School Guidance Counselor Certification and Courses

Certified school guidance counselors work with children or young adults in an academic setting to provide direction concerning educational programs, social issues, family matters and career options. Read on for information about certification and courses required to meet state licensing requirements. Schools offering Counseling degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What You Need to Know

School guidance counselors need to be fully prepared to help students navigate academic, social, and family challenges. In order to be successful, counselors need to understand the key developmental features of students at different stages, to communicate effectively, and to empathize appropriately with young people. These skills are taught and practiced in bachelor's and master's programs that prepare students to take certification exams and achieve licensure.

Certification State-issued certification, licensing, or an endorsement is required by the state to be a public school counselor; the type of credential varies by state; degree, practicum and exam completion are typically required
Courses Counseling, individual appraisal, career development theory, psychopathology, group dynamics, school law, ethics, psychological testing
Education Bachelor's degree in education and master's degree in guidance and counseling often required; master's degree program in counseling often requires an internship

How Do I Gain School Guidance Counselor Certification?

State departments of education set their own certification guidelines for school guidance counselors. According to data from the American School Counselor Association, all states require a bachelor's degree - some specify that it must be in education - and most also require a teaching credential. Some states require a qualifying exam and a certain number of hours of supervised work experience through either a counselor practicum, internship or regular employee. Further, some states may set a minimum number of credit hours for you to complete in school guidance counseling. Check each state department of education website for updated guidelines. There are also guidelines for continuing education that vary by state.

Additionally, most states require advance academic study typically in the form of a master's degree. Typical master's degrees for school counselors are the Master of Education, Master of Science in Guidance and Counseling and Master of Arts in Guidance and Counseling. Online and alternative scheduling degree programs are available so you may maintain a full-time work schedule while earning your degree.

What Courses Will I Take?

Here are some of the course topics that you might find in a master's-level degree program:

  • Counseling diverse populations
  • Family psychology
  • School laws
  • Ethics
  • Psychological testing
  • Career development theory
  • Psychopathology
  • Group dynamics
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders

Programs combine psychology and education courses to form a curriculum suitable for school guidance counselors. All programs include a practicum or internship credit hours, where a supervisor evaluates your performance.

What Does the Job Entail?

As a school guidance counselor, you'll meet with individual students and groups of students to help them succeed socially and scholastically. You'll also assist students in handling mental, behavioral, family or school-related problems. You may work with special needs students, which you'll likely receive training in during your graduate level counseling program.

Another part of the job is filing reports and conducting tests to evaluate a student's progress and to determine academic abilities or mental health. You can expect to work with and communicate with parents and teachers, in addition to students, to work together effectively. To be a school guidance counselor, you'll need to have empathy, compassion and patience, as well as excellent listening, reading, writing and critical thinking abilities.

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:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

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  • Capella University

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  • Penn Foster High School

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