School counselors offer students vital guidance and support services. You can find these professionals at all educational levels, from the elementary grades through post-secondary schools. While their responsibilities may vary in each setting, all are entrusted with helping students achieve goals and reach their potential.
Those interested in school counseling should possess a strong desire to help others and must maintain a high level of trust and confidentiality. Counseling can be emotionally difficult at times, and candidates for this field benefit from being able to manage stress effectively. Given the range of duties required, individuals who can work independently as well as part of a team are best suited for school counseling careers.
Education requirements and online degrees in school counseling
Given the comprehensive nature of school counseling jobs, there are rigorous education requirements for these professionals. Most states require that potential school counselors earn at least a master's degree before they can become licensed or certified to practice. Each state has its own education requirements, so students should check with the state licensing board before deciding on a degree.
The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) maintains a list of state certification requirements on its website. Those considering online degrees in school counseling should make sure the program includes any coursework requirements mandated by the state. According to the ASCA, most states require a curriculum that includes, among other things, the following components:
- Individual counseling
- Group counseling
- Career development
- Supervised practicum
- Supervised internship
To comply with any state-mandated clinical requirements, even students enrolled in online health care degree programs may have to complete some on-campus coursework.
Career options in school counseling
Graduates of school counseling programs can go on to work in a number of different educational settings. According to the ASCA, those with traditional or online degrees in school counseling may go on to work in one of the following capacities:
- Elementary school counselor
- Middle school/junior high counselor
- Secondary school counselor
- Post-secondary school counselor
- School counseling director/coordinator
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nearly half of all educational, guidance, school and vocational counselors were employed by elementary and secondary schools in 2010. States require elementary schools to employ counselors, and that may be one reason why such a large number of counseling professionals end up working in those grade levels.
Regardless of which level they work, the ASCA says most school counselors provide services in the following core areas:
- Classroom guidance
- Individual student planning
- Responsive services
- System support
School counselors may collaborate with parents, teachers, local businesses, administrators and community organizations as they work to provide the resources students need to succeed. Once they have gained practical experience, they may go on to work as instructors for programs offering traditional or online degrees in school counseling or act as counseling coordinators.
School counseling at a glance
- Major employer: Elementary and secondary schools
- Education requirements: Master's degree plus licensure
- Salary: School counselors earned a mean annual wage of $55,970 in 2010, according to the BLS
- Job outlook: The BLS projects growth of 14 percent between 2008 and 2018 for educational, vocational and school counselors, which is faster than average.