Elementary Guidance Counselor Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

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An elementary guidance counselor's mean annual salary is around $63,000. Is it worth the education and licensure requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about career prospects to find out if becoming an elementary guidance counselor is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Being an Elementary Guidance Counselor

Elementary school guidance counselors work with students in public and private schools, helping them to develop both academically and socially. Becoming an elementary counselor can be a solid career option, but you must consider the pros and cons before making a decision.

Pros of Being an Elementary Guidance Counselor
Above-average wages ($56,000 mean salary)*
Often personally rewarding**
Good working hours*
Long summer vacation, breaks throughout year*

Cons of Being an Elementary Guidance Counselor
Average job growth (twelve percent 2012-2022)*
Most states require a master's degree*
Must meet professional development requirements**
Must hold state credential*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **American School Counselor Association

Career Information

Job Description

Elementary school students work to lay the groundwork for future success in academics and in relationships. School guidance counselors work with them, their families and teachers to identify and solve problems that interfere with the learning process. They collaborate with teachers and administrators to make sure the curriculum meets the children's developmental as well as academic needs. Guidance counselors may conduct individual and small group counseling sessions and intervene in crisis situations. In some cases, they may refer students to resources outside of the school system.

Elementary guidance counselors generally have private offices in which to conduct their business. They usually work full-time, although some schools, according to job postings, employ counselors on a part-time basis. Counselors usually follow the school calendar and may enjoy long summer breaks and holidays throughout the year.

Career Prospects and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that employment of educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors would grow by twelve percent from 2012-2022, which is about average for all occupations. The BLS reported that increases in school enrollment would spur job growth. The mean annual salary for an elementary and secondary school counselors was about $56,000 in May 2014.

Education and Licensing Requirements

Education

Most states require a master's degree in school counseling from an accredited college or university. The program will probably include courses in individual and group counseling, testing and research and program evaluation. You may be required to complete an internship in order to get hands-on experience in a school counseling office. While your bachelor's degree could be in any field, a few states require that you have some years teaching experience before gaining certification as a counselor, so elementary education would be a logical choice.

Licensing

All states require that school counselors hold a credential, endorsement or license, depending on specific state requirements. This credential can most often be obtained by meeting education and training requirements and passing examinations. Most states require criminal background checks. You will have to complete state-approved professional development or continuing education courses in order to renew your counseling credential.

Useful Skills

Above all else, elementary guidance counselors need to be compassionate and have good listening skills. They must be able to express ideas in an understandable manner to students and their parents. School counselors must know how to work with all types of people.

What Employers Want

Job postings for elementary school counselors show that a job description often is tailored to fit the type of school. Hours and duties vary depending on the school's needs. However, all schools require candidates who hold a postsecondary degree and have the ability to communicate well with children and teachers. Here's a sampling of what real employers were seeking in job postings from April 2012:

  • A public school in Wyoming needed a full-time counselor. Someone with either a bachelor's or master's degree was acceptable, but the salary was higher for a person with the higher degree. The ability to speak Spanish was a plus.
  • A private school in Massachusetts was looking for a part-time counselor. The posting asked for someone with a master's degree in school counseling and an undergraduate degree in social work, education, psychology or the liberal arts.
  • A school in New York needed a bilingual (English and Spanish) counselor. Participation in summer and weekend events would be required. The applicant must be able to lead workshops for parents and collaborate with staff on achieving academic excellence.

How to Stand Out in the Field

Join Professional Organizations

By joining an organization for school counselors, you can avail yourself of professional development activities such as seminars, courses and conferences. These associations keep members updated on changes in the industry. The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) is a national group for counselors. Most states have school counselors' associations, also.

Get Certified

Earning professional credentials can offer concrete evidence of your skills to the public and potential employers. The National Board for Certified Counselors and Affiliates Inc. (NBCCA) and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) offer professional certifications to school counselors who meet education and experience requirements. Applicants for the NBCCA's National Certified School Counselor (NCSC) credential must also pass an exam. Counselors seeking the certification in School Counseling/Early Childhood through Young Adulthood from the NBPTS must demonstrate knowledge and present portfolios in a 2- or 3-year assessment process. Many states will pay all of some of the fees for NBPTS certification, and at least one state will contribute towards earning NCSC credentials.

Other Career Options

Clinical Social Worker

Becoming a clinical social worker is an option if you like counseling, but don't want to be restricted to elementary students. Clinical social workers help people of all ages deal with mental illness as well as behavioral and emotional problems. Many clinical social workers work in private practice, either solo or with a group of medical professionals. Like a school counselor, you'll need a master's degree and a license from the state. The BLS predicted that employment of all types of social workers would grow by 25% from 2010-2020. The median salary for all types of social workers was nearly $54,000 in May 2011, according to the BLS.

