High School Counselor: Educational Requirements

Sep 12, 2019

A career as a high school counselor requires significant formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and licensure requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

High school counselors are required to have a master's degree in their field, and may also need to complete licensing requirements or certification per their state guidelines. Demand for qualified school counselors is strong.

Essential Information

High school counselors help students with any issues they may be having, such as making decisions regarding their career or college plans. Individuals interested in this profession will need to earn a master's degree, which includes supervised experience in the field. Licensure and certification requirements, mandated by the American School Counselor Association, vary by state.

Required Education Master's degree
Other Requirements Licensure or certification usually required
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) 8% for all school and career counselors*
Median Salary (2018) $56,310 annually for all school and career counselors*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Requirements for High School Counselors

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), high school counselors differ from other school counselors in that they provide career- and college-counseling services (www.bls.gov). They also help students work through their problems, whether they're behavioral, social or personal. Besides offering counseling services, high school counselors may develop programs or speak to classes to raise awareness of certain issues. They often interact with parents and school administrators.

Undergraduate Education

Prospective high school counselors may consider undergraduate programs in psychology or a related major. These programs often include relevant coursework in areas such as childhood or adolescent psychology, educational psychology and lifespan development. Individual courses in topics like child abuse and domestic violence may also be available. An internship or practicum, which provides work experience, may be required or offered as an elective.

Graduate Education

The BLS indicates that most states require school counselors to hold a master's degree. Students may consider programs that have earned a recognized accreditation, which may help with becoming licensed. The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs accredits master's degree programs in school counseling. The American Psychological Association also accredits counseling and school psychology programs at the doctoral level.

Master's degree programs in educational psychology or school counseling offer advanced coursework in subject areas like adolescent and human development, educational sociology and human learning. Additional research-related courses, such as statistics or research methods, are typically included. Graduate students may be required to complete research projects.

An extensive period of professional practice is usually required. Through a practicum or internship, individuals gain experience working with high school students. During this process, faculty members or practicing counselors supervise graduate students. Some schools have clinics on campus that allow students to gain additional experience.

Licensing Information

The BLS reports that licensing requirements for high school counselors vary by state, including some that require school counselors to hold a teaching certification or have teaching experience. Many states require individuals to undergo a background check and pass a certifying exam. All states have continuing education requirements that high school counselors must meet over a certain period, which the American School Counselor Association reports as often being five years.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Counselors who work in elementary and secondary schools earned an annual mean salary of $66,910 in May 2018, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Because schools are admitting more students, they will need more counselors to assist those students. Data from the BLS shows employment opportunities for school and career counselors are expected to grow faster than the average between 2018-2028.

High school counselors help address students' personal, behavioral and social problems, and also provide career counseling and assist students with class selection. They work with parents, students and administrators as needed to address issues related to their students and the school. They need a master's degree and must meet their state's requirements, which can include teaching experience and/or a certification exam.

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