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Elementary School Guidance Counselor Education Requirements

Elementary school counselors require significant formal education. Learn about the degree programs, job duties and licensure requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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Essential Information

Elementary school guidance counselors work with students, parents and teachers to ensure that academic, social and developmental needs are met. They meet with students individually and visit classrooms to observe learning and socialization. This allows them to assess problem areas and advise parents and teachers regarding a student's educational goals. All states require licensing for school counselors, and a master's degree in school counseling is generally the minimum academic requirement, although a certificate may be sufficient in some states.

Required Education Master's degree in school counseling or a related field generally required
LicensingAll states require licensure in school counseling
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)* 12% for school and career counselors
Mean Salary (2013)* $63,100 for elementary and secondary school counselors

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Education Requirements for Elementary School Guidance Counselors

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), states have different education standards for elementary school guidance counselors; however, a master's degree is a common requirement ( Many colleges and universities offer master's degrees in school counseling, counseling psychology or similar fields that prepare students for careers as elementary school guidance counselors. Undergraduate students interested in becoming elementary school guidance counselors should consider majoring in psychology or education.

Students in graduate-level school guidance counseling programs study individual and group counseling, ethical issues, working with diverse students and counseling theory. Standard coursework includes counseling practices, childhood development, psychology and multicultural counseling. Many counseling graduate programs include fieldwork, which brings students into contact with children and working elementary school guidance counselors.

Some graduate programs for elementary school guidance counselors prefer applicants who have experience working with children in an educational setting. There are programs specifically tailored to certified teachers who wish to transition into counseling careers.

Licensure Information

Each state's department of education outlines the licensure requirements for elementary school guidance counselors. According to the BLS, most states require school guidance counselors to hold a master's degree in order to be licensed, while others only require counselors to have state school counseling certification and some graduate-level credits. Counselors who live in states that require licensure must often complete continuing education requirements. Other states require school counselors to have certificates in both teaching and counseling in addition to teaching experience.

The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) offers the National Certified School Counselor (NCSC) credential for elementary school guidance counselors ( The credential is voluntary; counselors seeking this certification must have at least a master's degree and three years of post-graduate work experience in order to qualify for the examination. Acquiring the NCSC credential can lead to greater job opportunities and salary increases.

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