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How To Become a School Counselor?

how to become a school counselor

Do you have a passion for helping other people and helping them resolve personal issues?

If so, working as a school counselor could be a good fit for you. This role is also known as a guidance counselor and involves working closely with students, their parents, and teachers.

However, it can be stressful, and not everyone can dedicate their lives to helping others. It also takes a few years to gain the necessary education, skills, and certification to do this job.

So, let’s take an in-depth look at how to become a school counselor and find out more about what this job involves.

how to become a school counselor

What Does A School Counselor Do?

This role involves meeting with students and helping them establish their career goals. This includes evaluating the interests and needs of each student and helping them create a workable plan. This includes helping students develop certain skills and monitoring their development.

It may be necessary to work closely with some students to identify issues that are holding them back. This can include providing counseling to help students unlock their full potential and make well-informed decisions. Other elements of this role can include writing college referrals and advising students on how to prepare for exams.

Essential Skills and Attributes

While your education and training will teach you specialized knowledge for counseling, you also need to have certain soft skills. These skills will help you to relate to students, parents, and their teachers and work more effectively. Here are the main skills and attributes that a successful school counselor should possess.

Read more: How To Become a Counselor?

Analytical skills

It is important to be able to read between the lines when students are talking to you. This job often involves reading and interpreting data from achievement reports and aptitude tests. Being able to make sense of numbers and complex data will help you in your career.


Students will often confide in you about traumatic situations in their lives. You need to have a genuine concern for the students you work with and the desire to help them. Acting with compassion and empathy will help students trust you and open up about their problems.

Collaboration skills

When students are experiencing complex issues, you need to work out the best way to help them. This involves consulting with their parents and teachers and working closely with them. It is essential to put the needs of the students first while creating a cohesive and collaborative plan.


It is important to listen carefully to students without forming quick judgments. This helps create a safe space where students can share their thoughts and problems. Sometimes, students just need someone to talk to, and this can help them find solutions for themselves.

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You will often be called upon to talk about sensitive issues with groups of students. You may also be asked to make presentations to groups of parents and teachers. It is necessary to be comfortable speaking in public and be able to speak clearly and with authority.

Direct services

It is recommended by the American School Counselor Association that school counselors dedicate the majority of their time to direct services. This includes helping students identify and plan for their future goals and providing individual and group counseling.

Indirect services

These services involve working on behalf of students in different ways. This includes writing college references, arranging access to educational resources, and setting up meetings with behavioral specialists.

Types Of School Counselors

While helping students work out their plans after high school is a major role, school counselors do much more than this. This profession also focuses on helping students fulfill their personal and family lives. Let’s take a look at the main types of school counselors and how the role tends to differ between them.

Elementary School Counselors

During their time at elementary school, children develop emotionally, mentally, and intellectually. This is often the time when behavioral issues and learning difficulties are first noticed by parents and teachers. One of the most important roles of elementary school counselors is helping students overcome these challenges.

This can involve working with students to overcome shyness, family issues, and social skill challenges. Students who have learning disabilities are likely to need extra help in some areas. This can include arranging access to resources like tutoring, a speech therapist, or social services.

Secondary School Counselors

Even the most well-adjusted high school student can find this time challenging and overwhelming. In addition to the pressure of establishing and asserting their identities, some students face a range of other pressures. This pressure can present itself in eating, behavioral, and social disorders that require special understanding and treatment.

Secondary school counselors work on helping students minimize this pressure and overcome challenges. They provide counseling to both individuals and groups of students. This role aims to ultimately help students become more productive, responsible, and fulfilled in all aspects of their lives.

School Counselor Coordinators and Directors

These are advanced roles for people who already have experience and hold advanced qualifications. These roles involve creating, leading, and overseeing school counseling programs at district and state levels. They work closely with counselors and educators and take feedback from students and parents into account.

How To Become A School Counselor?

Like with most careers, it is best to start planning your career path as early as possible. If you are still in high school, focus on getting strong grades in social science, English, science, and other subjects. Here is an overview of the steps you can take once you graduate from high school.

Complete a bachelor’s degree

It is best to earn a degree in counseling, psychology, education, or a related field. These courses provide the foundation knowledge that will help you to launch your career. While counseling may seem like the most obvious bachelor’s degree, both education and psychology are also useful.

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Earn a master’s degree in school counseling

After completing your bachelor’s degree, you will need a master’s degree from an accredited university. The coursework usually covers the full range of counseling theories as well as learning and behavior disorders. The curriculum of different programs can vary widely, and it is important to study them carefully before choosing one.

Complete an internship

Part of the course requirements for a master’s degree in school counseling includes completing a graduate supervised internship experience. This will take place in a school alongside a certified school counselor. While you will mostly be observing counseling sessions, internships allow you to see what the role involves.

