How to Become a School Counselor

If you are interested in becoming an advocate for children and helping them make decisions, you might want to know how to become a school counselor. In order to be a good school counselor, you must enjoy working with kids. You will also need to be able to effectively handle stress. Some of the most important skills you will require are organization and an effective communicator. If you have all these qualities, you have the potential to enjoy a rewarding career as a successful school counselor.

Education/Training

First, you'll need to earn a minimum of an undergraduate degree in psychology, sociology or education. Many school districts will require a Masters or PhD, so it would benefit you to work toward earning these more advanced degree in something like educational or child psychology. Look for Masters Programs with accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and related Educational Programs (CACREP) or the National Board for Certified Counselors Inc.

You will also need to complete any required internships or supervised counseling as well as the state or federal certification exams. Also, in some states, you will need to earn your certified teacher designation and serve up to five years as a teacher in the classroom. Just make sure you know what the requirements are for the state where you want to become a counselor by doing some research. To increase your employment options, try to get as much experience with counseling as you can. Think about volunteering to help on phone hotlines, work with kids as a summer camp counselor, or do some peer counseling and mediation.

Employment Options

When applying to different school districts, research the various places where you would like to work. Also think about what age children you prefer. Many elementary schools have one counselor for the entire school while middle and secondary schools usually have several counselors, depending on the size of the school. That's because older students have more options about what classes they will take. As a result, you will have the greatest opportunity of finding employment by working with pre teens and teenagers.

Duties

Some of your duties as a school guidance counselor will include helping students who are having social, personal, and behavioral problems. You will advise students about class options and, if you are working with high school students, you will be discussing college options or trade schools as well as loan and scholarship funding possibilities. You might also help these youngsters with creating resumes, filling out job applications and getting any necessary references.

As a school counselor you will help resolve student-related issues in conjunction with parents, teachers, administrators, medical professionals, social workers and other school counselors. You will make recommendations about placing students in various educational programs - whether they are remedial or advanced. You'll also have input on creating successful learning programs and social environments for young people.

Job Outlook

Counselors hold just over 600,000 jobs, and most of these positions are in schools. According to The Bureau of Labor and Statistics, employment of school counselors is projected to grow through 2014 since student enrollments are expected to increase. School counselors generally earn around $45,000 per year, with the range being between $35,000 and $60,000 a year, depending on the area of the country where you live. Most counselors will follow a traditional teacher's schedule during the school year, but you can expect to spend most of your summer taking classes and doing graduate work to keep your certification current. You will also need to travel to attend conferences and do training. As far as advancement goes, counselors can move from smaller to bigger school districts and sometimes can become the main administrator of guidance programs either for a particular school or for an entire school district.