How To Become A School Counselor

School counselors are a specific type of counseling profession. They work directly with students in academic settings, helping students with their educational goals. School counselors can be found in elementary and high schools, as well as colleges and universities.

In order to become a school counselor, you must have a master’s degree in school counseling and have a license in the state that you are working in.

Why Become A School Counselor

Becoming a school counselor is a highly rewarding profession. It is also one in which a school counselor is expected to wear many hats. For example, children who are in elementary, middle and high school may be dealing with a lot of personal difficulties: trouble making friends, bullying, feeling peer pressure, puberty, exploring romantic relationships, trouble with family and home life, all of which makes it difficult to concentrate at school and receive a good education. School counselors help students with solving these kinds of issues.

As a school counselor, you will help students on their academic goals. You will meet with students who have many different kinds of aspirations for themselves. You will help students decide which classes to take, and help them enroll in various testing, and explain the results of their testing to them. College counseling is something that students become interested in later on in high school.

In this capacity, school counselors teach students about the many career opportunities and degree programs available. They give them information about universities, financial aid, scholarships, and more. They help students with the college application process. School counselors fulfill many roles to ensure that their students have a successful education.

School Counselors should possess the following qualities and skills:

School Counselor Work Environment

School counselors work in a variety of educational settings, such as public and private schools, elementary and high schools, college and universities, technical schools, and other types of educational environments. Counselors have their own offices, and their day typically involves working from a computer, emailing people, and administrative tasks such as paperwork.

Students may come to them throughout the day with emergencies, which a counselor needs to have the flexibility to handle. School counselors also schedule meetings with students to discuss their progress in school, any issues they may be having, and goals they want to achieve.

School Counselor Salary

The median annual salary for school counselors was $55,410 in 2017, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. There are many factors to take into consideration when thinking about salary. Those who worked at a public or private elementary or high school tended to earn more money: $63,000 annually in 2017. At the other end of the spectrum, those who worked as school counselors for colleges and universities reported earning $49,000 in 2017.

Salaries can vary widely between each school district. Each district has a different budget than the next, and administrators set salaries according to these budgets. Wealthier school districts will be able to provide higher salaries.

Average School Counselor Annual Salary


The average annual salary for school counselors is $58,620 a year. Salaries start at $32,660 a year and go up to $91,960 a year.

Average School Counselor Hourly Wage


The average hourly wage for a school counselor is $28.18. Hourly wages are between $15.70 and $44.21 an hour.

Stats were based out of 271,350 employed school counselors in the United States.

Highest Paying States For School Counselors

Top Paying Cities For School Counselors

Data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

School Counselor Career Outlook

Employment for school counselors is expected to grow by 13 percent from 2016 to 2026, which is much faster than other occupations in the United States. This will account for approximately 37,000 new jobs in this field within this 10 year time span.

School counselors will be needed to cater to the large student enrollments in elementary and high schools. In particular, school counselors are being asked to specialize in college counseling. Counselors will need to help students navigate the necessary steps of the college process, such as choosing which classes to take in high school, academic testing, choosing colleges to apply to, helping fill out financial aid forms, and other tasks as necessary.

School Counselor Degree

In order to become a school counselor, you will be required to receive a Master’s degree in school counseling. An online masters in school counseling is also acceptable. In this program, you will have lecture and classroom work. You will also be able to work in the field, interning in a local school under the leadership of local school counselors.

In this program, you will learn how to conduct individual and group counseling, with an emphasis on child and adolescent needs, especially school counseling; you will learn how to support students academically; you will learn how to use school resources and data to implement school counseling programs for students.

It typically takes about two years to complete a master’s degree in school counseling.

School Counselor Coursework

The following is a small sample of the types of classes that school counselors are expected to take during their program.

Ethics and Legal Issues in Counseling: In this class, students will learn about some of the most important ethical issues to take into consideration when entering into the profession of counseling, such as HIPAA laws, confidentiality, keeping a professional distance, respecting the difference of others opinions, and more.

Child and Adolescent Counseling: Every stage of our human development is different, and people at various ages respond to counseling differently. Those working as school counselors will be working with children and adolescents most often, and it is important to understand the issues that affect this population, the human development processes of this age group, and how to talk in ways that will help this population to best cope with their issues.

Academic and Career Counseling: One of the responsibilities of school counselors is to help students with their academic goals. This course will teach prospective counselors about how to arrange testing for students and assess testing data; help students choose classes in school; listen to students and develop an individualized learning program for them; and help them towards their particular career choices.

School Counselor Career Path

Career Overview Responsibilities Education Required Benefits
School Psychologist A school psychologist works with students who need more intensive treatment than a school counselor can provide. A school psychologist listens to students and understands their physical, mental, and social issues. They are able to diagnose problems a student has, and develop a treatment plan, in conjunction with the rest of the faculty and staff at a school. Master’s degree required, plus a license to practice in the state where you work. This is a good job for somebody who enjoys working with students, diagnosing, and finding treatment plans.
Director of Curriculum Many school counselors advance into larger director roles, where they are responsible for overseeing the counselors amongst the entire school district. Directors develop the curriculum that counselors will use for themselves. They plan meetings and help counselors stay on track to make sure all students are being counseled appropriately. Master’s degree required plus several years of experience. This is a good job for somebody who enjoys administration and management.

Related School Counselor Careers

If you are interested in becoming a school counselor, there are some other professions that may interest you as well. Below we have outlined some similar careers.

Licensed Mental Health Counselor: A mental health counselor meets with patients who are dealing with mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, trauma, grief, and other issues.

Marriage and Family Counselors: At some point, couples will fight or have obstacles within their marriage. Marriage counselors help couples work through the struggles they are having.

High school teacher: If you enjoy working with adolescents, perhaps you would also enjoy becoming a high school teacher. Teachers work in the classroom, specializing in a subject such as math, science, history and more.

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