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Southern New Hampshire University

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Northcentral University

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How Can I Become a School Guidance Counselor?

Research what it takes to become a school guidance counselor. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average wages and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you.

What Is a School Guidance Counselor?

School guidance counselors provide assistance to school-aged children and teenagers through support services. This often involves working to improve social and/or academic skills. They may meet with students to address classroom behavior issues, attendance rates, educational goals and organizational skills. These professionals may offer students the chance to take different assessments to find some of their interests, strengths and weaknesses. They can then work with the student to apply this information to studying or classroom behaviors, as well as planning for a future career or educational path. School guidance counselors often work closely with school administrators, teachers and parents to encourage and monitor a student's progress. The following table gives you an overview of what you need to know about entering the field.

Education Requirements Bachelor's degree; Master's degree or some graduate-level courses required by most states
Education Field of Study Counseling, education
Job Responsibilities Help students with personal, social and academic issues; use assessment tests to help students evaluate their interests and goals; work with at-risk and troubled students
Certification Some states require certification by state board of education
Job Outlook (2018-2028) 8% for all school and career counselors*
Median Salary (2018) $56,310 for all school and career counselors*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are the Job Responsibilities of a School Guidance Counselor?

As a school guidance counselor, you traditionally work to help students with their personal, social and academic goals and anxieties. You use interview sessions and assessment tests to help students evaluate their interests, talents and academic strengths and weaknesses. You might help them steer high school students into their college or career paths, or you might work to help troubled students resolve their issues.

If you work as an elementary school guidance counselor, your job duties might include observing children and relaying their unique needs and strengths to teachers and parents. If you work as a secondary school guidance counselor, you typically work with students on a one-on-one basis, helping them to set goals for themselves or to resolve personal or behavioral problems. You might also provide special services to at-risk students suffering from drug addiction, behavioral disorders or domestic abuse.

What Educational Programs Are Available?

If you're interested in becoming a licensed school guidance counselor, you typically need to complete a master's degree program in counseling. Master's degree programs in school counseling are typically offered through the education or psychology departments of 4-year universities. Such programs are designed to provide you with an overview of counseling processes and to outline specific strategies related to school counseling.

While enrolled in a Master of Science in School Counseling program, you'll be expected to complete classroom seminars along with practicum hours. You might study such topics as theories of counseling, career counseling, multicultural counseling, family counseling and group counseling.

How Will I Gain Licensure or Certification?

Each state has its own licensure and certification requirements for school guidance counselors. Most will require you to have a full master's degree, while some will simply require you to complete some courses at the graduate level, reports the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Many states will also require you to gain school counseling certification - or even teaching certification - from a state board of education, reports the Bureau.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Social and community service managers are related positions that require a bachelor's degree. These managers oversee community groups and staff that offer various social services to the community. Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists are also related careers, but require a master's degree. These professionals may work with individuals, couples or whole families to identify various emotional disorders or relationship issues that prevent them from living a healthy life. They will counsel their clients and work to resolve issues and help them plan for the future.