School counselors are certified/ licensed educators with a minimum of a master’s degree in school counseling, making them uniquely qualified to address all students’ academic, career and social/emotional development needs by designing, implementing, evaluating and enhancing a comprehensive school counseling program that promotes and enhances student success. School counselors are employed in elementary, middle/junior high and high schools; in district supervisory positions; and counselor education positions. The aforestated positions pay an average of $55,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2016) with a predicted turnover of 8% through 2024.
School counselors support a safe learning environment and work to safeguard the human rights of all members of the school community and address the needs of all students through culturally relevant prevention and intervention programs that are a part of a comprehensive school counseling program. They uphold the ethical and professional standards of American School Counseling Association (ASCA) and other applicable professional counseling associations and promote the development of the school counseling program. The ASCA recommends a school counselor-to-student ratio of 1:250.
As stated in the opening paragraph, the main areas of employment are:
Elementary School: Comprehensive developmental school counseling programs provide education, prevention and intervention services, which are integrated into all aspects of children’s lives. A comprehensive understanding of the knowledge, skills and processes of student appraisal and assessment relative to school guidance and counseling programs, including individual and group assessment is essential. Consults with parents, school staff, other pupil personnel specialists and community agency personnel to help student experiencing problems.
Middle School: Middle school counselors do not work in isolation; rather they are integral to the total educational program. They provide proactive leadership that engages all stakeholders in the delivery of programs and services to help students achieve success in school. At this educational level, the dynamics begin to change as counselors may be dealing with issues as bullying, drugs, child abuse at home, and delinquent behavior. Counselors in middle schools are also referred to as guidance counselors for a student’s academics as they approach high school.
Junior High/High School: High school is the final transition into adulthood and the world of work as students begin separating from parents and exploring and defining their independence. Students are deciding who they are, what they do well and what they will do when they graduate. These counselors may utilize their training in mental health counseling to handle more serious adolescent problems and situations. Also, they are taking an active role in assessing a student’s abilities to best guide him/her into a post-secondary learning program.
College/University: These counselors may have transitioned from high school level to join the college ranks in admissions, career services, academic counseling, or placement counseling, or to those who provide specialized psychological services in academic settings. They can help underprivileged students seek out desperately needed financial aid, or assist prospective college students in writing resumes and admissions essays. No professional certification or license is required for college counselors who do not provide formal psychological care, although some seek to obtain licensure from the National Board for Certified Counselors or the National Association of School Psychologists.
Regardless of the educational level, most school counseling positions require a master’s degree in counseling. To assist you along this path, we invite interested readers to check out our recommendation of top online master’s degree programs in Education & School Counseling. However, a school counselor’s education doesn’t stop with the degree. There are continuing education requirements, of which the semester hours vary by state. This is mandatory in order to renew your teaching license that typically is valid for 5-6 years.