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High School Guidance Counselor Certification and Degree

Get information about the education and licensing requirements for becoming a high school guidance counselor. In addition to traditional degree programs, find out about online program options, as well as evening and weekend classes.

What You Need to Know

High school guidance counselors help students plan and prepare for academic success, personal development and career opportunities. They advise students on class scheduling and assist with college and scholarship application processes.

Degrees Bachelor's degree in education with master's or doctoral degree in educational psychology or school counseling
Licensing State licensure required, along with the teaching credential
Courses Behavioral psychology, child development, curriculum planning, learning theories, among others

What Credentials Do I Need to Become a High School Guidance Counselor?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most states require that school counselors have a master's degree and state certification or licensure (www.bls.gov). Typically, individuals will need to complete a master's program in school education or counseling and perform a state-specified number of practicum hours before qualifying for a license. Some states only require a school counseling license, while others mandate that you earn both a teaching and counseling license or counseling endorsement.

Will I Need to Take an Exam?

You might be able to supplement or replace your state licensure examination through national certification testing, such as those offered by the National Board for Certified Counselors. You will need to hold a master's degree to be eligible for the certification examination. This certification may make it easier to become licensed in another state if you move.

Can I Earn a Degree Online?

Several schools offer graduate coursework online. Most also offer evening and weekend classes. These programs allow you to study according to your own schedule, though you'll usually need to submit assignments and complete tests within a specific time period. These online programs typically offer the same courses as traditional classroom-based programs. Some courses may even be virtual, synchronous classroom experiences in which case students need a webcam and microphone to participate. Even if attending an online program, an on-site practicum is still required for graduation and state licensure.

What Subjects Will I Study?

School counseling master's programs teach life planning and career development. Several programs are designed specifically for elementary and secondary school guidance counseling education, providing you with instruction on how to relate with younger students. You'll also complete internships at public and private schools to gain experience and meet state licensure requirements. The following topics will be studied:

  • Group counseling
  • Educational assessment
  • Crisis intervention
  • Behavioral psychology
  • Child development

What About Graduate Courses?

For those who already have a master's degree, some schools offer provisional counseling training and practicums to meet guidance counselor requirements. These programs assume you have sufficient training but fill in the gap for any experience requirements you'll need for licensure. Others include teacher training as part of the program to prepare for teaching licensure. This portion of the program provides instruction on:

  • Testing methods
  • Testing theories
  • Curriculum planning
  • Human cognition
  • Learning theories