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What Are the Requirements for Guidance Counseling Licensure?

Becoming a guidance counselor allows you to work through societal and developmental issues to counsel children on various issues related to their career, college or community. Learn about education requirements, degree coursework, certification and licensure.

What Education Do I Need to Become a Guidance Counselor?

There are a few academic paths that you can take to become an elementary or high school guidance counselor. You'll usually need a master's degree, and several schools offer graduate programs in counseling with an emphasis on school counseling. Some states might require you to also earn a teaching license, making an education program necessary. Specific academic requirements can be accomplished through preparatory undergraduate study, post-baccalaureate and graduate certificate programs and related practicums in addition to a master's program.

Educational RequirementsTypically a master's degree is required; teaching license may also be necessary
Common Course Topics Personality theory, human development, legal issues and ethics, mental health
Certification & LicensureCan seek voluntary certification through the National Board for Certified Counselors; licensure requirements vary by state
Job Outlook (2019-2029)8% growth (for school and career counselors)*
Median Salary (2020)$58,120 (for school and career counselors)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will I Study?

Your academic journey toward a master's degree in counseling starts with your undergraduate training. Although you'll need training in education, you can choose from among many relevant majors, such as psychology, early child education or counseling. Licensure regulations include practical application, and undergraduate internships could count toward state requirements. Your educational focus depends on your major, though you might consider taking courses in child psychology, human development or teaching.

If you didn't complete educational training in your bachelor's degree program, you can enroll in a certificate or master's degree program designed to prepare you to earn a teaching license. You'll learn curriculum development, teaching styles and classroom technology use, as well as how to identify learning disabilities and exceptional students. Most programs include the practical training necessary to qualify you for a state teaching license.

Your master's degree program in counseling teaches you the basics of working with school-aged children in a counseling setting. These programs blend psychology and guidance courses, developing your ability to encourage and nurture school children academically, personally and professionally. You'll study legal issues and ethics, personality theories and human development. Practical courses teach you how to counsel children from different cultures, when to consult parents or school administrators and how to treat mental health issues.

How Do I Earn Certification or Licensure?

The National Board for Certified Counselors provides a voluntary national counseling certification that establishes your competency as a counselor. State licensure requirements vary significantly by state, with some requiring you to pass both state and national examinations. You must have a master's degree to qualify for state licensure or professional certification. Many states also require that you complete continuing education in order to keep your counseling and teaching licenses active. You'll need to provide proof of sufficient teaching or counseling experience to meet testing eligibility requirements.