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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.

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.

High school guidance counselors are first and foremost advisors to teens at the nation's schools. Below may is important information related to becoming a guidance counselor.

Degree Required Master's degree
Education Field of Study Counseling or school counseling
Licensure Licensure or certification typically needed; requirements vary by state
Key Duties Advise students within a high school
Job Growth (2018-2028) 8%* (for all educational, guidance, school and vocational counselors)
Median Salary (2018) $66,910* (for school and career counselors in elementary and secondary schools)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Is the Career Outlook?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of jobs for school and career counselors was predicted to grow by 8% from 2018-2028. The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) stated that the ratio for students to counselors was 491:1 in the 2013-2014 school year nationwide, although they recommend a ratio of 250:1 (www.schoolcounselor.org). The median salary for all school and career counselors was $56,310 as of 2018, reported the BLS. The median for those working in elementary and secondary schools was $66,910 at that same time

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.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you enjoy advising students about career choices and creating programs that help students cope with stress, you might also consider a career as a family counselor or a program coordinator for an organization serving at-risk teens. As a family counselor, you might work with adolescents to address behavior problems, as well as assist families in resolving conflicts. These counselors may also be known as marriage and family therapists, and they typically need to hold a master's degree and professional licensure. As a program coordinator working with at-risk teens, you might work at a non-profit organization and make sure that all team members have the supplies and information they need to get their projects completed.