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What Is the Role of a School Guidance Counselor?

The role of guidance counselors in schools is to work with students and parents to help guide students' academic, behavioral and social growth. Individuals in this field work in elementary, middle and high schools. This article explores guidance counselor duties and responsibilities and the requirements to become one.

Guidance Counselor Job Description

Guidance or school counselors assist students with their educational, career, and social needs - often developing a thorough understanding of an individual through interviews and aptitude assessments. They typically work in collaboration with parents, teachers, and administrators to ensure a student's academic success. Counseling sessions generally take place individually, but can also be provided in small groups.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Median Pay (2018) $56,310
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 13% growth
Similar Occupations Teachers, psychologists, human resources/labor relations specialists
Key Skills Interpersonal, listening, speaking skills; compassion

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Requirements

A master's degree in education counseling is necessary to become a school guidance counselor. These degree programs typically take 2-3 years to complete and include classroom instruction and practical experience working with real students. The programs culminate in several months of supervised fieldwork in a real school. You can learn the skills to become a school guidance counselor by taking graduate courses in:

  • Counseling Processes
  • Ethical Issues in Counseling
  • Career Development for Students

Licensure Requirements

Counselors in public schools typically need to be licensed. While requirements can vary from state to state, aspiring counselors usually need to complete a master's program, a practicum (supervised by a licensed professional school counselor) and an exam to obtain a license. A criminal background check will also likely be required. In some states, roughly 1-2 years of teaching experience are required as well.

School Counselor Duties and Responsibilities

School guidance counselors work with students from kindergarten to grade 12 to help solve personal, social and academic problems. Both elementary school counselors and high school counselors identify problems, such as alcohol and substance abuse, family violence or problems between students. In response, they use a variety of counseling methods and conflict resolution skills to resolve these problems. Counselors also help students find their appropriate educational path and help them stick to it.

The role of a guidance counselor in high schools is to work with students to achieve their post-high school goals, in addition to working through any social and academic problems. These counselors help choose high school classes that prepare students for their post-graduation plans. They also help students apply to colleges or trade schools by advising them about admission requirements and financial aid.

Skills Needed to Acquire the Role of a School Guidance Counselor

As their profession is largely people-focused, school guidance counselors must have a high level of compassion and empathy when dealing with students, especially those undergoing touch or stressful situations. They must also possess excellent interpersonal skills, as they will typically encounter people of all backgrounds and personalities. As much of their work involves helping others, they must also have sharp communication and listening skills in order to identify the needs of an individual.

Guidance counselors are also required to be highly analytical, as they may regularly perform assessments to determine the skills and academic levels of students. They must then be able to interpret this information in order to match student abilities and interests to potential careers.