School Counselor Jobs and Employment Opportunities

School counselors require a significant amount of formal education. Learn more about the education requirements, job duties and licensure requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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Students sometimes need support and assistance with personal or educational problems, and that's where school counselors come in. These trained and licensed professionals help students at all levels to cope with their problems and can also refer them to a psychiatrist or a social worker should more serious issues arise. The job requires a master's degree, clinical experience, and a state license, and in some cases the counselor must also be a certified teacher.

Essential Information

School counselors serve students of all age levels. While job duties vary, these professionals may offer therapy sessions, academic evaluations or career advice. To become a school counselor, state requirements must be met; these tend to include a master's degree and licensure.

Required Education Master's degree
Other Requirements State licensure; teacher certification required in some states
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 8% (for all school and career counselors)
Median Salary (2015)* $53,660 (for all educational, guidance, school and vocational counselors)

Source:*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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School Counselor Job Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), both elementary and high school counselors help students cope with personal problems (www.bls.gov). School counselors may develop programs for students or refer them to other professionals, including social workers and psychiatrists. Besides helping students, school counselors interact with parents and school administrators. Good listening and observation skills are critical for recognizing serious issues, such as substance abuse or domestic violence.

Some school counselor duties vary based on the age of students. For example, high school counselors may assist students with college or career planning, a function that isn't typical of counselors on the elementary or middle school levels.

Educational Requirements

The BLS reports that most states require a master's degree for school counselor licensure. Prior to graduate school, prospective school counselors may earn a bachelor's degree in psychology or a related major. School counseling graduate programs typically include coursework in lifespan development, research methods, statistics and student assessment. Some programs offer courses that focus on either young children or adolescents.

Clinical experience, offered through a practicum or internship, encompasses a significant portion of these curricula. In the course of their clinical experience, students typically develop counseling programs and consultative skills under the supervision of a practicing school counselor. Hour requirements for clinical experiences vary since many schools base their standards on state licensing board requirements.

Licensing Information

Aside from education, many states have experience requirements and mandatory background checks for school counselor licensure. Certifying exams in either teaching or counseling are also common. The BLS indicates that some states require school counselors to have experience as a teacher or hold a teaching certificate. Additionally, some states practice reciprocity with licenses; applicants can consult their state boards for more information.

Employment Opportunities

Career Outlook

The BLS stated that employment for school counselors was forecast to increase by 8 percent from 2014 to 2024, which is about the same as the national average for all occupations. The need for school counselors was expected to increase as school enrollments rise, although financial constraints could hinder growth in public schools and the government. Job opportunities are also available with nonprofit organizations.

Salary Information

The BLS reported that school counselors earned a median annual salary of $53,660 in May 2015. Pay may be significantly higher for experienced counselors or those in certain major cities. The BLS indicates that most school counselors work full time, but that some do not work during the summer when school is not in session.

School counselors must be well-trained and experienced in order to help students deal with whatever problem they are facing, whether through therapy, academic and career advice and support, or referrals to other professionals. An advanced degree combined with clinical practice and experience provides counselors with the skills they need to do their job well, and state licensing programs help to maintain a consistent standard of care and training.

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