How to Become a School Counselor: Role, Degree Requirements & Salary

School Counselor

We may remember our own school counselors as people who we only saw when we were applying to colleges or trade schools. But today, advancing educational and mental health sciences mean that school counselors play a transformative role in students’ academic and emotional success. Today’s school counselors provide academic analyses and recommendations and emotional education and support.

By helping students to recognize their strengths, weaknesses, and feelings, they help students form plans for both happiness and career success. By teaching students relationship skills and talking with them about their problems, they help ensure that social challenges don’t interfere with education. By analyzing students’ performance and working with students to set short- and long-term academic goals, they help students improve their grades and prepare for the career path of their choice.

School counselors have some overlap with the jobs of school social workers, since both are responsible for helping students with social challenges so they can perform their best in school. However, school counselors and social workers usually have different education and may do different jobs in schools.

What Do School Counselors Do

A school counselor’s job description involves using many types of expertise to help students in many different ways. School counselors think of both a student’s academic and career well-being – that is, their ability to get good grades and get into the colleges or trade schools they want – and their social and emotional well-being.

Today, modern science recognizes that these two areas affect each other deeply. Lack of social and emotional support has been identified as one of the major reasons for academic performance problems and behavioral problems that affect other students, so a school counselor’s role in talking to students about their feelings and relationships is just as important as their conversations about getting good grades and career goals.

School counselor jobs can be challenging, but also extremely rewarding. The job requires a high level of patience, social skills, and interpersonal warmth.

School counselors must gain the trust of students who may have had bad experiences with authority figures, learn to communicate firmly but sensitively with parents, teachers, and school administrators, and learn to mediate conflicts between both adults and children.

The daily duties of school counselors can include…

Daily Duties

  • Welcoming and orienting students who are new to the school.
  • Providing counseling to students who have missed a lot of school, have behavior problems, or are having disputes with other students.
  • Helping teachers and school administrators to schedule lessons and activities about social, emotional, and academic skills for students.
  • Helping teachers learn to gain students’ trust and handle emotional and social challenges in the classroom.
  • Having meetings with students about individual education plans, having meetings with student study groups, and having meetings with school attendance review boards.

It should be noted that school counselors should generally NOT be asked to provide long-term emotional or mental health treatment for students.

It’s generally recommended that school counselors have expertise in educational counseling – not psychological counseling – and that schools employ school psychologists for long-term treatment of students with significant emotional and mental health challenges affecting their academic performance and behavior.

School Counselor Salary

School counselors provide invaluable support for students and teachers. Their job can make the difference between a students’ failure and success. But how much do school counselors make for their challenging work?

As of 2018, school counselor salaries ranged from $35,000 per year up to $74,000 per year. Most school counselors made between $43,000 and $73,000 per year, with the average salary being between $48,000-$56,000 per year.

As with all jobs, the salary can depend on your level of education, experience, and where you live and work. School counselors with more education or more years of work experience are likely to be paid more than school counselors who are just starting out, and school counselors who live and work in areas with high costs of living are likely to make more than those living in more affordable areas.

When evaluating the salaries offered for a specific school counselor job, it’s a good idea to also look up the relative cost of living in the area you’d be relocating to take the job. That way, you can figure in possible changes to your cost of living, such as higher or lower rent, if you take each job.

Becoming A School Counselor

Like most professions within a school, there are several requirements one must meet before they begin practicing as a school counselor. These requirements consist of a specific education path along with meeting state licensing and certification requirements.

How Long Does It Take to Become a School Counselor?

School counselors usually have a Master’s Degree. That means it usually takes four years of college, plus one to three years of graduate school, to become a school counselor. Some school counselors may also spend time working as teachers before obtaining their graduate degrees, but that is not required.

Getting a School Counselor Degree

What degrees are necessary to become a school counselor? School counselor requirements include:

  • A Bachelor’s Degree (any subject is acceptable, but studying psychology, sociology, or education might help prepare you for a Master’s Degree program in Educational Counseling).
  • A Master’s Degree in Educational Counseling, School Counseling, or a related subject.

According to the American School Counselors’ Association, many public schools require that school counselors have passed classes or completed certifications in each of the following subjects:

  1. Human growth and development
  2. Theories of education
  3. Individual & group counseling
  4. Social & cultural foundations
  5. Testing & evaluations
  6. Research & program evaluation
  7. Professional orientation
  8. Career development

School counselors may also be required to complete a supervised practicum and a supervised internship before they can receive their school counselor certification. That means they may have to work under the supervision of other, more experienced counselors before they can operate independently as a school counselor.

School counselors may also be required to pass background checks to ensure that they are safe to work with children and pass state licensure exams. These requirements may vary by state.

School Counselor Interview Questions & Resume

Like any great resume, a good school counselor resume will include your education, work experience, and any volunteer experience or hobbies that may be relevant to the job.

The goal of a resume is to show the most appealing information about your career in a format that is very quick and easy for school administrators or HR personnel to read. A few general resume principles to keep in mind include:

  • In general, a new professional with less than five years of work experience should try to keep their resume to one page. A more experienced professional with more than five years of work experience may use two pages.
  • Generally, GPA is not required in the “Education” section and is best left out unless it’s extraordinary. If your GPA was over for high school, college, and graduate school, however, that is extraordinary and it may be worth including!
  • Employers want to see that you have a track record as a reliable worker. Try to include at least two or three past employers on your resume, if you have them.
  • However, schools are also most interested in jobs relevant to the job description you’re applying for. If you have at least three past employers relevant to school or counseling, you can probably leave irrelevant jobs in unrelated career fields off the resume.
  • If you don’t have any work experience working with students or children, try to get volunteer experience that proves that you love children and enjoy working with them. Volunteering to help out at children’s events, summer camps, children’s museums, or as a Big Brother/Big Sister shows that you have worked with kids and enjoyed it.

Because school counselor is a job that requires both academic and social skills, interview questions for school counselor positions may ask both about your knowledge of educational techniques and systems, and how you respond to interpersonal events. Questions may include:

  • Can you tell us what technique you would use with a child or family with a specific behavioral or social difficulty?
  • What techniques or programs do you think are most important for teachers and schools to use to support students’ academic success?
  • Have you worked with students with these specific behavioral or social difficulties before?
  • Why is school counseling important?
  • Can you tell us about a time you handled a conflict?
  • Tell us about a time you have failed. (With this question, employers are often looking to see how candidates handle stress, if they take responsibility for their mistakes, and if they learn from their mistakes.)

Why The Role Of School Counselor Is So Important

As we’ve seen, modern science tells us that a student’s emotional and social well-being is one of the top influences on their academic performance. That means that school counselors are a crucial role – not just to help students feel safe and supported at school, but also to ensure they can get good grades and test scores.

If you ask a student, they may say that their school counselor listens to them, understands and supports them, and helps them figure out difficult problems in their lives.

If you ask a school administrator, they may say that the school counselor helps resolve behavior problems and helps students to raise their grades and test scores.

Whether you choose to take the student’s or the administrator’s point of view, one thing is clear: school counselors are an incredibly powerful resource for students and school administrators alike.

Think school counseling is the career for you? We here at ProCare Therapy help to match school counselors to the best school environments for them. Make sure to check out our school counselor jobs we have available right now through the button below.

School Counselor Jobs

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