School Counselor: Educational Requirements

Sep 09, 2019

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

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School counselors must meet their state's standards for certification, which calls for a master's degree. Enrolling in a program sanctioned by a major accrediting body may help with the certification process. Counselors must complete continuing education programs to renew their licenses.

Essential Information

School counselors seek to identify pupils struggling with difficult life challenges and help students of all ages work through academic, social and personal problems.

Required Education Master's degree
Other Requirements School counselors in public schools need to be licensed
Projected Growth (2018-2028)* 8% (school and career counselors)
Average Salary (2018)* $60,160 (educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Requirements for School Counselors

School counselors can work at every level of education, although their job duties will vary. Elementary school counselors work with teachers and school administrators to develop educational programs and identify students with special needs or emotional problems. High school counselors assist students with college and vocational plans. All counselors look for at-risk students experiencing problems, such as troubled homes, violence and drug abuse.

Regardless of whether aspiring school counselors want to work at the elementary, secondary or postsecondary level, they'll generally have to earn a master's degree. Preparing for a graduate program will require them to obtain a bachelor's degree.

Bachelor's Degree Programs

While there isn't a bachelor's degree program specific to school counseling, students may choose psychology or a related major. Psychology programs introduce students to major concepts used in school counseling, such as cognitive behavior, social influences and developmental factors. These programs may require coursework from concentration areas that are relevant to school counselors, like clinical, developmental and counseling psychology. Internship and research opportunities may be offered for credit.

Master's Degree Programs

Relevant programs that graduate students may choose from include school counseling and educational psychology. These programs include coursework in human development, counseling techniques, research methods and statistics. In addition to coursework, practical experience is typically required. Faculty members or licensed school counselors supervise these experiences, which may take place at a university facility or a school. This process allows students to learn how to interview children, administer tests, write psychological reports and provide consultations.

Students may consider programs that are approved by a major accrediting body. The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs accredits master's degree programs in different areas of counseling, including school counseling. The American Psychological Association also accredits programs in counseling, school and educational psychology. Graduating from an accredited program may be required in some states and can expedite the licensing process.

Licensing Requirements

Licensing requirements for school counselors vary between states. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), some states require state-issued counseling certification while others require school counselors to also hold a teaching certification or have teaching experience ( Most states have background checks, and many accept individuals who were licensed in other states. All states have continuing education requirements that school counselors must meet to remain certified.

Salary and Career Information

The BLS estimates an 8% job growth for career and school counselors in the years 2018-2028. The BLS also reported that the average annual salary of elementary and secondary school counselors was $60,160 in May 2018.

School counselors generally are required to hold master's degrees, usually in school counseling or educational psychology. State certification is mandatory, but requirements vary by state. Counselors must meets continuing education requirements to maintain their certification.

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