School Counselor Salaries: How Much Do School Counselors Make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for school counselors in 2018 was $56,310. The salary range for school counselors is from $33,610 to $94,690, depending on the specific employer and the region in which you’re employed.

If you enjoy working with children and have a passion for helping others cope with their struggles, consider a career as a school counselor. The job outlook for this role is good. The BLS estimates that employment of school counselors is growing faster than the average for all occupations.

Learn about school counselor salaries by state, what they do and how to become one in this guide.

School Counselor Salary by State

Salaries for school counselors differ by region and employer. Metro areas tend to pay more than rural areas, and private schools tend to pay more than public schools. For our information, we consulted the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook, as it is the most reliable website for national salary and employment information. For the category of School and Career Counselors, it offers the following information:

  • 2018 median pay: $56,310 annually
  • Job outlook between 2018–2028: 8% growth, which BLS states is faster than average. The reason for growth is due to the increases in school enrollment from the children of millennials and Generation Z entering school.
  • The number of expected new jobs between 2018–2028: 27,200

These statistics include both school counselors and career counselors for Texas, California, New York City, and Ohio as of 2018 from the BLS; the latter tend to work in colleges and vocational career centers.

School counselor salary in Texas

How much does a school counselor make in Texas? According to the BLS’s Occupational Employment Statistics, the average annual salary in 2018 for school counselors in Texas was $60,470 or $29.07 an hour.

School counselor salary in California

Across all states, California offers the best salary to its school counselors at $78,250 annually or $37.62 hourly. The state also has the highest number of employed school counselors at 32,650.

School counselor salary in New York City

The state of New York's average earnings for a school counselor is $68,890, according to the BLS. The New York-Newark-Jersey City metropolitan area has the nation’s highest number of employed school counselors, with an average salary in that area of $73,700.

School counselor salary in Illinois

The average annual salary for a school counselor in Illinois was $56,650 in 2018. The average salary in the greater Chicago area was $58,860. Illinois also has the fifth-highest employment level of school counselors in the country.

School counselor salary in Ohio

From the BLS: Ohio salaries are not specified as a state because it’s not among the states employing the highest number of people in this occupation. However, North Northeastern Ohio ranks among the highest non-contiguous non-metropolitan areas doing so, and the average salary there is $47,590.

School Counselor Salaries With a Master’s Degree

While there may be instances where school counselors rise to the position from within a school or district without a master’s degree, nearly all school counselor positions today typically require a master's degree. The BLS estimates that the 2018 median pay for school and career counselors was $56,310 annually.

School Social Worker Salaries vs. School Counselor Salaries

School social workers perform some of the same functions as a school counselor, but they specialize in dealing with children who struggle in school primarily as a result of forces outside of school, such as family issues or poverty. The School Social Work Association of America states that school social workers are “trained mental health professionals who can assist with mental health concerns, behavioral concerns, positive behavioral support, academic and classroom support, consultation with teachers, parents, and administrators, as well as provide individual and group counseling/therapy.”

Most school social work positions require a master’s of social work degree, but not all. They must be licensed by the state, and the BLS states the median salary for school social workers in 2018 was $46,270 annually.

School Counselor Employment Projections

The BLS projects employment of school counselors will grow 8% between 2018 and 2028, which is faster than the average for all occupations.

What’s driving this growth? School enrollments are expected to increase as the children of millennials begin to enroll. In 2018, according to data from the Pew Research Group, millennials were poised to overtake the baby boomers as the largest adult population group; as their children enter school, the need for classrooms, teachers and administration — including school counselors — will similarly increase.

Ready to Become a School Counselor?

School counselors are a necessary and growing presence in elementary, middle and high schools. They can help establish and maintain a positive, supportive presence in a child’s life. Their occupation will continue to thrive for many years to come, as a result of increasing enrollment and the mounting pressures students face from academic and life situations.

Most school counselors need a master’s degree. There are four basic steps to becoming a school counselor:

  • Earn an undergraduate degree: While a specific field of study isn’t required, later you will likely apply to graduate school, so a degree in psychology, counseling, social work, or education will help the most.
  • Earn a master’s degree: Various kinds of master’s degrees could help you here, but if you want to set yourself up for success, aim for a master’s that focuses on school counseling. The coursework and faculty will not only prepare you for the occupation—emphasizing student development, academic achievement, social and personal goals, and, of course, counseling skills — but also help you to be proficient in the knowledge you will need to pass your certification exams and get licensed.
  • Get experience in the field: You’ll earn some experience while working toward your master’s degree, but an internship will help you get the real-life experience you need. There are some states that require more hours post-graduation, such as a supervised counseling setting.
  • Become certified in your state: The ASCA has a directory of state certification requirements for counselors that includes such things as minimum GPAs, internship hours required, certification test(s) required, background check requirements, and links to each state’s own web page.

Be sure to check out our detailed guide on becoming a school counselor.

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Last updated: April 2020