School Guidance Counselors
School guidance counselors play an integral part in a student's development, from kindergarten through college. They advise students on everything from issues at home to college or career planning. These professionals must have excellent communication skills in addition to having the ability to relate to young people. The job requires emotional strength. Working with young people who are experiencing family or school issues may be challenging and often requires a great deal of patience.
Career Requirements at a Glance
|Degree Level||A master's degree is typically required|
|Degree Field||School counseling or a related field|
|Experience||Up to 3 years of experience may be required to earn state credentials|
|Licensure||Requirements vary from state to state, but all school counselors must hold a state-issued credential, whether a license, certification or endorsement|
|Key Skills||Communication skills; ability to use Microsoft Excel, Word, Outlook and Access, as well as computerized testing software, computerized diagnostic programs, and database software like Social Solutions ETO and Zoomerang; use of videoconferencing equipment|
|Salary*||$53,660 (median annual salary 2015)|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2015), American School Counselor Association, O*Net Online
The steps to becoming a school guidance counselor include obtaining a bachelor's degree, earning a master's degree, becoming licensed as a certified school counselor, and working to maintain licensure.
Obtain a Bachelor's Degree
Although undergraduate majors specific to school counseling are not common, majors in psychology, education, sociology, or social work may be beneficial. Bachelor's degree programs in these areas provide a foundation for future school counselors with coursework in areas like child psychology, lifespan development, and human behavior. Undergraduate internships may be available for elective credit.
Earn a Master's Degree
A master's degree in school counseling or a related area is mandatory for licensure in most states. Curricula in these programs cover areas of individual and group counseling, human development, and research methods in counseling. Students may consider programs that are accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs. Accreditation from this council is nationally recognized and ensures that a program is preparing students to meet professional standards.
It may also be a good idea to use practicum and internship requirements to gain valuable experience. School counseling programs require fieldwork that builds experience and satisfies licensing requirements. Students can use this time to become comfortable in school settings and sharpen their interpersonal and communication skills.
All states require school guidance counselors to be licensed. The process to becoming licensed typically involves a comprehensive written exam and at least 1-3 years of supervised experience. One can choose to complete licensing programs offered by Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs or the National Board for Certified Counselors, which generally meet the requirements in most states.
Once licensed, school counselors must meet continuing education standards over a five-year period to remain eligible. Continuing education credits may come from organizations like the National Board for Certified Counselors or in the form of college courses, which may also help to advance your career. In some states, continuing education may need to be approved by a counselor's supervisor or the area superintendent.
To become a school guidance counselor, make sure to obtain a bachelor's degree, earn a master's degree, become licensed as a certified school counselor, and work to maintain your license.