School counselors help students develop the academic and social skills that lead to success in school. Career counselors help people develop skills, explore a career, or choose an educational program that will lead to a career.

Duties

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 decisionmaking 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.

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Work Environment

School and career counselors held about 324,500 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of school and career counselors were as follows:

Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private 44%
Junior colleges, colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private                  35
Healthcare and social assistance 8
Other educational services; state, local, and private 4
Self-employed workers 3

School counselors often have private offices so that they can have confidential conversations with students.

Work Schedules

Most school and career counselors work full time. Some school counselors do not work during the summer when school is not in session.

Education and Training

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.

Education

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.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

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.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Some states require school counselors to have 1 to 2 years of experience as a teacher, or to hold a teaching license, prior to being certified.

Personality and Interests

School and career counselors typically have an interest in the Helping interest area, according to the Holland Code framework. The Helping interest area indicates a focus on assisting, serving, counseling, or teaching other people.

If you are not sure whether you have a Helping interest which might fit with a career as a school and career counselor, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

School and career counselors should also possess the following specific qualities:

Compassion. Counselors often work with people who are dealing with stressful and difficult situations, so they must be compassionate and empathize with their clients and students.

Interpersonal skills. Being able to work with different types of people is essential for counselors. They spend most of their time working directly with clients and students or other professionals and need good working relationships.

Listening skills. Good listening skills are essential for school and career counselors. They need to give their full attention to their students and clients to understand their problems.

Speaking skills. School and career counselors must communicate effectively with clients and students. They should express ideas and information in a way that their clients and students understand easily.

Pay

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.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for school and career counselors in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private $64,060
Other educational services; state, local, and private 51,880
Junior colleges, colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private                        51,120
Healthcare and social assistance 40,620

Most school and career counselors work full time. Some school counselors do not work during the summer when school is not in session.

Job Outlook

Employment of school and career counselors is projected to grow 8 percent from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations.

Rising student enrollments 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.

Demand for career counseling is projected to increase in universities as an increasing number of campuses open onsite career centers to help students develop skills and prepare for transition to the workforce.

Career counselors also will be needed to assist those who change careers, to help laid-off workers find employment, and to help military personnel transition into the civilian job market.

Job Prospects

Job prospects are expected to be good for those with counseling degrees, especially in schools and colleges, because of the need to replace the workers who leave the occupation each year.

For More Information

For more information about counseling and information about counseling specialties, visit

American Counseling Association

For more information about school counselors, visit

American School Counselor Association

For more information about career counselors, visit

National Career Development Association

For more information about state credentialing, visit

National Board for Certified Counselors

 

FAQ

Where does this information come from?

The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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This information is taken directly from the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Truity does not editorialize the information, including changing information that our readers believe is inaccurate, because we consider the BLS to be the authority on occupational information. However, if you would like to correct a typo or other technical error, you can reach us at help@truity.com.

I am not sure if this career is right for me. How can I decide?

There are many excellent tools available that will allow you to measure your interests, profile your personality, and match these traits with appropriate careers. On this site, you can take the Career Personality Profiler assessment, the Holland Code assessment, or the Photo Career Quiz.

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