earned by taking exams, and the NCC must be earned before the specialty. Some states count these credentials toward state licensing.

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