Becoming a School Guidance Counselor: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons to becoming a school guidance counselor? See real job duties and get the truth about career prospects to find out if becoming a school guidance counselor is right for you.
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Pros and Cons to Becoming a School Guidance Counselor

School guidance counselors assist students in making life decisions and getting through school successfully. Although many positions will allow you to have your summers off, you will generally need to pursue a master's degree, as well as state-issued credential, before you can pursue this career. Consider the pros and cons of becoming a school guidance counselor to determine if this career is a good fit for you.

PROS to Becoming a School Guidance Counselor
Higher than average salary potential (approximately $56,000 for all educational, school guidance and vocational counselors)*
Summers off at some schools*
Help students succeed in their personal and academic lives*
Some school counselors have private offices*

CONS to Becoming a School Guidance Counselor
Many positions require at least a master's degree*
State licensing is required to work*
Stressful to deal with troubled students*
Unhappy parents can cause disagreements and conflicts when meeting with counselors*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Essential Career Info

Job Description

Usually stationed in an office at a school, the school guidance counselor arranges one-on-one or group meetings with students. In some cases, parents might come in to discuss issues, with or without their child present. It is important to note that the type of school you work in might impact the approaches you use. For example, students in high school tend to have concerns regarding educational and vocational goals. Younger students in middle and elementary school might be reluctant to talk about troubling issues.

Normally, you'll evaluate a student's interests and grades and then recommend career and educational paths for them. If something is troubling the student emotionally, such as bullying or issues at home, you'll work on resolving the problem.

Salary Info

In May 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that vocational, school, educational and guidance counselors earned an average salary of about $56,000. The BLS reported that counselors who worked in elementary and secondary schools earned about $63,000 in the same year.

What Are the Requirements?

Education

A master's degree is generally the minimum education requirement to become a school guidance counselor. You can find master's degree programs in school counseling that train you to provide one-on-one and group counseling, as well as assist with academic development. Most master's degree programs require you to complete an internship or a practicum course as a graduation requirement.

State Certification

The BLS notes that in most states you will need to acquire a state-issued credential prior to working as a guidance counselor. Although requirements vary by state, they generally include a master's degree and professional experience. Some states also require an examination.

What Employers Are Looking for

Compassion is important for all school guidance counselors. Employers want someone who is sympathetic to students in order to avoid conflicts. Listening, speech and people skills are all other beneficial traits employers want to see in school guidance counselors. Below are some examples of jobs postings open during April 2012:

  • A school guidance counselor position in Florida calls for applicants willing to lead the boy's advisory group. Applicants need a master's degree, as well as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) or Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) credential and experience with lower or middle school children.
  • In Iowa, a school district is requesting a school guidance counselor with experience using interactive computer software. Ideal candidates should also have a background in scheduling and intra-personal development.
  • A Pennsylvania job opening for school guidance counselors wants someone capable of working closely with administration. Applicants with experience and credentials in related areas, such as school social work, guidance and psychology, are preferred.

Standing out as a School Guidance Counselor

You may consider earning professional certification, such as the National Certified Counselor (NCC) credential offered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). You will need a master's degree to pursue this credential, as well as supervision and counseling experience. You can also pursue the National Certified School Counselor specialty certification, which requires an additional examination.

Other Occupational Options

If you like the work a guidance counselor does to help people find careers, but you don't want to work in a school environment, you could consider becoming a human resource specialist. In this position, you would interview candidates and attempt to place them in a position with your employer. You'll review the candidate's qualifications and find the person best suited for the job you're looking to fill. Human resources specialists made roughly $59,000 on average, according to the BLS in 2011.

If you want to help people with mental health issues outside of schools, pursuing a mental health counselor career may be a good fit for you. You'll examine patients and speak with them to learn if the person has any emotional problems like depression or anxiety. You'll help people overcome these issues by teaching coping techniques and strategies to deal with this negative behavior. In May 2011, the BLS reported that mental health counselors had an average yearly salary of about $43,000.

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Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Master: Higher Education - Student Affairs
  • MS in Educational Psychology
  • Master: Higher Education - College Admin./Leadership

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Lewis University

  • MA in Organizational Leadership - Professional and Executive Coaching
  • MA in Organizational Leadership - Higher Education - Student Services

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Northcentral University

  • Ed.D. - Higher Education Leadership
  • M.Ed. - Higher Education Leadership
  • Education Specialist - Instructional Leadership

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Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor of Management - Private Sector Higher Education Leadership

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The George Washington University

  • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Educational Leadership and Administration

What is your highest level of education?

Saint Joseph's University

  • MS in Education - Special Education and Wilson Reading System Certification

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Concordia University Portland

  • Doctorate of Education - Educational Administration
  • Doctorate of Education - Transformational Leadership
  • Master of Education - Curriculum & Instruction: Leadership
  • M.S. - Educational Leadership

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Penn Foster High School

  • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
  • HS Diploma

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