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School Guidance Counselor – How to Prepare For This Career

Although becoming a teacher is a noble goal, teaching is not the only profession available in the field of education. There are dozens of different employment opportunities in schools and colleges that utilize your talents and help individuals make a difference in the lives of students.

Quick Facts: Guidance Counselor Industry
Median Pay:   $61,135 per year | $29 per hour
Entry-Level Education:   Doctoral or professional degree
Work Experience:   None
Number of Jobs, 2014:   428,000

Guidance Counselor Occupations:

  • Clinical, counseling, and school psychologists$68,900
  • Educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors$53,370

One of the most important jobs in a school is that of the guidance counselor.A school's guidance counselor is often the first person a student will speak to about problems at home or at school, and it may also be the key person that encourages high school students to apply for and attend college classes.

Discover how you can become a school guidance counselor, what the average salary is, what kind of education is recommended, where you can find work and what the job growth predictions are for the future.

What is an Educational Guidance Counselor?

Before delving into how you can get involved with school counseling as a career, it is important that you fully understand what this job entails. As the name implies, a school counselor typically works in an educational facility, and the majority will work in high schools.

However, guidance counselors also frequently work in elementary schools, middle schools and even college campuses. Many guidance counselors have a focus on career education, which means that their primary job might be to help students find their passion and pursue it in higher education.

Sample tasks for a career guidance counselor might include writing student recommendation letters, editing admissions essays or recommending college majors for undecided high school seniors.

While college preparation is a big part of the job for many school counselors, other aspects include emotional counseling, dealing with bullying and identifying signals for things like eating disorders or abuse at home.

How Can You Become a School Counselor?

Anyone who wants to become a counselor within the public school system should expect to earn a master's degree before they can be hired. Although some schools may accept applications from those with just a bachelor's degree, it is increasingly common for school counselors to have an advanced degree specifically in the field of educational counseling.

In order to be eligible to enroll in a master's degree program, you should first have a bachelor's degree in a related field and have taken either the GRE or GMATs and have earned a satisfactory score. In addition, school counselors typically need to be certified and licensed in their state, which might include an exam or merely a background and criminal check.

What Topics Will Aspiring Counselors Study in College?

Whether you earn your master's or bachelor's degree through an accredited online college or through a more traditional campus setting, there are some courses that remain the same in the study of school guidance counseling.

The goal of these courses is to improve your communication with students and parents, learn how to identify drug addictions and better understand development of teens and children. To that end, some of the most common classes found in a counseling degree typically include that of behavioral assessment, social assessment techniques, child development, play therapy, learning disabilities and cognition.

What is the Average Salary For a School Counselor?

While many school counselors choose this line of work because they want their jobs to make a positive difference in society, the salary is still something that should be taken into consideration. According to 2012 research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for a school counselor in the United States is currently $53,610.

Of course, that number can fluctuate depending on a variety of factors including the location of the school, how many years of experience you have under your belt and the type of degree you have. Perhaps surprisingly, the highest median salaries go to counselors in public schools, while counselors in private schools and colleges make slightly less.

What Traits Are Found Among the Best Guidance Counselors?

Generally speaking, in order to be a guidance counselor at a school you will need to have a master's degree and be certified in the state where you are employed. However, there are some additional traits that can separate the very best counselors from the rest.

If you take a look at the most successful and most lucrative school counselors, you will find that the majority are incredibly compassionate. Children, teenagers and even adults can see when a person is truly empathetic to their problems, and this can relieve tension and make communication easier.

The best school guidance counselors also tend to be very patient, be great listeners and be able to easily and effortlessly communicate with students on a regular basis.

What Kind of Job Growth is Predicted in the Field?

For just about every student enrolled into a college degree program, the primary objective of graduating is to be able to secure a job.

For that reason, aspiring school counselors should look at job growth rates in order to see if there will be heavy competition in their field by the time that graduation rolls around. Ideally, you would choose a career path with more than 10 percent predicted growth per decade, which is what is needed in order to stay ahead of population growth.

The BLS predicts that the job outlook for school counselors is positive, and there is forecast to be a 12 percent growth in job demand between now and 2022. Much of that predicted growth is due to the rising numbers of students enrolled in schools as well as the increasing desire to adequately prepare high school students for vocational careers or college after graduation.

Becoming a school guidance counselor can be a fulfilling and rewarding career, and it is also a smart decision for those with the right traits. After earning a master's degree in school counseling or school psychology, you will be prepared to work in public and private elementary schools, high schools, middle schools, in college campuses and even in vocational career programs to help adults find work.