How to Become a School Counselor
|University and Program Name
|Field Placement Support
University of Southern California (USC)
Master of Education in School Counseling
|No GRE Required
University of Denver
Master of Arts in School Counseling
|No GRE Required
New York University
Master of Arts in Counseling and Guidance
|No GRE Required
What Does a School Counselor Do?
- Core school counseling curriculum: Lessons that are designed to help students achieve competencies, knowledge, attitudes and skills appropriate to their level of development.
- Individual student planning: Activities designed to assist students in establishing goals and developing their future plans.
- Responsive services: Individual and small-group counseling intended to meet the immediate needs and concerns of students.
Elementary School Counselors
- Ensure students are getting appropriate academic, emotional, behavioral and physical assistance.
- Collaborate with teachers and other staff to make sure students are being adequately challenged academically.
- Engage with students in emotional development, behavior management and social skills learning.
- Look for signs of learning disabilities, emotional disturbances and behavioral concerns that impact learning.
Middle School Counselors
- Assist students experiencing physical, mental, emotional and social growing pains due to early adolescent growth.
- Collaborate with students to connect academic and behavioral learnings to real-world experiences.
- Encourage individual identity development, exploration and peer mediation.
- Address physical and social conflicts through mediation management.
High School Counselors
- Help students define their independence in their transition into adulthood.
- Engage students and teachers in academic and career planning activities.
- Conduct crisis counseling and management to assist students in pressures of adolescent trials.
- Assist with student post-graduate plans such as college, military, trade school or entering the workforce.
School Counselor Salary and Career Outlook
What Are the Certification and Licensing Requirements?
School and Guidance Counselor Requirements by State
Technically, there is no difference between a guidance and school counselor. However, the term guidance counselor is generally considered out of date since the role has evolved. School counselor is a broader term.
The amount of time it takes to become a school counselor may vary by state. All school counselors must hold a bachelor’s degree in a related field, which typically takes four years to complete. School counselors must also earn a master’s degree, which may take up to two years to complete. States usually require passage of examinations for certification and you can use your own discretion to take the necessary time to pass the exam.
A bachelor’s degree in psychology is an option that can help prepare you for your master’s degree. School counselors typically earn their master’s in school counseling, but this requirement may vary by state.
It depends. School counselors, like teachers and other employees in school districts, can allocate some of their pay to a “savings” that is then distributed throughout the summer so that they always receive a paycheck. Some school counselors will work throughout the summer in summer school or summer programs or find other employment that is close to their role.
All school counselors must hold a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree. Bachelor’s degree learning paths can include psychology, counseling, social work, educational psychology and sociology.
Elementary school counselors typically work with young children from kindergarten through fifth grade. All elementary school counselors must hold a bachelor’s degree in a related field, a master’s degree in counseling and be licensed in order to practice. Your state licensing board will have more information on specific licensing requirements and appropriate pathways.
Middle school counselors typically work with students from sixth to eighth grade. Similar to elementary school counselors, middle school counselors usually must also have a four-year undergraduate degree in a related subject as well as a master’s in counseling. They must also be licensed in the state they choose to practice in. Your state licensing board will have more information.
High school counselors work with students from ninth to 12th grade. High school counselors typically hold a bachelor’s degree in counseling, psychology or other related field, a master’s degree in counseling and a state-issued license to practice. Your state licensing board will have more information.