School Guidance Counselor: Career & Education Overview

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

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A master's degree is required to become a school guidance counselor. Those interested in pursuing this career field typically focus on studying education, psychology or child development in their undergraduate studies. Many states also require school guidance counselors to be licensed teachers.

Essential Information

School guidance counselors generally work for middle and secondary schools, providing students with advice on postsecondary education, careers and other major life issues. Counselors play a significant role in the lives of students, with some having one-on-one sessions with students, and others offering services to large groups of students in classroom settings. Educational requirements for this career may include a master's degree and teaching experience.

Required Education Master's degree
Other Requirements Licensure typically required
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 8%
Median Salary (2015)* $53,660

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Overview of Guidance Counseling Education Requirements

Bachelor's Degree Program

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), minimum educational requirements for this career often include a master's degree (www.bls.gov). Before enrolling in a master's program, students generally need to complete a bachelor's degree program. Since school guidance counselors work in education, many individuals choose to earn undergraduate degrees in this field. Others may choose undergraduate degree programs in psychology or child development.

Psychology undergraduate coursework includes research methods, social psychology, developmental psychology and abnormal psychology. Education degree programs are often divided into specialties, including teaching by grade level and administrative leadership. Coursework covers professional teaching methodologies, literacy assessment, grade level curriculum standards, and education technologies.

Teaching Credential Program

The BLS reports that several states require school guidance counselors to be licensed and credentialed teachers. Before getting accepted into a credentialing program, some universities require applicants to pass a standardized examination. For example, applicants in California usually have to pass the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST) before entering the program.

Through teacher credentialing programs, students learn state and federal education standards. Teaching grades K-6 usually requires a multiple subject credential, but teaching grades 7-12 may only require a single subject credential. Multiple subject credential programs require applicants to know education standards for several subjects, including science, math, language arts and history. Single subject credential programs allow teachers to focus on learning the educational standards of only one subject.

Master's Degree Program

Several master's degree programs in guidance and counseling allow students to choose a focus area, such as school counseling. Other programs require students to complete coursework in multiple counseling fields, including mental health, couples therapy and child development. Common graduate-level coursework includes diagnosis and treatment, personality theory, human development, counseling methodologies and patient assessment. Coursework related to school counseling includes youth group counseling, school guidance programs, counseling diverse populations and vocational guidance.

To complete the graduate degree program, most colleges require students to participate in counseling internship programs. Under close supervision, student interns often act as mediators in group counseling sessions. Most universities set supervised internship hour requirements to match state licensing requirements, but each state has different requirements.

Career and Salary Information

The BLS predicts average job growth at a rate of 8% for school and career counselors between 2014 and 2024. Additionally, the BLS reported that the median annual salary for educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors was $53,660 in May of 2015. Members of this field who worked for the federal government made an annual mean wage of $67,600 in 2015, while members that worked for vocational rehabilitation services made an annual mean wage of $40,800.

Most school guidance counselors are employed at high schools or middle schools. Their focus is to help students address personal issues, and to provide information about careers and postsecondary education options. They may have individual sessions with students, as well as group sessions with a class or several students with the same interests or needs.

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