Degrees and Jobs in School Counseling

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by Successful Student Writing Staff / published 5.16.2019 / updated 1.10.2020

Jobs in School Counseling
Jobs in School Counseling

What is a Master in School Counseling Degree?

The programs typically emphasize meeting the personal, social, emotional, academic, as well as career readiness needs of all students. Master in School Counseling degree programs cover techniques utilized in counseling individuals and groups within culturally and economically diverse populations.

Available Master’s degrees include a Master of Science, Master of Arts, and Master of Education.

Master in School Counseling degree programs typically include courses such as:

  • Child and Adolescent Development and Treatment
  • Counseling Children
  • Human Development Across the Lifespan
  • Program Development and Evaluation for School Counselors
  • Counseling Modalities in a School Settings
  • Educational Assessment and Intervention
  • Group Counseling
  • Concepts of Family Systems

The degree programs typically include an internship and/or a practicum.

Master in School Counseling programs typically prepare individuals to serve as counselors in elementary, middle, and high school settings (K-12).

What are the Typical Requirements for a Master in School Counseling Degree Program?

Applicants typically need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited four-year college or university. Some schools also request a statement of purpose which indicates a commitment to working with children and youth in a school environment. Some Master in School Counseling programs give additional consideration to applicants who have counseling-related experience and/or experience working with children and youth. Some of the programs require applicants to provide letters of recommendation.

Can Individuals Enroll in a Master in School Counseling Program with an Undergraduate Major other than Psychology or Education?

Many of the programs accept individuals with undergraduate majors in areas besides psychology and education.

How long does it take to complete a Master in School Counseling Degree Program?

Most Master’s in School Counseling degree programs require two years (four semesters) of full-time study, however some schools offer programs which can take 14 months to complete. Students taking the degree program part-time typically complete the degree in 3-4 years.

Do Individuals need a Master’s Degree to Work as a School Counselor?

Many states require an individual to have a master’s degree to work as a school counselor.

Do Public School Counselors need a Credential?

Public school counselors need to have a state-issued credential such as a certification, a license, or an endorsement, depending on the state. Typically, individuals seeking licensure or certification need a master’s degree in school counseling, complete an internship or practicum under the supervision of a licensed professional school counselor, and pass a test.

Some states require candidates to have classroom teaching experience, or to have a teaching license, prior to gaining certification.

What is the Typical Path to become a School Counselor?

1. Obtain a bachelor’s degree in counseling, psychology, or a related subject.
2. Acquire a master’s degree in school counseling or a closely related subject.
3. Complete a school counseling internship or another type of qualifying clinical experience, depending on a state’s requirements.
4. Pass the state’s required exams for school counselors.
5. Acquire a counselor’s license.

School counselors are certified/licensed professionals with at least a master’s in school counseling degree.

Appropriate fields of graduate study in most states to qualify an individual for a school counseling career include school counseling and child psychology.

Some schools prefer school counselor candidates to also have a teaching certificate and a few years of teaching experience.

Do you need a School Counseling Certificate or License to practice as a School Counselor?

Many states require a counselor to obtain a school counseling certificate or license to work as a school counselor. The rules for certification vary from state to state; individuals should check with their state’s board of education regarding requirements.

Do you need a Teaching Certificate to become a School Counselor?

Many states do not require teaching experience or a teaching certificate for school counselor certification. Some states require professional school counselors to have previous teaching experience. Some school districts may give preference in hiring counselors with teaching credentials.

Can you Work in other States with a School Counseling License from a Specific State?

Often yes, for example some of the CACREP-accredited School Counseling Program meets the requirements for working as a school counselor in many other states. Individuals need to examine a state’s specific school counseling course and exam requirements.

Does a Master’s Degree in School Counseling qualify you to work as a School Counselor in other States?

Often graduates of a School Counseling Program with CACREP accreditation meets the requirements for working as a school counselor in many other states. Graduates should examine a state’s specific school counseling course and exam requirements.

If you have Certification in a Specific State can you obtain Certification in other States?

Each state has its own requirements and some do require previous experience as a teacher. Contact the State Department of Education for information for each state.

In general, individuals certified in a specific state by a CACREP accredited program can become certified in other states. However, the teaching certification issue may be a factor.

Do Master in School Counseling programs have Specialized Accreditation?

Many of the Master in School Counseling degree programs typically have accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).

The Master’s in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council (MPCAC) accredits a small number of school counseling programs in the United States.

How does a CACREP Accredited Program help Individuals in the Program?

A CACREP accredited program indicates the program has gone through evaluation and the content and quality of the program meets standards the profession has set. CACREP accreditation indicates a program includes appropriate knowledge and skill areas as well as the program is stable, professionally and financially.

CACREP accreditation ensures the quality of counselors who graduate from the program to work with K-12 students. CACREP accreditation facilitates state licensure through ensuring a program provides specific content areas and clinical experiences.

What are the Goals of an Accredited Master in School Counseling Program?

According to CACREP:

  • Stimulate self-evaluation, development and self-directed improvement
  • Provide a system for accountability
  • Provide ongoing consultation
  • Provide peer recognition
  • Enhance the program’s reputation
  • Provide a cost effective review mechanism since trained volunteers who donate their time and expertise complete most of the work

What is the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification?

The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) announced beginning January 1, 2022, applicants for the National Certified Counselor (NCC) credential must have graduated from a CACREP-accredited program.

What can you do with a Master’s Degree in School Counseling?

Graduates of a Master in School Counseling degree program, typically serve as a school counselor in grades K – 12. Some graduates seek licensure for private practice, work in higher education settings, or obtain various types of roles.

What does a School Counselor do?

School counselors support the entire student body with academic, career, and social/emotional issues in K-12 education. They’re also involved in schoolwide prevention and intervention, working with partners in the school community such as teachers, administrators, parents, and the larger community.

School counselors evaluate a student’s skills, strengths, weaknesses, career goals, and interests.

They may work in a district supervisory role or in a college counselor education program.

They’re involved in areas such as:

  • Providing counseling to individual students
  • Advocating for students at individual education plan meetings, school attendance review boards and student study teams
  • Interpreting cognitive, aptitude and achievement tests
  • Providing suggestions to teachers for effective classroom management
  • Individual student academic program planning

What do School Counselors do at Different Levels?

School counselors in elementary schools mainly focus on social skills and supporting types of behavior which can help students achieve success in school. School counselors at elementary schools support positive academic habits, expose students to various types of careers, and provide overall support to students, their families, and teachers.

School counselors in middle school, typically focus on skill building which promotes academic, career and social/emotional development. The majority of counseling at middle school focuses on social/emotional learning; however, it also supports students with their academic skills and postsecondary exploration.

School counselors in high school have a focus on academic support and postsecondary options, as well as college and career access. Although school counselors at high schools spend a lot of their time helping students with academic, college, and career counseling, it’s nearly impossible to separate social/emotional counseling from the counseling relationship.

What Role do School Counselors have with College Education?

School counselors emphasize postsecondary options, including at the elementary school level. School counselors expose students to various careers and emphasize improving skills to help students access and achieve their goals. