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Do I Need a License to Be a High School Guidance Counselor?

Have you ever had a high school guidance counselor that helped you in a time of need? Do you want to be there for students who are confused or just need some help? If you answered yes to these questions, read on to learn more about becoming a high school guidance counselor, including licensure and education requirements.

High School Guidance Counselor Licensure

In order to be a high school guidance counselor, you'll need state licensure or certification. You'll also have to meet your state's minimum education requirements or those set by an employer. If you're working for a public school, you might be required to have a teaching certificate in addition to a separate counseling certificate or endorsement.

Licensing and certification requirements are determined by each state and can include an examination, teaching experience and field experience in school counseling. The majority of states also require you to pass a criminal background check. To maintain your license, you may need to complete continuing education.

Important Facts About High School Guidance Counselors

Key SkillsInterpersonal, listening, compassion, speaking
Work EnvironmentPublic or private school; will usually have an office
Continuing EducationRequired every three to ten years to maintain license; requirements vary by state
Similar OccupationsPsychologist, social worker, teacher, rehabilitation counselor

Career Information

As a high school guidance counselor, you'll meet with students in classroom settings or during private office sessions to help them determine career and educational paths. Academic assistance you might offer includes selecting schools, meeting admission requirements, passing entrance exams, organizing financial aid and choosing a college major. You could perform mock interviews and review the results of career examination tests with students to determine the best help to offer.

You may also act as a confidential counselor to students who visit you. You might help them with personal, social or behavioral problems that are bothering them. This is done in a preventive manner to help students enhance their growth. By assisting students with life skills, you could provide much-needed intervention before any serious problems worsen. In some cases, you'll provide special services and awareness sessions with students about drug prevention, safe sex or abuse.

Job Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that school counselors were expected to see faster than average growth in comparison to other occupations (www.bls.gov). From 2019 to 2029, data from the BLS shows the total job growth for school and career counselors is expected to be 8%. According to the BLS, the annual median salary for education, guidance, school, and vocational counselors was $58,120 in 2020, and those working as elementary and secondary school counselors averaged $68,770 that year. States that paid over the national average included California, New Jersey, Virginia, Massachusetts, and Maryland.


In order to become a high school guidance counselor, most states require a master's degree to qualify for licensing. Some allow you to enter the field with a bachelor's degree and sufficient education, experience or a teaching license. Several postsecondary schools offer school counseling programs at the bachelor's, masters and doctoral levels. Other areas you might consider focusing on include career counseling, student affairs or college counseling.

Classes you take might include topics in student assessment, social and cultural diversity, career development and crisis intervention. While you're enrolled in a graduate program, you're expected to participate in a minimum number of supervised counseling hours. In many cases, this internship period could fulfill the experience requirement for state licensure.