What's the Salary of a Guidance Counselor?
Explore the career requirements for guidance counselors. Get the facts about education and licensure requirements, salary, and potential job growth to determine if this is the right career for you.
What Is a Guidance Counselor?
Guidance counselors work in an elementary, middle, or high school environment with children or teenagers. These counselors provide support and guidance services on personal, family, and vocational issues as students complete their journey through high school. Based on test results and personal encounters with the students, counselors also advise students on appropriate educational paths as well as postsecondary opportunities.
See the table below for more information about this career, including education requirements, job prospects, and salary potential.
|Degree Required||Master's degree|
|Education Field of Study||School counseling|
|Key Responsibilities||Meet with teachers, administrators and parents to determine students' needs, |
Coordinate services for special needs students,
Advise students regarding college major and entrance requirements,
Administer standardized aptitude and interest tests,
Maintain student records
|Licensure||Guidance counselors in public schools need to be licensed|
|Job Growth (2018-2028)*||8% for school and career counselors|
|Mean Salary (2018)*||$60,160 for school and career counselors|
Source:*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
What Are the Job Duties of a Guidance Counselor?
The tasks performed by guidance counselors depend in part on what level school they work in: elementary, middle, or high school. In elementary schools, you might work with individual children or groups of students to help address academic goals or behavioral issues. In middle schools you might address behavioral issues such as bullying and issues related to choosing a secondary or vocational school. In secondary schools, you might counsel students about social issues, or advise them on the process of applying to college or post-high school training and help them select the schools best suited to their future vocational goals.
As a guidance counselor, you would also work with parents, teachers, and administrators to help to address students' academic, developmental, social, or behavioral issues or goals. You may undergo specialized training to handle sensitive situations such as domestic abuse or drug and alcohol addiction.
What Salary Could I Expect to Make?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual salary for educational, guidance, school, and vocational guidance counselors as of 2018 was about $60,160. About 141,390 counselors worked within elementary and secondary schools in that year, while 6,930 worked for colleges and universities and 22,980 worked for junior colleges. The highest-paying states for guidance counselors in the same time frame were California, New Jersey and Massachusetts. Job growth for educational, guidance, school and vocational counselors is expected to be 8% from 2018-2028, which is faster than average, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
What Educational Programs are Available?
In most cases, you need to have a master's degree or some graduate-level education in order to become a licensed guidance counselor. If you are interested in the career, you should consider enrolling in a graduate degree program in elementary or secondary school counseling.
A Master of Science in School Counseling consists of classroom lectures as well as practicum hours, which take place in a school setting. It should provide you with a strong background in counseling techniques, lifespan development, career guidance, group counseling, family counseling, assessment techniques, and multicultural issues.
How Can I Gain Licensure?
Licensure requirements for guidance counselors vary by state. Many states require you to complete an entire master's degree program, while others simply require you to complete graduate coursework. You must also typically complete supervised training hours before you can gain licensure. Other standard requirements include passing an examination and completing continuing-education credit-hours.
What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?
Working hand-in-hand with guidance counselors are high school teachers. High school teachers often need a master's degree in addition to state certification. Teachers expose students to the academic skills they'll need to continue on to college or the vocational skills they'll need to enter the workforce. They consult with counselors and parents about a student's progress and assess their needs, abilities, strengths, and weaknesses.
Kindergarten and elementary school teachers are the individuals who first contribute to the education and socialization of students. Though a bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement, some states require kindergarten and elementary school teachers to hold a master's degree in addition to being certified. These teachers perform assessments of students and work to help them overcome difficulties and future challenges.