School counselors play a vital role in the development of children and teenagers. These professionals help students navigate academic, emotional and social challenges. They offer a broad range of support services, from providing career counseling for students to facilitating collaboration between parents and teachers.1
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for school and career counselors and advisors will increase by five percent between 2022 and 2032.2 This guide explores the responsibilities of these professionals and the median salary and educational requirements for careers in school counseling.
The Role of School Counselors
The particular responsibilities of school counselors vary by the specifics of the position, the age of the students and other factors. However, most school counselors typically address duties that include the following:
School counselors work to help students access educational resources and develop the academic and social skills they need to succeed. They assist learners with course selection and scheduling each semester. Additionally, they can teach students how to set realistic goals and develop academic and career plans that align with their interests.1 For example, a career counselor might recommend that an aspiring doctor take an anatomy course.
In counseling students, these professionals also monitor learners’ academic progress and provide support to help them improve their performance. They can, for instance, support students’ academic development by teaching practical strategies for managing their time, studying and taking tests.1
Career Counseling and Assessing College Readiness
High school counselors support students as they transition from K-12 schooling to higher education or careers. They offer career aptitude assessments and inventories to help teenagers explore their interests and strengths. Based on these results, they can recommend relevant career path options.1
In addition, school counselors assist students with the college application process. They teach strategies for choosing colleges and majors. They also provide resources and advice for students who want to apply for financial aid.1
Young people often face emotional and social challenges, such as bullying and peer pressure. School counselors provide individual counseling and group sessions to help students improve their interpersonal skills and promote student well-being.3
In addition to counseling students, these specialists collaborate with administrators, parents and teachers to foster inclusive learning environments in the school setting. For example, they might help a teacher mediate a conflict between two students or create lesson plans to promote social development.3
School counselors have a legal and ethical obligation to respond to student crises, including suicide attempts and mental health emergencies. They use many intervention strategies, such as collaborating with administrators and teachers to provide immediate counseling and support. A school counselor may also refer a student to a psychologist, social worker, mental health counselor or other experts who can offer specialized additional support.4
Additionally, school counselors work to help their school districts develop and implement crisis response plans. These protocols are designed to ensure that students receive the care they need during an emergency.4
Facilitating Collaboration and Consultation
Students often have many supporters, but these individuals may not always communicate with each other effectively. A school counselor helps students succeed by fostering collaboration between parents, guardians, administrators and school staff. For example, the counselor could meet with a student’s parents and teacher to review learning challenges and develop a plan to ensure that the student gets adequate assistance at home and school.1
Counselors also collaborate with community resources and government agencies.1 Say a teacher suspects a student doesn’t get enough food at home. Depending on the severity of the situation, the counselor could refer the family to a food bank or contact a social worker or child protective services.
According to the American worldwide employment website Indeed.com, school counselors in the United States earn an average base salary of $64,228. The highest-paying cities for school counselors include New York City ($68,404), Miami ($67,177) and Austin ($64,017).5
However, many factors can impact school counselor salaries, including education, geographic location and work experience. For example, Indeed reports that professionals with teaching certification earn 83% more than the average base salary.5
Licensing and Certification
School counselors must meet strict education and training requirements. Most states require these professionals to earn a master’s degree in counseling, psychology or another relevant field. These degrees teach essential counseling approaches and skills, such as leading group counseling sessions and collaborating with parents to support student development.6
In addition, those who want to counsel students in public schools must complete an internship and pass a state licensing exam. Some schools may also require counselors to hold teaching certification, which requires additional schooling.6
Lastly, school counselors must participate in continuing education throughout their careers to maintain their licenses and stay up to date with the latest developments in the field. Professional organizations such as the American Counseling Association offer continuing education courses.7
Organizations and Professional Development
Counselors also expand their knowledge and networks through active participation in professional organizations, such as the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) and the American School Counselor Association (ASCA). These organizations often organize professional development opportunities, such as conferences and webinars.8
The School Counselors' Challenges and Rewards
Many people find school counseling to be a highly fulfilling, rewarding profession. Counselors can develop close connections with students and make positive differences in their lives.9
However, this career can also present many challenges. School counselors may find it difficult to balance counseling with other responsibilities, such as administrative tasks. The U.S. also has a shortage of counselors, so these professionals may not have enough time to serve all the students who need their help.9
Make a Difference in Students’ Lives
Advance your career and positively influence students’ lives by earning an Online M.Ed. in Counseling with a concentration in School Counseling from William & Mary. Led by an expert faculty and with emphasis on social justice, cultural responsiveness, program planning and evaluation practices, our robust curriculum provides the knowledge you need to become a transformative influence in students’ lives.
You’ll also gain hands-on experience by participating in two short, on-site residencies at William & Mary’s campus. You’ll network with colleagues and faculty during these sessions and participate in experiential learning activities. These residencies and classes will prepare you for ASCA’s school counselor certification exam, accelerating your career development.
- Retrieved on September 18, 2023, from bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/school-and-career-counselors.htm#tab-2
- Retrieved on September 18, 2023, from bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/school-and-career-counselors.htm#tab-1
- Retrieved on September 18, 2023, from schoolcounselor.org/Standards-Positions/Position-Statements/ASCA-Position-Statements/The-School-Counselor-and-Social-Emotional-Developm
- Retrieved on September 18, 2023, from schoolcounselor.org/Magazines/September-October-2023/School-Counselor-Ethics-in-Crisis-Management
- Retrieved on September 18, 2023, from indeed.com/career/school-counselor/salaries
- Retrieved on September 18, 2023, from bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/school-and-career-counselors.htm#tab-4
- Retrieved on September 18, 2023, from counseling.org/continuing-education
- Retrieved on September 18, 2023, from schoolcounselor.org/Events-Professional-Development/Professional-Development
- Retrieved on September 18, 2023, from teachforamerica.org/one-day/top-issues/school-counselors-student-mental-health