School counselors work in primary and secondary education to make sure that students stay well-adjusted, healthy, and safe. Elementary school counselors work with parents, teachers, administrators, and students to evaluate students' strengths and special needs, and may assist teachers and administrators in generating appropriate school curricula. High school counselors have similar duties, but may also provide students with counseling about personal, social, and academic problems ranging from bullying to teen pregnancy and drug addiction. Additionally, school counselors help direct students towards meaningful career and educational goals.
Career Training and College Degrees for School Counselors
As is the case with many in counseling careers, school counselors are often required to earn state licensure. Career requirements vary by state and employer. You should check with state and local agencies as well as individual employers and volunteer organizations to learn the specifics of school counselor career requirements in your area. In general, most primary and secondary school counselors need to hold a state-administered school counseling certification and complete graduate coursework, usually a master's degree.
In addition, many school counselors may be required to have teaching experience or a teaching certificate.
Coursework for School Counselors
If you're interested in pursuing career training in school counseling, your coursework will likely include lessons in social and cultural diversity, career development, human growth and development, human relationships, child psychology, pedagogy, and adolescent development. In addition to your classroom studies, you may have the chance to practice your counseling skills in hands-on supervised situations. School counseling coursework is usually offered through college degree programs in psychology, education, social sciences, or an interdisciplinary degree program. After garnering field experience in school counseling, some school counselors obtain additional career training in order to advance to higher-paying positions as school administrators or counseling educators.
Career Outlook for School Counselors
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of school counselors should grow 13 percent through 2016, or about as fast as the average for all occupations. The BLS cites greater enrollment in postsecondary schools, colleges, and universities as a contributing factor to growth in school counseling careers. Opportunities in school counseling careers should be most plentiful outside of the suburbs, since recruiting qualified school counseling professionals is more difficult in urban and rural environments.
Earnings potential for careers in school counseling can vary greatly. According to BLS data, the lowest 10 percent of school counselors earned less than $28,430 in 2007, while the highest 10 percent earned more than $79,150. Median annual earnings for school counselors were $49,450.