School Counseling Certification and Certificate Programs

A Master of Arts in School Counseling degree program can prepare graduates to enter the counseling profession for elementary and secondary schools. A career in public school counseling generally calls for a master's degree and state certification.

Essential Information

Students in these master's-level programs, who must have bachelor's degrees in a relevant field, develop skills in consultation, collaboration, advocacy and leadership. Courses usually cover subjects such as human growth and development, individual and group counseling, testing and appraisal, and career development.

  • Program Level in School Counseling: Master's Degree and State Certification
  • Prerequisites: Admission to a master's degree program requires a bachelor's degree, usually with a minimum number of completed course hours in psychology, behavioral sciences or education. Transcripts must be sent, as well as a personal letter from the applicant and appropriate letters of recommendation. Some programs also require completion of the Graduate Record Examination or Millers Analogy Test, in addition to a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0.
  • Other Requirements: Most programs require a certain amount of internship hours and a practicum of documented, supervised experienced in a school setting. In most states, certification requires passing competency examinations as well as a background check.

School Counseling Certification

Studies in mental illness, individual and group counseling, psychology and human development for grades K-12 are complemented with study in the following:

  • Child and adolescent therapy
  • Inclusive education
  • Career counseling
  • Counseling theories and techniques

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

School counselors are usually employed by elementary and secondary schools, as well as colleges and universities. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (, employment of school and career counselors is expected to increase by 12% for the years 2012 through 2022. The BLS reported in 2014 that school, educational, guidance and vocational counselors earned a median annual salary of $53,370.

Certification and Licensing Information

State certification often requires a passing grade in the PRAXIS I test in reading, writing and mathematics, as well as the PRAXIS II test in school counseling. However, it should be noted that every state has different licensing or certification requirements.

Because school counselors work in close proximity to students, 45 states require that any candidate receive a criminal background check, get fingerprinted or fill out a background form such as the Character and Identification Clearance application in California. Colorado submits each candidate to be checked by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. The only states that do not require any background or fingerprint checks are Massachusetts, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Virginia and West Virginia.

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