How Can I Become a High School Counselor?

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

What Do High School Counselors Do?

High school counselors provide academic and emotional support, as well as college and career planning assistance, to high school students. They also help students develop the necessary social skills they will need to function effectively in society. They help the student create an academic and/or career plan, based on the student's abilities and interests. They seek to affect a collaborative effort between students, their parents and the school faculty with an eye toward the overall betterment of the student. They may also recommend counseling services for students and parents, as they find them necessary.

The following chart gives an overview of this career choice.

Degree Required Master's degree
Education Field of Study School counseling
Key Responsibilities Assess and evaluate student abilities, advise students on education and career choices
Licensure Required State-issued licensure; varies by state
Job Growth (2014-2024) 8%* (school and career counselors)
Median Salary (2015) $53,660* (educational, guidance, school and vocational counselors)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Education Do I Need To Become a High School Counselor?

Each state sets its own educational requirements for high school counselors, which typically includes possessing at least a master's degree in counseling or school counseling. These programs can teach you how to help students develop academically, socially and individually. Program coursework might include:

  • Ethical standards for counselors
  • Counseling theories
  • School counseling
  • Human growth and development
  • Individual and group counseling

How Do I Get Licensed and Certified?

Licensure for high school counselors depends on your state. In Idaho, for example, you would need to hold a Pupil Personnel Services Certificate. This requires an institutional recommendation, a master's degree, proof of completion of required counseling coursework and documentation of supervised field experience.

You also might want to consider the voluntary National Certified School Counselor (NCSC) credential offered by the National Board for Certified Counselors. To qualify, you must have a master's degree in counseling, complete required counseling courses and pass the National Certified School Counselor Examination.

What Job Duties Might I Have?

High school counselors work with individuals between ages 14 and 18, as well as with teachers and parents, to address student issues, discuss progress and provide assistance or intervention when needed. Your job might include helping students choose a college or vocational school, meet admissions requirements, and understand and apply for financial aid. Students might seek your advice in improving study habits and time management skills. You also might help them set realistic career goals based on their abilities, aptitudes and interests.

As a high school counselor, you might organize substance abuse treatment and conflict resolution programs. You'll need to know how to identify behaviors and actions that might indicate a student is having problems at home or in school and provide help as needed.

What Is the Job Outlook for High School Counselors?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted an 8% increase in jobs for school and career counselors between 2014 and 2024. Because more responsibilities are being assigned to high school counselors, including counseling for substance abuse and suicide prevention, more counselors may be needed, the BLS noted. However, limitations in budgets could prevent schools from hiring as many counselors as they need.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Another occupation that deals with the betterment of individuals is social worker. Not limited to students, the purview of a social worker can also include individual adults, families and communities. They investigate existing situations, analyze and evaluate clients' needs and recommend appropriate services and treatments to improve trouble spots. They develop and evaluate programs to meet clients' goals and follow up on the effective implementation of those programs. They may also provide psychotherapy services.

The work of mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists is similar to that of high school counselor in that their work can have a great deal of influence on a student's progress through school and thereafter. Their express purpose is to help individuals, couples and families identify and overcome emotional and mental afflictions that have a negative effect on their behavior and function. They can diagnose and treat the conditions that are causing the dysfunction and act as coaches and leaders as they guide the clients back to healthy behavior and performance patterns. They may recommend a variety of support groups that can reinforce positive actions.

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