Elementary guidance counselor programs combine classroom learning with experience acquired from participation in an internship. Students are trained in individual and group counseling methods. Master's degrees in guidance counseling with an elementary school track are sometimes designed for licensed teachers. On the other hand, master's programs in counseling psychology with an elementary track may admit students who have a bachelor's degree in the social sciences, like social work.
Students who already hold a master's degree in counseling or a similar field can pursue graduate certificates in elementary school counseling. These programs tend to be shorter than master's programs, but they still include hands-on training and traditional counseling coursework.
Master's Degree in Guidance Counseling - Elementary School Track
Students in elementary guidance counselor programs study methods for building life and communication skills in elementary children. Master's degree programs in elementary guidance counseling require applicants to hold at least a bachelor's degree, typically in elementary or secondary education, counseling, psychology or a related field. Some programs also require students to have a basic teaching certification, as well as some teaching experience, while others offer a program for those without teaching certification.
Prospective elementary guidance counselors become skilled in early identification of academic and social barriers in young children. Activities and hands-on experiences build competence in prevention and intervention services for children with personal or social needs. The core courses in elementary counseling programs center on appraisal techniques, life planning, counseling theory and independent research. Students also take classes covering:
- Ethical and legal issues
- Group therapy
- Counseling students with disabilities
- Play therapy
- Multicultural counseling
Master's Degree in Counseling Psychology - Elementary School Counseling
Counseling psychology students in a master's degree program learn how to design and implement strategies to encourage social and academic growth in elementary children through a supervised internship and practicum hours. They are also required to complete oral and written comprehensive exams covering counseling ethics, theories, methodologies and techniques. Master's degree program applicants must hold a bachelor's degree in psychology, counseling, social work or a related field and may be required to attend an interview.
Counseling psychology degree programs combine fundamental courses in counseling, sociology and psychology. Courses may cover topics such as:
- Learning disabilities
- Ethical issues in school counseling
- Human development concepts
- Professional issues in school settings
- School counseling techniques
Graduate Certificate - Elementary Guidance Counselor
Graduate certificate programs provide intensive training in elementary guidance counseling to those already holding a graduate degree in counseling. A supervised internship introduces students to methods for handling children and adolescents, group and individual counseling techniques, and strategies used in consultation, assessments and measurements. Admission into a graduate certificate program in elementary guidance counseling requires prospective students to hold a master's degree in counseling or counselor education. Applicants may also be required to submit resumes and letters of intent and schedule an interview.
Once admitted, students are educated in recognizing normal and atypical child development. Graduate students also study the broader context of education systems. Students take courses that focus on school counselor principles and practices. Other classes cover classroom management, strategies and interventions, along with the following:
- Learning theories
- Counseling children
- Social and cultural aspects of education
- Principles of learning
- Development and adjustment
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Elementary guidance counselors can find positions in private and public elementary schools. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects fast as average growth of 8% for school and career counselors between 2014 and 2024. This growth is expected to stem from increased student enrollment. According to the BLS, the median annual wages for educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors were $53,660 in May 2015.
Continuing Education and Professional Certification
Graduates of master's degree programs are qualified for licensure or certification as an elementary school counselor. Requirements vary by state, but typically include experience hours and passing a state exam. Some states require elementary guidance counselors to pass more than one exam to demonstrate general education and counseling competence.
With state certification, graduates may start working in elementary school counseling or choose to further their education with a Ph.D. program in counseling psychology. Ph.D. programs provide advanced expertise and leadership in the field for those pursuing teaching or administrative positions in educational counseling and psychology.
Students in graduate programs in elementary guidance counseling take courses that may prepare them to work with a variety of students, from those who have learning disabilities to those from other cultures. After obtaining a master's or graduate certificate, students may move on to become school guidance counselors or Ph.D. students.