High School Counselor: Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become a high school counselor. Learn about job duties, education requirements, licensure, and potential salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Counseling degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a High School Counselor?

High school counselors, or guidance counselors, assist students in making post-graduation goals and plans. Counselors also help students with any academic and/or social issues they may encounter while in school. They assess students' abilities and interests to help them make goals for their futures, and they work with students on any issues that may be hurting their school performance.

High school counselors work with students one on one and in group settings, depending on the issue being addressed. These counselors help students learn skills needed to succeed in school and in future careers. They also are responsible for reporting any abuse or neglect. See the table below for information about education requirements, licensure, salary, and job outlook for this career.

Education Required Master's degree
Education Field of Study School counseling
Licensure and Certification License is required in all 50 states for public high school counselors; certification is voluntary
Job Growth (2014-2024) 8%* (for all school and career counselors)
Median Salary (May 2015) $53,660* (for all educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does a High School Counselor Do?

Many public high schools hire guidance counselors to help students sort out academic, social and vocational issues. If you find a job as a high school guidance counselor, the bulk of your job duties revolve around helping students to determine their goals beyond high school. You could work with students individually to help them select a college, determine a vocation, fill out university applications and sort out financial aid.

You might also be called upon to help students with personal, social or academic problems. You could work with parents and teachers to help students devise academic goals or address behavioral issues. You might pursue specialized training to help students deal with more personal problems like substance abuse, unplanned pregnancies or bullying.

What Education Might I Need?

It is common for high school counselors to have graduate-level education. If you are interested in gaining licensure and becoming a counselor, you should consider completing a Master of Science in School Counseling. Some schools have programs that let you concentrate in secondary school counseling. Such programs are designed to prepare you for licensure by providing you with a theoretical background of counseling techniques while also requiring you to complete supervised practicum hours. Courses cover subjects such as student assessment, individual counseling processes, career mentoring, group dynamics and counseling theory.

Will I Need Licensure and Certification?

Each state has its own particular licensure and certification requirements for high school counselors. Most require you to have either a master's degree or some graduate-level credits before you can gain licensure. Most states also require you to complete supervised practicum hours as part of a graduate program.

You might also gain voluntary certification from a national organization such as the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. The NBPTS offers a School Counseling/Early Childhood through Young Adulthood Certificate for school counselors who pass an evaluation.

What Salary Could I Expect to Make?

About 253,460 academic counselors were employed in 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), and 127,100 of those employed worked in elementary or secondary schools. The mean annual salary for school counselors in general that year was $56,490. Elementary and secondary schools were among the top-paying institutions for counselors, offering up a mean annual wage of about $63,760.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Mental health counselors are an alternative master's-level career option. These counselors assist in helping clients with emotional and mental disorders in order to help them improve their lives. Rehabilitation counseling is another career option that also requires a master's degree. Rehabilitation counselors help those with various disabilities learn how to live independently. They also help clients learn about the effects of their disability and how they might overcome it.

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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