How Do You Become a School Counselor?

School CounselorIf you have a passion for working with school-aged children, but don’t wish to spend your days teaching in the classroom, then you may want to consider becoming a school counselor. From elementary through high school, school counselors play a prominent role in meeting the academic, vocational, social, and mental health needs of students. School counselors often are involved in providing individual or group counseling sessions, giving aptitude tests, pinpointing students’ strengths, addressing behavioral problems, providing academic advice, selecting class schedules, mediating conflicts, and safeguarding students’ wellness. There’s a demand for school counselors as employment will continue to grow slightly faster than average at 12 percent over the next decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The following is a step-by-step guide on how you can join this growing field to positively impact the development of our nation’s youth.

Earn a Relevant Bachelor’s Degree

While it’s uncommon to find a school counseling degree or specialization at the baccalaureate level, the first step towards becoming a school counselor is to earn a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. Most aspiring school and guidance counselors decide to pursue an undergraduate major in psychology, education, social work, counseling, or sociology. Any degree related to the human services or liberal arts will likely meet the prerequisites for graduate school. It’s highly recommended that you supplement your classroom education with real-world experience through internships and service learning too. Working with children and in educational settings will prove invaluable moving forward.

Pursue a Master’s Degree in School Counseling

Next, you’ll be required to attend graduate school to earn a master’s degree that has been fully approved by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). Many master’s programs across the United States offer graduate students the opportunity to specialize their counseling education in elementary school counseling, secondary school counseling, guidance counseling, career counseling, or college counseling depending on your future career plans. Coursework will then be focused on developing the intervention skills and techniques necessary to help children or young adults thrive. An internship is typically required to log the required number of hours of practice you’ll need before the final step.

Apply for Licensing or Certification

Once your training is complete and there’s a diploma in your hand, most states will require you to achieve some form of licensure or certification before practicing in the school system. State certification requirements vary greatly, but most will require new school counselors to take a one-time credentialing exam, have a specific number of internship hours, demonstrate an adequate master’s-level education, and pay a registration fee, according to the American School Counselor Association. In some cases, you may also need to receive a teaching license to work in a school setting. Earning a passing grade and receiving your certification isn’t the end of your journey because most school counselors must take regular continuing education courses to stay up-to-date.

Related Resource: School Pscyhologist

Overall, school counseling is a highly rewarding profession that allows individuals to greatly impact the development of youth in some of their most exciting and formidable years. Although there’s a rather rigorous amount of schooling required, school counselors are paid back with a decent average annual salary of $56,040 and unlimited intrinsic rewards. Follow these steps for becoming a school counselor to reach your vocational calling of guiding students through the maze of academia and life beyond.