Becoming a High School Counselor: Job Description & Salary Info

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Learn about a high school counselor's job description, salary and education requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of a counseling career.
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Pros and Cons of Being a High School Counselor

As a high school counselor, you would help students reach any educational goals they have while in high school, as well as help prepare them for future academic and professional goals. Learn more about the pros and cons of this position to determine if becoming a high school counselor is right for you.

High School Counselor Career Pros
Employment can be found in both public and private schools*
Most schools will employ you full-time, with many school counselors having summers off*
Opportunity to help students cope with emotional issues**
Help students plan their future*

High School Counselor Career Cons
You must be willing to obtain a master's degree and state-issued credential*
May require continuing education, such as teacher training workshops**
Position may require strict weekly deadlines**
Work with emotional and stressed teenagers*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **

Career Information

Duties and Job Description for High School Counselors

Since you will be working with students throughout their high school careers, they will look to you to provide guidance and advice on their academic choices, as well as with possible career options. You will be responsible for communicating with students and their parents on a regular basis regarding the students' progress.

When necessary, you will provide counseling as it relates to any behavioral or social issues, concerning classroom behavior and life outside of school. The school you work for may look to you to develop learning and training projects.

When abuse is involved, whether it's emotional, drug-related or physical, you will be trained on how to spot, report and counsel on such topics with students, parents and school officials. Your school may also require you to teach special classes on such topics. It is also possible you'll work within your community to promote a healthy relationship between students and parents.

Salary and Job Outlook for High School Counselors

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted an average increase in employment for school counselors in elementary and secondary schools at twelve percent between 2012 and 2022. The BLS reported in 2014 that the average salary for educational, guidance, vocational and school counselors was about $56,040.

Career Skills and Requirements

Education and Licensing

You will generally need a master's degree to work as a high school counselor, such as the Master of Science (M.S.) in Education with a concentration in counseling, M.S. in School Counseling or M.S. in Counseling. All states require some form of credential to work as a high school counselor, which may be a license, certification or an endorsement. Requirements vary by state, but can include a master's degree and supervised practicum or internship.

Useful Skills

To be successful as a high school counselor, there are certain skills and attributes you should have so you can do your job effectively. Many of these skills can be acquired and developed through your educational program and work experience. These important skills include the ability to:

  • Communicate effectively while listening to others and conveying your knowledge
  • Build and maintain relationships that involve students, colleagues and the community
  • Use reasoning to solve problems
  • Write, speak and research effectively
  • Display sensitivity, empathy and sympathy
  • Make sound, professional judgments

High School Counselor Job Posting from Real Employers

Most employers are looking for high school counselors with state certification. To give you an idea of what real employers seek in a high school counselor, here is a sampling of recent May 2012 job posts:

  • A school district in New York seeks a full-time school counselor who holds New York certification.
  • A school district in Pennsylvania wants a long-term substitute high school guidance counselor for the upcoming school year. Certification as a secondary school counselor is required.
  • A charter school in Massachusetts wants a high school guidance counselor with state licensure and a master's degree. Applicants with at least two years of professional experience are preferred.

Standing Out

You could consider joining a professional organization, such as the American School Counselor Association (ASCA). This association brings school counselors from across the country together for networking and the opportunity to share visions. You'll have access to journals, career enhancement in your field and the chance to network with colleagues.

Alternative Career Paths


If you like working with students but would like your efforts directed into the classroom, teaching is one avenue you can consider. You would create and follow lesson plans, plan class activities and oversee the overall progress and learning experience of a student. This profession generally requires only a bachelor's degree, along with state certification.

As of 2011, the BLS reported that the average salary for high school teachers at the high school level was approximately $57,000. The BLS predicted that employment growth for this field is expected to only increase by seven percent between 2010 and 2020. However, as teachers retire, positions could open up.

Career Counselor

The duties of a career counselor varies slightly in that you would work with students upon entering college specifically on their career paths. You would assess skills, abilities and interests to help suggest career paths, in addition to what education and training would be necessary to enter said career field. The BLS predicted that employment for career counselors would increase by 34% between 2010 and 2020 due to more students enrolling in college.

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