Elementary School Teacher

If you don't want to earn the master's degree required of a counselor, perhaps being an elementary school teacher would be a good fit. You'll work with children in the classroom, helping them learn the basic language, math and science skills they'll use throughout their lives. You will need a bachelor's degree and a state license. The BLS forecasted that employment of elementary teachers would grow by 17% from 2010-2020, but job opportunities should be greatest in the South and West. The median annual salary for kindergarten and elementary teachers was nearly $53,000 in May 2011.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Regent University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Ph.D. in Counseling & Psychological Studies
      • Ph.D. in Counseling & Psychological Studies - Grief Counseling
      • Ph.D. in Counseling & Psychological Studies - Human Services Counseling
      • Ph.D. in Counseling & Psychological Studies - Human Services/Student Affairs
      • Ph.D. in Counseling & Psychological Studies - International
      • Ph.D. in Counseling & Psychological Studies - Research Concentration
    Master's
      • M.A. in School Counseling
      • M.S. in General Psychology
      • Master of Arts in Human Services Counseling
      • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership - Coaching and Mentoring
      • M.A. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
      • M.A. in Marriage, Couple & Family Counseling
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Psychology
      • Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies - Psychology
      • Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies - Leadership Studies
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Liberty University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • PHD: Counselor Education and Supervision
      • EDD: Educational Leadership
    Master's
      • MED: School Counseling: Teacher Licensure
      • MA: Human Services Counseling: Life Coaching
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Colorado Christian University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Curriculum and Instruction, M.A. - Emphasis in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse
      • Counseling, M.A.
      • Counseling, M.A. Online
      • Educational Leadership, M.Ed. without Licensure
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Philosophy in Counselor Education and Supervision
      • Ph.D. in General Psychology - Integrating Technology, Learning, and Psychology
      • Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership - Higher Education Leadership
      • Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership in - K-12 Leadership
      • EdS in K-12 Leadership
    Master's
      • M.Ed. in School Counseling (ITL)
      • M.S. in Psychology with an Emphasis in Life Coaching
      • M.Ed. in Educational Administration
      • M.Ed. in Educational Leadership
      • MA in Curriculum and Instruction
    Bachelor's
      • B.S. in Educational Studies (Does Not Lead to Teacher Licensure)
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Ed.D. - Higher Education Leadership
      • PhD in Education - Educational Leadership
      • PhD in Psychology - General Psychology
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Purdue University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Educational Psychology
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Trident University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Educational Leadership (Ed. D.)
      • Educational Leadership (Ph.D.)
    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Education
  • Online Programs Available
    8. New England College

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BA in Psychology/Marriage Therapy and Family Counseling
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Ed.S. Educational Specialist
    Master's
      • M.A. Counseling
      • Master of Education
      • Master of Business Administration - School Administration
    Certificate
      • Graduate Teaching Certificate
      • Graduate Teaching Certificate - School Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Penn Foster High School

    Program Options

    High School Diploma
      • HS Diploma

Featured Schools

Regent University

  • Ph.D. in Counseling & Psychological Studies
  • M.A. in School Counseling
  • Bachelor of Science in Psychology

What is your highest level of education completed?

Liberty University

  • PHD: Counselor Education and Supervision
  • EDD: Educational Leadership
  • MED: School Counseling: Teacher Licensure
  • MA: Human Services Counseling: Life Coaching

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado Christian University

  • Curriculum and Instruction, M.A. - Emphasis in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse
  • Counseling, M.A.
  • Counseling, M.A. Online

What is your highest level of education completed?

Grand Canyon University

  • Doctor of Philosophy in Counselor Education and Supervision
  • M.Ed. in School Counseling (ITL)
  • B.S. in Educational Studies (Does Not Lead to Teacher Licensure)

What is your highest level of education?

Northcentral University

  • Ed.D. - Higher Education Leadership
  • PhD in Education - Educational Leadership
  • PhD in Psychology - General Psychology

What is your highest level of education?

Purdue University Global

  • MS in Educational Psychology

Which subject are you interested in?

Trident University

  • Educational Leadership (Ed. D.)
  • Educational Leadership (Ph.D.)
  • Master of Arts in Education

What is your highest level of education completed?

New England College

  • BA in Psychology/Marriage Therapy and Family Counseling

What is your highest level of education completed?