Pass the required exams

In some states, it is necessary to pass a recognized examination before graduating or gaining certification. The exact requirements vary from state to state, and it is important to check the requirements in your state.

Earn additional certifications

Once you have passed the required exams, you can apply for certification. Again, you need to check the requirements in the state you want to work in.

Continue your education

It is important to stay up to date with the changes in school counseling and the latest trends. A good way to do this is by completing an additional certification. This allows you to stand out from the crowd and advance your career by choosing a specialization.

What Makes A Good School Counselor Degree Program?

There are several different degree programs to choose from, and each offers something slightly different. Most courses comprise of coursework, field experience, and a couple of short residencies. Here are some things to look for when checking out different degree programs.

Focused on modern education

It is important to make sure that the coursework and contents of the degree focus on the needs of modern students. Useful content includes how they serve students with disabilities, an overview of social justice, and diversity.

ASCA aligned

Make sure the course is aligned with the national model of the American School Counselor Association. This ensures that the course follows the standards set by the association.

Professional credentials

The course you complete should provide you with professional credentials once you graduate. This ensures that you will be able to sit the exam in your state and receive the required certification.

High exam pass rates

The right course should set students up for success and actively help them on their journey. The amount of mentoring and assistance students receive is usually reflected by the exam pass rate. This helps increase your chances of passing the exam the first time around and starting your career.

Professional Counselor Associations And Groups

It is necessary to continue learning during your career to retain your certification. Joining a professional organization provides you with educational resources and valuable connections. Here are some of the main associations and groups that are open to members.

American School Counselor Association

This organization boasts more than 33,000 members who work as school counselors at all academic levels. Joining this association is the perfect way to connect with other professionals located all over North America. The American School Counselor Association offers an excellent range of resources and runs special networking events.

how to become school counselor guide

American Counseling Association

This is the largest organization in the world for professional counselors. The American Counseling Association caters to counselors of all types, including school counselors. This is a great place to connect with other professionals and learn about different career paths and specializations.

National Education Association

Educators at all levels can join this organization, which boasts more than three million members. This is a great place for networking, as several high-profile events are held throughout the year. There is also a wide range of educational resources for educators to take advantage of.

Association of Child and Adolescent Counseling

This association is aimed at assisting counselors who work at the elementary level. Members receive professional development as well as access to advanced educational resources.

International School Counselor Association

If you are planning to work as a school counselor in another country, consider joining this association. Members receive advice and the resources they need to help them secure the perfect position.

Additional Resources For School Counselors

There is also a wide range of other types of resources that you can make use of. Some of these resources help you tackle difficult and sensitive topics with students and their families. Here is an overview of some of the other types of resources you can make use of.

Elementary School Counseling

This is a great place for elementary school counselors to find the tools and resources they need. Content includes novel ideas on counseling special types of groups as well as whole classrooms.

Teachers Pay Teachers

This website is a great resource for counselors who are searching for a new job. All of the tools and resources on the platform have been created by school counselors. There are also job postings as well as feedback on different schools and groups.


This organization has been created to help school counselors stay up to date with the latest technology. The site is free, and there are special tutorials to help you get to grips with the technology.

Stop Bullying

This government organization is dedicated to preventing all types of bullying within and outside of the classroom. Stop Bullying offers school counseling special training as well as access to a wealth of resources.

Why Not Move Into School Psychology?

Of course, if you’d like to stick to counseling… Let’s first check out my Counselor Job Description, Camp Counselor Job Description, and even my Substance Abuse Counselor Job Description, or how about my Students Admissions Counselor Interview Questions and my Guidance Counselor Interview Questions to see what the positions entail.

Ever thought of taking your career a step further into psychology? For that, we recommend the Introduction to Abnormal Child and Adolescent Psychology, and Developmental Psychology: Childhood and Adolescence, or perhaps try School Psychology: Professional Issues and Practices, all available online in 2023.

Furthermore, we also found The Thriving School Psychologist: 4 Steps to Better Time Management, Lower Stress, and More, and Educational Psychology, as well as The School Psychologist’s Survival Guide, or School Psychology for the 21st Century, and finally the Best Practices in School Psychology.

Final Thoughts

While it takes time to be qualified to work as a school counselor, this can be a very rewarding career.

Most schools hire at least one counselor, meaning there are plenty of available jobs. People with the right skills and qualifications should find it fairly easy to find a well-paying job with advancement opportunities.

The average salary for a school counselor is around $55,000 per year. The salary tends to increase considerably as you gain skills and experience. People who have been working at the same school for more than a decade can receive at least $65,000 per year.

Good luck and enjoy your new career in School Counselling!

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