School Counselor Job Description

School counselors (also called guidance counselors) provide students with the support that they need to develop academically and socially. They frequently provide counseling in both individual and group settings to help students overcome behavioral problems, improve organization and time management skills, and set academic goals.

The exact responsibilities for school counselors vary depending on the level of education that they work in. Before you start your career in this profession, you should carefully consider the type of work that you would like to do so that you can enter at the most appropriate level of schooling.

Elementary school counselors work with students to identify their strengths, interests, and needs. They help parents and teachers identify potential behavioral problems with their students, and provide students with support as they try to overcome disabilities or developmental problems. These counselors frequently monitor students in classroom and play settings, and may suggest changes to the curriculum so that it better meets the needs of the students.

Middle school counselors focus less on identifying behavioral problems, and more on helping students achieve their academic, personal, and career-related goals. It’s true that most middle school students aren’t thinking about their careers a whole lot, but counselors are still able to help them evaluate some options that they might potentially be interested in. At this age, students start to encounter difficult social situations that counselors are able to help them resolve.

High school counselors help students develop career plans. Often times, counselors are responsible for scheduling their students’ classes, and make sure that the classes they schedule align with the students’ college and career goals. These counselors also help students understand the college application process, and may help them identify financial aid and apprenticeship opportunities. Like middle school counselors, high school counselors also help students work through difficult social situations.

Work Environment and Schedule

School counselors work in all levels of education, from elementary school through college. The majority of positions are found in public school systems, but private schools provide many opportunities for employment as well.

This can be an emotionally challenging occupation at times. Many students are impacted by very serious problems that are hard to deal with. And though it can be very rewarding to help students through their tough times, it’s not always easy to hear about some of the problems that children and young adults are faced with. Counselors sometimes end up emotionally invested in their students’ progress, and it can take a long time before they see positive results from their work.

Counselors normally work full time, and are typically able to enjoy a regular working schedule from Monday through Friday. In some schools, counselors get the summers off when schools are closed.

School counselors normally need to work longer hours than teachers do. Not only do they have to be available for students during the day, they also need to meet with parents, students, and teachers before and after school.

How to Become a School Counselor

Most states require school counselors to have a minimum of a master’s degree in school counseling or a closely related field. These programs teach students how to counsel students, work with parents, and develop methods for encouraging academic and social development.

Before attending graduate school, school counselors need to earn a bachelor’s degree. Counselors study many different subjects as an undergraduate, but most choose to major in psychology, education, or a liberal arts subject.

In addition to the educational requirements, school counselors also need to earn a state license or certification to practice. The licensing requirements vary from state to state, but most require a criminal background check, a minimum GPA, and teaching experience. Click here to learn more about the licensing requirements in your state.

Related Occupations

Employment Outlook

There are currently school counselors in the United States, with new school counselor job openings created each year.

School Counselor jobs are not expected to see much growth beyond their current levels in the next decade.

School Counselor Salaries

Overall Salaries

School Counselor salaries can vary depending on your experience, the location, company, industry, and benefits provided. Nationwide, most school counselors make between per year, or per hour.

Updated: 05/04/2017

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