High School Guidance Counselor Education Requirements and Career Info

Sep 10, 2019

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

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High school guidance counselors work with teenagers on college admissions and academic pursuits, as well as personal issues. They need a master's degree in counseling and licensure in most states. Most high school guidance counselors hold a bachelor's degree in psychology or education, and many need to have some teaching experience.

Essential Information

High school guidance counselors assist teenage students in issues related to both their educational pursuits and personal lives. Generally, aspiring counselors must complete a master's degree program in counseling after earning a bachelor's degree in psychology or an education-related field. Some states may also require a counselor to obtain licensure by passing a state-licensing exam.

Required Education Master's degree in counseling
Other Requirements Licensure required in most states
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) 8% (all school and career counselors)*
Median Salary (2018) $56,310 (all educational, guidance, school and vocational counselors)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics


Psychology courses make up the majority of the curriculum for students studying to become high school guidance counselors. Classes at the undergraduate level focus on learning practical techniques that form an educational foundation for students.

Graduate-level courses include more theory and real-world training and prepare students to effectively communicate with and assist young adults. Potential courses at the master's degree level include counseling methods, group counseling and career guidance. These degree programs tend to culminate in a counseling practicum that offers students hands-on experience in a high school setting.

High School Guidance Counselor Career Information

High school guidance counselors deal with teenagers on a regular basis, advising them on issues pertaining to college admission, financial aid and scholarships. High school guidance counselors also provide emotional support by listening to students and helping them with any personal problems. Topics like drug addiction, racism and dangerous sexual behavior are also addressed by high school guidance counselors. Counselors may meet with high school students on a one-on-one basis or in group settings.

Licensing Requirements

High school guidance counselors may be required to obtain licensure to enter the workforce. Specific licensing requirements vary from state to state; however, high school guidance counselors generally must hold graduate degrees applicable to the field. Depending on the state, counselors employed by public high schools might need to have some teaching experience and pass a state-licensing exam. Counselors may be required to earn continuing education credits to maintain licensure.

Voluntary Certification

The National Board for Certified Counselors offers the National Certified Counselor (NCC) designation to graduates of accredited master's degree programs in counseling (www.nbcc.org). Applicants must also have 3,000 hours of professional experience and 100 hours of supervising experience. Qualified candidates are then eligible to sit for a national certification exam and, upon passage, use the NCC designation. While this certification is voluntary, some states accept it in place of a state-administered certification exam.

Job Outlook and Salary Info

The need for career and school counselors in general is expected to increase by eight percent from 2018 to 2028, based on figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Educational, guidance, school and vocational counselors earned a median salary of $56,310 in 2018, according to the BLS.

High school guidance counselors hold master's degrees, and typically have a background in psychology or education. Licensure is required in most states and voluntary certification is available in this field. High school guidance counselors are in demand, with job growth expected to rise 8% through the year 2028.

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