How to Become a School Counselor

Many people wonder what a school counselor does each day. School counselors no longer only provide guidance to young people preparing for college or assist with schedule changes. The modern school counselor is a critical member of the broader education team, helping students in all aspects of academic achievement, social and emotional development, and ensuring each student becomes a well-adjusted and productive adult. (

Do you think you have the passion and interest to become a school counselor? Keep reading to learn what school counselors do, where they work, licensure requirements, and more.

What Is School Counseling?

School counselors are holders of master’s degrees or higher who help to remove barriers to academic success; support social, economic, and educational development; and assist students with career and college readiness. (

School counselors use critical tools to help with student academic and behavioral success, including small group counseling, individual counseling, and core curriculum lessons.

School counseling has been recognized in recent years to have a substantial, positive impact on students’ lives. A growing body of academic studies indicates how school counselors affect students for the better in these areas: (

  • Academic development: Research suggests comprehensive school counseling programs boost student learning and behavior outcomes. Also, students with more access to school counselors are more likely to have academic success.
  • College and career readiness: College counseling offered by school counselors is vital. High school students who see a school counselor for university information are more likely to apply.
  • Social-emotional development: The existence of comprehensive school counseling programs is connected to many positive student outcomes, including better class attendance and a better sense of connection to education.
  • Multiple impacts: A presence of school counselors in elementary school reduces behavior problems and improves boys’ academic success. Also, expanding school counseling services improves student learning, mental health, and behavior.
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What Do School Counselors Do?

Common duties of school counselors include: (

  • Evaluate the abilities and interests of students with aptitude assessments, individual planning, and interviews.
  • Identify problems that affect academic performance, such as poor school attendance rates.
  • Help students understand and overcome behavioral and social problems with guidance and counseling.
  • Counsel students based on student and school needs.
  • Help students to devise a plan to achieve their academic and career goals.
  • Work with teachers, administrators, and parents to help students to reach their goals.
  • Maintain academic and personal records for each student.
  • Report potential cases of abuse or neglect to social service agencies.

The role of the school counselor varies with student ages:

  • Elementary school: Help students develop essential life skills, such as those needed for studying and making good decisions. Counselors frequently meet with parents and guardians to talk about the child’s strengths and weaknesses, and any behavioral problems or special needs.
  • Middle school: Collaborate with school staff, parents, and the community to build a supportive, caring environment for students to achieve success. Counselors help students nurture the skills needed to be academically and socially successful.
  • High school: Advise students as they make their career and academic plans. Help students to handle personal problems that affect their academic success. Counselors help students to select their classes and plan for their lives and careers after they graduate.

Where Do School Counselors Work?

Most school counselors are employed by public school districts in elementary, middle, or high schools. Others may be employed by private schools. Some school counselors are employed as private consultants, going from school to school as they offer customized services to each educational facility.

What Is the Job Outlook for School Counselors?

Employment for school counselors will increase by 8% by 2028, which is faster than average when compared to all occupations. (

SEE ALSO: How Much Do School Counselors Make?

Increasing school enrollments in elementary, middle, and high schools will boost the need for school counselors. As student enrollments rise, many schools will require more school counselors to ensure the academic and personal success of all students. Schools and universities will need to hire more counselors to meet this demand.

Job demand for school counselors could be higher in specific high-growth school districts in major cities, such as Houston, Los Angeles, and Denver, among many others.

How Can You Become a School Counselor?

Most school counselors have a master’s degree in school counseling or educational counseling. A degree program in school counseling teaches the vital skills of the occupation: how to enhance academic development, conduct individual and group counseling, and work with parents and staff to achieve ideal student outcomes.

EXPERT VOICE:  You need to get a masters degree in either school counseling or counseling plus a school counseling endorsement (sort of like a double major). You will also need to have a 600 hour unpaid internship. Finding a job is tricky. In most states, elementary counselors aren’t mandated and ratios of 1:800+ is more common than not in states like Michigan. I was the only counselor for 1,500 students…whereas the district had 48 teachers for that many kids. Putting it simply…school counseling gigs are a lot harder to come by than teaching ones. You will need to volunteer and work with at-risk populations to develop a comprehensive experience/skill-set. Districts want school counselors that can hit the ground running with minimal support/direction from them.Heather ThomasMA in Counseling Counseling, Spring Arbor University (2006)

Public school counselors also need a state-issued credential to practice. The credential might be a certification, license, or endorsement, depending on the state. ( Some states mandate that school counselors have one or two years of teaching experience or hold a teacher’s license.

When you have decided you want to become a school counselor, the first thing to do is to find a master’s program in school counseling. Today you can earn your degree online so you can earn a degree from home. You also do not need to attend a university in your area, so you can choose from dozens of distance master’s programs in the United States.

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What Do Exams and Licensing Involve?

States have different requirements for examination and licensure to practice as a school counselor. Be sure to check the requirements of your state of residence before committing to a master’s program.

For example, Colorado requires a school counselor to take the Praxis Examination Core Academic Skills for Educators, known as Praxis 5421. Counselors also must hold a certification known as 0-21. But in Connecticut, no examination is required; however, you must have a K-12 certification. (

Now that you know more about becoming a school counselor, where you may work, and the education you need, you can decide if this career is for you. You can ask any questions you like by contacting us. And please take the time to review the online master’s programs in school counseling featured on this website.b