Spotlights

Job Description

School counselors foster academic, social, and life skills in students, which translate to academic and vocational success. They are also responsible for maintaining a student’s records in accordance with academic policies and regulations.

Rewarding Aspects of Career
  • Helping students realize their professional and personal goal
  • Playing an important part in the positive development of a young person
2016 Employment
291,700
2026 Projected Employment
328,400
The Inside Scoop
Job Responsibilities

Typical seasonal calendar

  • January: start preparing for the incoming school year, reviewing transcripts, identifying and addressing the needs of students who are deficient in credits, tracking student course requests to produce a master schedule offering the most requested classes for the next year
  • August: opening the school, meeting students and parents, making sure course requests match students’ academic aptitudes and graduation/college requirements

On a typical day:

  • Meetings with students/parents/teachers  to advocate for the needs of the student
  • School counselors may also need to sit in administrative meetings and develop policies that promote equality and inclusion, supporting students’ ability to access rigorous curriculum

Additional Responsibilities:

  • Regularly attend professional development training to be updated on current state and national standards
  • College entrance is a huge responsibility- students who want to enter a four-year college begin planning as early as 9th grade
  • Addressing every students’ individual goals; not every student wants to go to a 4-year college, some just want to work.
Skills Needed on the Job

Soft Skills

  • Written and oral communication
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Social perceptiveness/empathy
  • Creative problem-solving
  • Critical thinking

Technical Skills

  • Microsoft Outlook, Access, Excel, PowerPoint
  • Prezi
Different Types of Organizations
  • Private schools, public schools, charter schools
  • Private schools offer lower salary and job security in general
  • Charter schools offer more flexibility in terms of salary, but job security is weak
  • Department of Education/Board of Education
  • Non-profit organizations
Expectations and Sacrifices

Late hours in the beginning as a school counselor learns to balance and organize demands made by the many parties they mediate.

Current Trends

While the role of a school counselor has always been focused on college access, they are now expected to help students develop career readiness.

More school counselors encouraging students to pursue college majors that are going to give them a return on investment once they graduate. To this end, they are increasingly expected to pay attention to the news and monitor trends in the economy and job market.

  • Sample sources of news: news reports, NPR, economic outlook journals

What kinds of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were younger…
  • Many had a significant experience with a counselor during their schooling years (whether positive or negative) that they seek to address through their career choice.
  • Volunteer work related to a passion for social and economic equality and justice.
Education and Training Needed
  • School Counselors generally need a master’s in School Counseling
  • Some states allow workers to enter the field with only a bachelor’s in a field like counseling or psychology
  • Employers may prefer to hire counselors who focused on career development and have a year or two of related work background
  • Public school counselors require a state-issued certification or license
  • Additional endorsements or authorizations may be required for district assignment
    • The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) and National Board for Certified Counselors offer details for individual state requirements
  • ASCA notes that “counselors are licensed and credentialed by the state where they are employed. Typically, licensure requires documented school counseling education and coursework from an accredited college/university, completion of practicum and internship in a K-12 school, as well as passage of a state or national comprehensive test (e.g., Praxis)”
  • Public schools may require courses in:
    • Human growth and development
    • Theories
    • Individual counseling
    • Group counseling
    • Social and cultural foundations
    • Testing/appraisal
    • Research and program evaluation
    • Professional orientation
    • Career development
    • Supervised practicum
    • Supervised internship
  • Familiarity with Spanish or other languages can be helpful
  • Experience working with diverse populations is also beneficial
  • School Counselors use a variety of software programs related to accessing, sharing, and securing student information. They also need to be familiar with general office and presentation programs
Things to look for in an University
  • Master’s program should focus on teaching counselors how to interpret and use data, since school counseling programs are increasingly data and leadership-driven.
  • If student data states that English learners receive more Ds and Fs than any other subgroups on campus… your counseling program should address this specific need.
  • Universities should also offer internship/partner opportunities.
  • Consider if the Master’s program you enroll in teaches the official ASCA model of school counseling. This model is preferable because it is very leadership focused and encourages counselors to question policies and make sure they support equality and access for students, rather than passively accepting them.
Things to do in High School and College
  • Sign up for classes in psychology, sociology, English, speech, writing, and foreign languages
  • Talk with your school’s counselor to ask for advice and mentorship
  • Volunteer to serve as a teacher’s aide
  • Tutor students who are younger or who may need extra support
  • Participate in school activities that allow you to hone your teamwork and communication skills
  • Read up about the ASCA model of counseling
  • Look for internship opportunities in your area to gain experience
    • Note, you may need an “internship credential with a School Counselor authorization” or letter from your school
  • Educate yourself about diverse student populations to understand their perspectives and struggles
  • Start drafting your resume early so you can keep track of your work and educational experiences and achievements
  • Read through sites and magazines that are dedicated to your profession, such as ASCA School Counselor Magazine
Typical Roadmap
School Counselor Typical Roadmap
How to Land your 1st job
  • Review ASCA’s Standards for School Counselor Preparation Programs, Educator Ethical Standards, and State Requirements & Programs
  • Construct a portfolio showcasing the highlights of your school counseling achievements in terms of data.
    • E.g. If you were an intern at a school and ran an attendance group, demonstrate that your group increased attendance by a certain percentage.
  • Keep up to date on terminology and what’s current in the field.
  • At some point, you will have to answer the question “Why do you want to be a school counselor?” Be specific with your answer. Explain how you intend to encourage leadership in students/support data-driven programs/promote equality and inclusion in schools.
  • Have a firm understanding of diversity studies (through reading or college courses).
  • Look for job postings on edjoin.org.
  • Network with professors who may give you letters of recommendation or leads on available positions.
  • If you have a good internship, make a good impression and network through them for job positions.
How to Climb the Ladder
  • Subscribe to trade publications and stay current on worldwide, local trends that influence education and student welfare
  • Increase visibility of yourself and the profession by positioning yourself on various school sites and district committees such as School Leadership Teams, School Site Council
  • Take advantage of opportunities to volunteer with organizations that support educational and professional school counseling
  • Become a member and attend annual conferences with the following organizations
    • American School Counselor Association (ASCA)
    • National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC)
    • Western Association for College Admission Counseling (WACAC)
  • Continuous reading and re-education
  • Keeping up with self care: don’t exhaust yourself so you can sustain the energy required to motivate students
  • Developing creative and inventive ways to engage students
  • Gaining experience in program development and planning (e.g. hosting a large student event centered on college access or career readiness)
  • Knowing how to engage adults you work with (e.g. the principal), and serve as an advocate and mediator for many parties (teachers, the school board, students, yourself)
  • Social skills and organization are key
Recommended Tools/Resources

Websites

  • American Counseling Association
  • American School Counselor Association
  • National Career Development Association
  • National Board for Certified Counselors

Books

  • Career and College Readiness Counseling in P-12 Schools, by ASCA
  • Counseling 21st-Century Students for Optimal Career and College Readiness, by ASCA
  • Culturally Sustaining School Counseling, by ASCA
  • The ASCA National Model Implementation Guide, by ASCA
Plan B
  • Advise education policymakers at the state or federal level.
  • Work at a university (although this requires a PhD).
  • Become principal of a school.
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