School Counseling Programs

Become a guidance counselor and discover the life-changing career of school counseling.

Help All the Students in Your School as a School Counselor

student and school counseling programs professional

School counselors, formerly called guidance counselors, help students evaluate their abilities, interests and personality traits in order to achieve academic success and develop realistic career goals. They help students deal with social, behavioral and personal problems, and collaborate with parents and teachers to devise and implement strategies so that students can succeed in school, get into college and begin fulfilling careers of their own.

School counselors must be able to inspire trust and confidence, and need a strong desire to help others succeed.

Counseling, Coordinating, Advising and Teaching

School counselors focus on more than coursework and careers. If you become a school counselor, your duties might also include the following:

  • Evaluating elementary school children for strengths or special needs
  • Advising high school students on college admission requirements, entrance exam preparation and financial aid options
  • Helping students develop job search skills, resume writing and interviewing techniques
  • Addressing the social and emotional issues that arise among children in secondary school, particularly peer pressure, bullying, depression and academic challenges
  • Counseling parents and other family members about a student's behavioral issues
  • Coordinating with state programs that teach students about child abuse or drugs

Work Environment

School or guidance counselors typically work in elementary, secondary and post-secondary schools where they meet with students in a private office to encourage open discussions and maintain confidentiality. Periodically, throughout the year, school counselors might arrange classroom or school-wide events to discuss topics such as substance abuse or college recruitment. In these instances, they might teach all students of a certain grade level at once in a school auditorium.

Many school counselors work the nine- to 10-month school year, taking two to three months off in the summer; however, an increasing number of school counselors have accepted 11-month or full-year contracts. During student recruitment periods, college counselors may work long and irregular hours to conduct planning and placement activities. Some guidance counselors also find work during the summer vacation to supplement their income.

Salary and Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2014-15 Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median national annual salary for school and career counselors is $53,610. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors.

As the BLS reports, school counselors can anticipate a 12 percent job growth rate through 2022, which is about as fast as average growth. Job candidates may find greater opportunities in rural and urban areas where recruitment is often more challenging. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.

Programs and Degrees

School counseling degree requirements vary from state to state. In most states, school counselors must hold a master's degree to qualify for licensing. The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) has established that school counseling programs must meet the following criteria:

  • Award graduates with a master's or higher level degree
  • Cover core components of the discipline, including human growth and development, social and cultural diversity, relationships and group work
  • Require students to complete a 600-hour clinical internship supervised by a licensed school counselor

Understanding your state's school counseling certification requirements in advance will help you choose the best school counseling degree for you.

School Counselor Certification

Like degree requirements, licensure requirements for school or guidance counselors vary greatly from state to state. You should check with your state Department of Education to ensure that you direct your training toward the right certification for you. In addition to state boards, two different national boards provide licensure for school counselors:

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) grants national board certification to eligible candidates. To apply, you must meet both education and experience requirements. Completing the certification process involves a demonstration of your counseling practice through portfolio entries and written assessment exercises.

The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) offers the National Certified School Counselor (NCSC) credential. To earn this certification, candidates must have a master's degree from an accredited school, hold a school counseling credential from their state, have three years of supervised experience in the field and pass a certification exam.