What's Required for Guidance Counselor Licensure?

Guidance counselors help students reach their academic, personal and vocational goals. To become licensed as a guidance counselor, you'll likely need to complete both advanced, graduate-level education and hands-on training. Read on to learn more. Schools offering Counseling degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Guidance Counselor Career Overview

Guidance counselors provide advice and support to students, teachers and parents on a variety of academic, developmental and vocational topics. As a guidance counselor, your job duties will depend greatly on the age of the students you work with. For example, at the high school level, guidance counselors generally spend more time helping students to develop their post-graduation plans, which may include attending college or entering the workforce. Elementary school guidance counselors, on the other hand, often focus on conferencing with parents and teachers about students' future educational and developmental needs.

Guidance counselors are licensed on a state basis. The American School Counselor Association (www.schoolcounselor.org) maintains a list of all the licensure requirements by individual state on their website, including each state's education and experience requirements, whether an exam needs to be passed and any other relevant information.

Important Facts About Guidance Counselors

Job Outlook (2012-2024) 8%
Median Salary (2014) $53,370
Professional Certification Optional; available through The National Board for Certified Counselors
Licensure Not required for private schools

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education and Experience Requirements

Licensure as a guidance counselor generally requires completion of post-secondary education, including both a bachelor's and a master's degree. Most states don't require specific undergraduate majors, but you should complete coursework in psychology, education and related fields to prepare for graduate-level study. School guidance counselors must have a master's degree. You should complete a graduate degree in a field like school counseling, school guidance or a related field. These programs will include both classroom study and hands-on counseling and classroom teaching experiences.

As part of both your graduate degree program's requirements and your state's licensing requirements, you may need to complete either a practicum, an internship or both. It's important to check with both the state and the degree program to determine these licensure requirements. While most states require anywhere from 300-700 hours of supervised classroom field experience in order to work as a guidance counselor in a public school, others have no experience requirements at all; however, most graduate-level degree programs have their own experience requirements. Be aware that requirements for private schools vary greatly and may differ from the requirements of public schools, even those in the same state.

Testing Requirements

Some states will require that you take and pass an assessment test, such as the Praxis I or the Praxis II exam. Aspiring guidance counselors are typically required to take the Praxis II School Guidance and Counseling Test. While the Praxis exams are the most common required tests, check with your state for specific testing requirements. Some states, such as California or Georgia, have their own tests.

Alternative Licensure Options

If you're already a licensed teacher, you may not need to complete a graduate degree in school counseling. Instead you may elect to complete an endorsement in school counseling. Endorsements are collections of additional coursework that can be added to your existing credentials in order to prepare you for a career as a school counselor. Not all states offer aspiring guidance counselors the option of completing an endorsement program, and some require additional supervised experience in addition to the endorsement.

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