College Counseling

Professionals in the college counseling field help high school or college students make education and career decisions. Read on to learn about a career as a college counselor.

Is College Counseling For Me?

Career Overview

College counseling falls into two categories: counseling high school students who are looking to enter college, and counseling college students as they progress through college and seek to enter the working world. Both fields require you to be an excellent listener, to exhibit good interpersonal skills and to possess a broad base of knowledge concerning a variety of college and employment options.

In order to enter this type of work, you will most likely need to have a graduate degree in counseling. Most high school guidance counselors have an undergraduate degree related to education or educational psychology, and some states require counselors to have some teaching experience. Counselors working in higher education settings need to meet similar educational requirements. Along with a graduate degree, you may need to be licensed or certified in order to work in counseling, which will require passing exams and completing continuing education requirements. Licensing requirements may be different depending upon whether you work directly for a school or work independently or as part of a practice.

Employment Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the field of counseling in educational settings was expected to grow by 12% between 2012 and 2022. The majority of counselors work in educational or vocational practices, and the median annual salary for school and career counselors in 2012 was $53,610. According to the BLS, elementary and secondary school counselors had a median annual wage of $60,560, university, junior college and professional school counselors earned a median annual wage of $46,630. Job prospects were expected to remain positive in this field as school enrollments increase.

How Can I Work As A College Counselor?

Undergraduate Education

Requirements for working in this field will vary depending on where you want to work and the type of counseling you would like to do. College counselors in both high schools and colleges work with people to help them discern appropriate collegiate and employment paths. This requires meeting with students and helping them to develop approaches for college or job searches. Sometimes this may take the form of teaching students how to interview for jobs and fill out job or college applications.

Counseling at both the high school and college levels will also involve assessing personality traits that may help or disqualify students from a field of study or job. Part of this assessment may involve counseling to deal with emotional, behavioral or mental health issues. Depending upon your training, you may engage in this type of counseling or refer students on to different counselors or psychologists.

There are several degrees you can consider to work in this field. A bachelor's degree in counseling or educational psychology may qualify you to work for a college counseling team in an informal setting, and traditional and online guidance counseling certificate programs for teachers and counselors to enhance knowledge about college advising. Some colleges employ people to represent their programs to high school students. These jobs are not strictly college counseling jobs, but generally do not require licensing or master's degrees.

Graduate Education

Most counseling jobs require a master's degree in counseling. During your counseling degree program, you can take classes in psychology, counseling, group and family therapy, career theory and the legal aspects of counseling. You will spend time doing hands-on practicum coursework. A master's degree typically takes 2-3 years to complete Doctoral degrees in counseling are also available and can enable you to work in more specialized fields of counseling, to oversee counseling teams or to teach at the college level.

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