School counselors help students develop the academic and social skills needed to succeed. Career counselors help people choose a path to employment.
What they do
School counselors typically do the following:
- Evaluate students’ abilities and interests through aptitude assessments, interviews, and individual planning
- Identify issues that affect school performance, such as poor classroom attendance rates
- Help students understand and overcome social or behavioral problems through classroom guidance lessons and counseling
- Counsel individuals and small groups on the basis of student and school needs
- Work with students to develop skills, such as organizational and time management abilities and effective study habits
- Help students create a plan to achieve academic and career goals
- Collaborate with teachers, administrators, and parents to help students succeed
- Teach students and school staff about specific topics, such as bullying, drug abuse, and planning for college or careers after graduation
- Maintain records as required
- Report possible cases of neglect or abuse and refer students and parents to resources outside the school for additional support
The specific duties of school counselors vary with the ages of their students.
Elementary school counselors focus on helping students develop certain skills, such as those used in decision-making and studying, that they need in order to be successful in their social and academic lives. School counselors meet with parents or guardians to discuss their child’s strengths and weaknesses, and any special needs and behavioral issues that the child might have. School counselors also work with teachers and administrators to ensure that the curriculum addresses both the developmental and academic needs of students.
Middle school counselors work with school staff, parents, and the community to create a caring, supportive environment for students to achieve academic success. They help the students develop the skills and strategies necessary to succeed academically and socially.
High school counselors advise students in making academic and career plans. Many help students overcome personal issues that interfere with their academic development. They help students choose classes and plan for their lives after graduation. Counselors provide information about choosing and applying for colleges, training programs, financial aid, and internships and apprenticeships. They may present career workshops to help students search and apply for jobs, write résumés, and improve their interviewing skills.
Career counselors typically do the following:
- Use aptitude and achievement assessments to help clients evaluate their interests, skills, and abilities
- Evaluate clients’ background, education, and training, to help them develop realistic goals
- Guide clients through making decisions about their careers, such as choosing a new profession and the type of degree to pursue
- Help clients learn job search skills, such as interviewing and networking
- Assist clients in locating and applying for jobs, by teaching them strategies that will be helpful in finding openings and writing a résumé
- Advise clients on how to resolve problems in the workplace, such as conflicts with bosses or coworkers
- Help clients select and apply for educational programs, to obtain the necessary degrees, credentials, and skills
Career counselors work with clients at various stages of their careers. Some work in colleges, helping students choose a major or determine the jobs they are qualified for with their degrees. Career counselors also help people find and get jobs by teaching them job search, résumé writing, and interviewing techniques.
Career counselors also work with people who have already entered the workforce. These counselors develop plans to improve their clients’ current careers. They also provide advice about entering a new profession or helping to resolve workplace issues.
Some career counselors work in outplacement firms and assist laid-off workers with transitioning into new jobs or careers.
School counselors often have private offices so that they can have confidential conversations with students. Most school and career counselors work full time. Some school counselors do not work during the summer when school is not in session.
How to become a School and/or Career Counselor
Most school counselors must have a master’s degree in school counseling or a related field and have a state-issued credential. Some states require licensure for career counselors.
Nearly all states and the District of Columbia require school counselors to have a master’s degree in school counseling or a related field. Degree programs teach counselors the essential skills of the job, such as how to foster academic development; conduct group and individual counseling; work with parents, school staff, and community organizations; and use data to develop, implement, and evaluate comprehensive school counseling programs for all students. These programs often require counselors to complete an internship.
Some employers prefer that career counselors have a master’s degree in counseling with a focus on career development. Career counseling programs prepare students to assess clients’ skills and interests and to teach career development techniques.
Many master’s degree programs in counseling require students to have a period of supervised experience, such as an internship.
Public school counselors must have a state-issued credential to practice. This credential can be called a certification, a license, or an endorsement, depending on the state. Licensure or certification typically requires a master’s degree in school counseling, an internship or practicum completed under the supervision of a licensed professional school counselor, and successful completion of a test.
Some states require applicants to have classroom teaching experience, or to hold a teaching license, prior to being certified. Most states require a criminal background check as part of the credentialing process. Information about requirements for each state is available from the American School Counselor Association.
Some states require licensure for career counselors, check with your state for more information. Contact information for state regulating boards is available from the National Board for Certified Counselors.
The median annual wage for school and career counselors was $57,040 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $34,380, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $96,090.
Employment of school and career counselors is projected to grow 8 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations.
Rising student enrollment in elementary, middle, and high schools is expected to increase demand for school counselors. As enrollments grow, schools will require more counselors to respond to the developmental and academic needs of their students. Colleges will need to hire additional counselors to meet the demand for career counseling services from their students.
Similar Job Titles
Academic Advisor, Academic Counselor, Admissions Counselor, Career Counselor, College Counselor, Guidance Counselor, School Adjustment Counselor, School Counselor, Student Development Advisor, Student Services Coordinator
School Psychologist, Marriage and Family Therapist, Mental Health Counselor, Education Teacher-Postsecondary, Social Work Teacher-Postsecondary
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- American College Counseling Association
- American Counseling Association
- American Psychological Association
- American School Counselor Association
- Association for Career and Technical Education
- Association on Higher Education and Disability
- NASPA - Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education
- National Association for College Admission Counseling
- National Association of Colleges and Employers
Magazines and Publications
- Career Developments Magazine (NCDA)
- School Counselor Magazine (ASCA)
- Counselor Magazine
- The Professional Counselor Journal
Supporting success through the lifespan, school and career counselors help individuals navigate their school years from grade school to graduation, college or training, or throughout their lifelong employment experience. From elementary through high school, school counselors work with students and their families, school staff, and the community to create an environment that promotes academic success and positive social interaction. They help students deal with personal issues that affect their school experience, and provide crisis intervention when needed. School counselors keep detailed records to meet laws and district policies, and help students with disabilities get accommodations. They also help ensure students take all required classes and plan for college or careers after graduation. Career counselors help clients explore career options and teach them the process of searching for a job. They administer career assessments, teach individuals and groups how to write a résumé, interview for jobs, and resolve workplace issues. Career counselors work in colleges, non-profit organizations, government employment services, and in private practice. Most school and career counselors work full time; those who work in schools may have summers off. School counselors typically need a master’s degree in school counseling, and a state license or certification. Some states require teaching credentials as well. Career counselor positions often require a master’s degree in counseling with a focus on career development. Some states require licensure.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org