How To Become A Guidance Counselor
Students have a lot of important decisions to make in school. As a guidance counselor, you will help students reach their educational goals. This position involves working in schools as part of a greater education team. You will listen to students and help them make long-term decisions for their educational success. If you love working with students, you may enjoy a rewarding career as a guidance counselor.
Why Become A Guidance Counselor
Guidance counselors are an integral part of education systems. They are most often employed in high schools, both public and private. In this setting, they help students with the planning of their high school education. Guidance counselors meet with their students on a regular basis to discuss what a student’s grades are; what long-term plans they have for themselves; enrolls them in classes in school that will help them achieve those plans; enrolls them in appropriate testing; helps with the college application process; and more. A guidance counselor is also available to help students with issues related to their daily school life, home life, issues surrounding friends or bullying, or other problems.
A guidance counselor will listen to many different issues that students bring up in their office. It is important that a guidance counselor, like any counselor, be able to listen to their students with compassion and empathy. They must be able to understand students and be nonjudgmental about the problems that are brought up. A counselor needs to help students towards their goals and think of creative ways of achieving what a student wants.
This is a great job for people who enjoy helping others, who like working with adolescents, who want to help students achieve their goals, and who are compassionate, kind, and good at listening to the problems that others have and offering a kind ear and good advice.
Guidance Counselors should possess the following qualities and skills:
- Good Listener
- Great at Giving Advice
- Good Communicator
- Problem Solver
- Long-term Planner
Guidance Counselor Work Environment
Guidance counselors work at schools, primarily high schools. These may be private or public schools. Guidance counselors have private offices where students come to see them during the regular school day. Hours for a guidance counselor are the same schedule as the local school district. A guidance counselor does not usually meet with students when school is out of session, such as during weekends and during the school vacations. There may still be work that needs to be accomplished, such as meetings, professional development and preparing for the needs of their students.
Guidance Counselor Salary
The median salary for guidance counselors was $61,260 in 2015, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Because guidance counselors are employed by schools, their salary is determined by the school district in which they work. Guidance counselors who work at private schools may get paid a higher salary than those who work for public school districts.
Guidance Counselor Career Outlook
Positions for school counselors are expected to grow by eight percent from 2014 to 2024, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is about average compared to all other occupations in the country.
Because this career is employed by the education field, future employment is determined by availability in school districts. The amount of hiring a school district does is decided largely by school funding. Many schools have had access to funds decreased in recent years. This has resulted in schools not hiring, or even deciding to lay off staff members, including guidance counselors.
Guidance Counselor Degree
If you want to be a guidance counselor, it is going to require quite a bit of schooling. Guidance counselors typically have several years of college education and licensing before they officially take on their first job.
Step 1: Undergraduate education. Enroll in a four-year college and complete your bachelor’s degree. This will give you a strong foundation in the field you want to study. You may want to pursue an undergraduate degree in counseling, mental health, psychology, social work, or many other similar programs.
Step 2: Master’s degree. Next, you will need to receive a master’s degree. Enroll in a university with a well-reputed program in guidance and school counseling. You can search for these kinds of programs online. You will learn many useful things in a master’s program, such as how to effectively listen to students, different types of issues you will encounter, administrative problems, and more.
Step 3: Internship. During your master’s program, it is important to do an internship. This may be required as part of your program. As an intern, you will work alongside another guidance counselor. This is a great way to see if counseling is the right field for you. It is also a good way to make connections in the field, and possibly find a future position.
Step 4: Certification. Each state has their own rules about how to become certified to be a guidance counselor. Check with your local state and your master’s program to know the certification laws. Usually certification requires a master’s degree, an internship, and a couple years of experience in order to be licensed.