Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Career Spotlight: School Counselors

The following article was created by the team at, an educational directory and resource for adult learners interested in pursuing a graduate degree. This article series provides an overview of the job outlook, salary data, daily life, and educational requirements of selected careers in hopes that one of these spotlights will help you decide what you want to be when you grow up.

School counselors work with students at the elementary, middle school, high school and college level to provide academic and career guidance to the student population they serve, they might also provide mental health counseling or life coaching when needed.  The job roles of school counselors vary depending on the setting they work in and the clients they work with.  Generally speaking school counselors who are employed in elementary schools focus on helping students develop their interpersonal skills.  This can include intervening to help end bullying in the school, helping shy students meet others and develop friendships, and improving the clients overall communication skills.   School counselors that work in a middle school or high school focus more on preparing students for their adult lives.  They help their clients make decisions about their long term academic and career goals, this process requires them to help their students decide which classes to take or which activities to participate in.  This guidance helps the client build their set of skills and knowledge base to help them accomplish their longer term goals.  High school counselors may also help to identify any emotional or behavioral problems that their students are suffering from and provide them with counseling to help them overcome their challenges in order to be better equipped to reach their goals.  School counselors who work with college students perform similar duties to that of high school counselors, but they generally spend more time developing strategies to help their clients reach their goals and less time working with their clients to define them.

Most states require school counselors to earn a masters degree in school counseling in order to be qualified to work in the field.  Many programs will offer degree programs in either elementary, secondary, or post-secondary school counseling.  Selecting a specific concentration within the practice of school counseling helps to prepare future counselors to manage the unique challenges of working with clients at a specific level.  While each concentration will offer courses specific to working with a particular age group, students enrolled in a school counseling program can reasonably expect to encounter coursework in the following topics: assessment methods for counselors, social and diversity issues in counseling, research methods, consultation and coordination in guidance and counseling, and organization and administration of school counseling programs.  Students enrolled in a school counseling graduate program are also likely to be required to complete a supervised practicum where they work with a certified school counselor to gain real world experience working with clients.  

Pursuing a career as a school counselor may be a good option for women who want to have a similar schedule to their children.  Most school counselors work during the hours that their children will be in school, which may help to reduce the amount of money spent on before or after school care for their young children.  Some counselors also have off during the summer (the specific number of days off and schedules are defined in the counselor’s contract, and will vary across different school districts or work environments).  

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the 2012 median salary of school and career counselors was $53,610 and jobs in this field are predicted to grow by 12% between 2012 and 2022.  Click here to learn more about earning your graduate degree in school counseling or research educational options.