High School Counselor Requirements, Duties and Career Information

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a high school counselor. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about schooling, job duties and licensure requirements to find out if this is the career for you.

Training to become a high school counselor includes taking teaching and education courses, as well as gaining an understanding in social work and psychology. High school counselors are responsible for assisting challenging students, providing college counseling, and disseminating post-high school career information.

Essential Information

A high school counselor plays the role of academic advisor to high school students. If students are not meeting course requirements or are having disciplinary problems, high school counselors may intervene to remedy the situation. High school counselors usually earn a master's degree or complete some graduate courses. Teaching certification and experience may also be required.

Required Education Master's degree usually required
Other Requirements Teaching certification, prior teaching experience may be required
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 8% for guidance, educational, school and vocational counselors
Median Salary (2015)* $53,660 annually for guidance, educational, school and vocational counselors

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

High School Counselor Requirements

The academic requirements for high school counselors differ from state to state. In some states, a college degree and some graduate courses are sufficient for certification. In most states, a high school counselor is required to have a master's degree. Some states mandate teacher's certification and teaching experience in addition to other requirements. Without national standards, prospective counselors must investigate the unique requirements of the state in which they plan to practice.

All training typically spans a number of fields, including education, social work, psychology and communication. Counseling high school students requires a strong personality and the ability to handle common adolescent issues on a daily basis. High school counselors learn to relate with school teachers, administrators and parents; they must also understand the policies and hierarchical structure of the school system in which they are employed.

Job Description

The first priority of the counselor is to ensure that students perform their best academically. Counselors in secondary education are tasked with helping adolescents navigate the unique educational, social and behavioral obstacles related to attending high school. This may include issues such as staying in school and avoiding substance abuse. They must also act as social workers, seeking to identify home-based problems that may negatively impact the academic and social development of students.

A high school counselor is expected to be very knowledgeable of career preparation in order to provide advice to students regarding education and employment options after high school. Counselors supply admission requirements for colleges and training programs, and otherwise help students with graduation preparedness. To this end, counselors may invite Armed Forces recruiters and business leaders to the school to explain the benefits of their industries to high school graduates. They may also plan and execute career fairs and volunteer internships.

Common duties include disseminating of scholarship information, supplying school-to-career guidance, interpreting standardized test scores, developing guidance curriculum, providing student resources, counseling individual students, coordinating with social service agencies, maintaining records, facilitating conferences and orientating new students. They may work with students one-on-one, in a private setting with teachers and parents, or with peers in a group assembly or discussion forum.

Salary and Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, guidance, educational, school and vocational counselors earned a median annual wage of $53,660 as of May 2015. Employment opportunities for these professionals are expected to grow 8% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). High school counselors seeking to develop their careers may consider pursuing national certification through the National Board for Certified Counselors.

The education needed for a high school counselor varies by employer and state. In most cases, a master's degree is required, and some employers may require a teaching credential and/or teaching experience. High school counselors can also choose to pursue certification to add to their experience.

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