|Recommended Degree Level||Master's|
|Number of Jobs, 2012||237,480|
|Annual Job Growth Rate||3.7%|
|Job Openings per Year (est.)||11,370|
- Aspiring school and career counselors generally require master's degrees to appear competitive to employers.
- School counselors who work for private secondary schools may not be required to hold master's degrees, but they may need several years of experience as teachers or administrators.
- From a practical perspective, a Master's Degree in School Counseling is required for all school counselors.
- Career counselors must have a combination of internship experience, practical training and a graduate-level degree in career development or general counseling.
- Those who wish to earn positions as directors of counseling or career-advancement departments at major higher-education institutions generally need five to 10 years of on-the-job experience.
What you study:
Aspiring school and career counselors must study the following subjects:
- Education policy and pedagogy
- Career development
A quick look at what educational counselors do. Produced for the US Dept. of Labor.
A Day in the Life
As an aspiring counselor, you were able to choose from any number of available careers. For a long time, you couldn't decide whether you wanted to be a school counselor who focused on the advancement of the students in your care or a career counselor who helped older students and adults discover the paths that they wished to pursue in life.
Eventually, you were hired as a counselor at a nearby high school. Although most of your responsibilities concern the educational and emotional needs of the students there, you do occasionally provide career-related input for students who express little interest in attending college. In this regard, your job allows you to sample what both fields have to offer.
Today, you arrive at your high school by 7:30 a.m. and set up shop in your office. Since you rarely meet with students before classes begin, you're not required to be among the first wave of office staff members to arrive at work. However, you often meet with students and parents after classes end for the day. As such, you're expected to remain at work until at least 4 or 5 p.m.
At around 8:30 a.m., you meet with a student who has been experiencing troubles at home and in school. You adopt a relaxed attitude and spend 30 minutes discussing the student's concerns. Experience has taught you to ask open-ended questions and allow the student to reveal information indirectly through long-winded answers. If they say something that interests you, you ask a targeted follow-up question.
Over the course of the meeting, the student "opens up" and reveals a great deal of personal information. While you don't think that they are in danger of failing out of school or making any rash decisions that could affect their health or safety, you schedule a follow-up appointment for two weeks in the future. If the student still seems to be struggling, you'll refer them to a licensed psychologist with whom the school works from time to time.
The rest of your morning is devoted to meeting with college-track students who are getting ready to send out their applications. You evaluate each of their "personal statement" essays and offer critiques on how to strengthen them. You also review their standardized-test scores and grades to ensure that they're applying to institutions that are likely to accept them. Each meeting takes about 20 minutes.
As you're about to break for lunch, a cafeteria monitor brings a misbehaving student into your office. While serious disciplinary problems are rare at your high school, you're often tasked with picking up the slack for your institution's busy principal. Accordingly, you have stern discussions with wayward students several times per week.
In this particular case, the student in question was observed harassing a fellow student in the cafeteria. You adopt a stern posture and subject the child to a lengthy lecture about the roles and responsibilities of young adults. As the conversation progresses, it turns into a referendum on the student's progress in school. You end by informing him that college admissions officers and employers tend to look down on unruly individuals.
You eat lunch at your desk and prepare for a substance-abuse talk that you'll give to a group of sophomores this afternoon. Once you put the finishing touches on your speech, you head to the school's auditorium and greet the entire sophomore class. After making a few "icebreaker" jokes, you launch into a discussion about peer pressure and substance abuse in the student body.
Without being overly informal, you try to make the talk relevant by incorporating anecdotes from your own adolescence. Although you know that these students receive much of this information in health class, it's entirely appropriate to reinforce it. As you exit the auditorium, you receive polite applause from the students. You're confident that your speech changed more than a few attitudes.
After another round of consultations with college-bound students, you pack up your office and head home at around 4 p.m. Since you'll need to attend a career fair on the school's campus tomorrow evening, you appreciate today's relatively early exit.
Certifications and Licensing
Career counselors may not require a formal license from their state of residence. However, many universities and public-sector employers prefer to hire counselors who have passed a state licensing exam and accrued at least 3,000 hours of practical experience. As such, aspiring career counselors may have to work as interns for a year or more before becoming "full" career counselors. The National Board for Certified Counselors serves as the "gatekeeper" for state-specific licensing matters.
Virtually all school counselors must hold state-specific licenses. As part of the licensing process, aspiring workers may be required to submit to a criminal background check and meet certain education requirements. The American School Counselor Association provides state-specific exam preparation resources and other pertinent information about the licensing process.
Full-time versus part-time and work location:
The vast majority of school and career counselors work on a full-time basis at public or private primary and secondary schools. Many career counselors are employed at higher-education institutions like two-year and four-year colleges. Others may hold occupations at trade schools. A small minority are employed by mental health facilities or rehabilitation centers for convicted criminals who must find a job after their release. All of these positions require counselors to be on-site for at least 40 hours per week. While most school counselors work during regular business hours, many career counselors are expected to be available during the evenings.
The following websites contain helpful information and resources for aspiring educational, guidance, school and career counselors:
- National Board for Certified Counselors -- The National Board for Certified Counselors is a respected authority on licensing and certification standards for aspiring counselors. In addition to school counselors, the organization also provides license preparation, continuing education and professional development resources for mental health counselors. With separate sections for counseling students, current counselors and academics, the NBCC has career-related information for anyone in the counseling ecosystem.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics -- This government agency's career-related fact sheet contains pertinent information about salary expectations, education and licensing requirements, job duties, and long-term job growth and economic projections. Although it doesn't have a dedicated jobs board, it contains plenty of external links that prospective applicants may find useful.
- National Career Development Association -- The National Career Development Association is a major trade organization that serves current and aspiring career counselors. It offers educational, licensing and professional-development resources as well as state-specific information about continuing education programs. It also maintains a jobs board and a helpful primer on careers in this sub-field.
- American School Counselor Association -- This advocacy organization's site offers helpful information about public policy as well as ethical and career development issues that relate to school counselors. It also contains information about education, licensing requirements and jobs in the field. With a state-specific jobs board, this site can direct aspiring school counselors to prospective employers with ease.