Guidance Counselor Graduate Programs with Career Information

Mar 25, 2021

Essential Information

Guidance counselors, or school counselors, work at the elementary through high school level to help students with career, personal and social issues. A master's degree, which can be earned online in some programs, is typically required to become a school counselor, though doctoral studies are offered in the related field of school psychology.

For master's degrees, the practical application of methods and concepts studied in the classroom is achieved through internships in professional settings. Students of a doctoral degree program in school psychology will have the opportunity to develop advanced counseling skills and to explore theories and principles in the field, as well as complete a dissertation. Licensing and/or certification requirements apply to both guidance counselors and school psychologists and vary by state; these programs will prepare students to take the necessary exams needed to achieve these credentials.

Master's Degree Programs in School Counseling

Master's degree programs in school counseling|] cover the theory and practice needed to prepare school counselors for guidance careers in elementary, middle and high schools. Admission to master's degree programs in school counseling requires an undergraduate degree, but most schools do not require a specific major. Some programs offer concentrations in elementary school or high school counseling. Students learn about conflict resolution, assessment methods, addiction counseling and special education along with techniques for individual and group counseling. Students typically complete foundational and theoretical coursework during the first year of study and then begin supervised practical experience. Course topics might include:

  • Human development
  • Counseling techniques
  • Group counseling
  • Career counseling
  • Multicultural and diversity issues
  • Assessment and measurement

Doctoral Programs in School Psychology

Ph.D. programs in school psychology train students to become school psychologists, who provide guidance on academic, social and emotional issues. Admission to Ph.D. programs in school psychology can be competitive. Most schools base their admittance on experience, previous academic achievement, letters of recommendation and personal statements. Students in these programs receive a strong foundation in school psychology principles and theories; consultation, intervention and assessment techniques; research skills; and statistics. Students research an original problem in the field and write a dissertation on the results. Coursework might include:

  • School psychology theory
  • Crisis intervention
  • Counseling skills
  • Social and emotional assessment
  • Social and cultural issues

Salary Information and Employment Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) ( expected employment for school and career counselors to experience an average growth rate of 8% between 2019 and 2029. Educational, guidance, school and vocational counselors earned mean salaries of $61,000 annually, according to May 2019 BLS figures.

The BLS reports a favorable job outlook for the field of psychology, especially for graduates with doctoral degrees in areas such as school psychology. The need for school psychologists is strong due to concern over students' mental health and behavioral problems. Clinical, counseling and school psychologists at elementary and secondary schools earned mean annual salaries of $87,450 in May 2019, according to the BLS.

Continuing Education

Licensing requirements for school counselors vary widely. Some states require counseling certification while others require some form of licensing. Additionally, some states require counselors to have certificates in both counseling and teaching. The American School Counselor Associations lists state requirements on their website. The National Board for Certified Counselors and Affiliates and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards offer certification programs for school counselors. Continuing education may be required to maintain certification or licensing.

School psychologists must meet state-specific licensing requirements. In many states, the licensing requirements match the National Association of School Psychologists certification requirements. Additional certification and opportunities for continuing education is available from the American Board of Professional Psychology.

A master's- or doctorate-level degree in guidance counseling will prepare aspiring counselors with the necessary education and training to work in the field. Take note, though, that licensing and some certification requirements vary by state. Guidance counselors help others in a myriad of ways, with crisis intervention and career counseling being just two of them.

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