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Guidance Counselor Education and Training Programs

Guidance counselors require significant formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and licensure to see if this is the right career for you.

Rightfully the qualifications to become a guidance counselor reflect the importance of the role a guidance counselor plays in the progress of a student's development. The piece below can provide you with a roadmap on how to become a guidance counselor.

Essential Information

Guidance counselors help students chose the right vocation or solve personal issues relating to families, addictions and sexuality. They also administer and evaluate tests to determine academic performance. Guidance counselors in most states must have the minimum of a master's degree in a field such as school counseling, education or psychology. These programs usually include internships that provide some supervised experience providing counseling services. Those working in public schools need to become licensed, endorsed or certified, depending on the state in which they work. Classroom teaching experience may also be needed.

Required Education Master's degree in school counseling, psychology, education or a related field
Other Requirements State certification, licensure or endorsement; teaching experience in some states
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 8%
Median Salary (2015)* $53,660 annually

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Requirements for a Guidance Counselor

Requirements to become a guidance counselor vary by state. A master's degree is usually required, but some states only require a bachelor's degree or a bachelor's degree and some post-baccalaureate work. Generally, guidance counselors have either a master's degree in psychology, social science or education. Some states require both a teaching and counseling certificate. Some states require guidance counselors to complete 1-2 years of supervised experience; this experience can be gained through internship programs.

The National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC) administers the certification examination in compliance with state regulations for guidance counselors. Counselors are certified for five years. Upon recertification, a guidance counselor must provide documentation of 100 clock hours of continuing education.

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Training Programs

There are a number of paths a person aspiring to be a guidance counselor can take. Aspiring guidance counselors may chose to earn a bachelor's degree in the related field of psychology. They then complete post-baccalaureate work or enroll in a master's degree program. All prospective students should check with their state education agency to find out specific requirements.

Bachelor of Science in Psychology

The bachelor's degree program is designed to give students a solid foundation in research, assessment and problem solving. Students are introduced to biological psychology, statistics, ethics and the history of modern psychology. During the final quarter students participate in a capstone project.

Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology

The Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology degree program prepares a graduate to work in clinical positions in educational, mental health and human services environments. The degree program includes coursework in specialized areas such as child assessment, career planning, counseling for families and groups and intervention. The program may conclude with an internship or practicum in the public schools.

States require public school counselors hold a state license and most also require a master's degree. Rules are generally not as stringent for private school counselors. Some states also require counselors to have a number of years of teaching experience. Licensure or certification granted by a professional organization is generally good for five years. Recertification requires proof of continuing education.


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