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.

What Does An Elementary School Guidance Counselor Do?

School guidance counselors may be involved in addressing issues that affect a student's performance, such as poor attendance, family issues or behavioral problems. They may collaborate with parents, teachers and administrators to develop a plan for children having difficulties at school or at home. Elementary school guidance counselors may use tests to help students determine their aptitudes and interests, particularly when they're preparing to transfer to middle school and need to select courses. Elementary school guidance counselors may also teach students and faculty about issues such as drug abuse, divorce or bullying.

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 (2014-2024) 8% for all school and career counselors*
Median Salary (2015) $53,660 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.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists work with clients of all ages and help them address personal issues in their lives. They need a master's degree. Like elementary school guidance counselors, they need to be able to assess individuals and determine what is affecting them and how to address those issues. Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors work with people who struggle with addictions to alcohol or drugs, or who suffer from eating disorders or other behavioral issues. They typically need a bachelor's degree. Social workers need a bachelor's or master's degree, and they work with individuals that are having issues. They help them access the resources they need. For example, they may help an immigrant family find English classes or they may help someone who has lost their job access financial assistance. They may also be involved in counseling patients.

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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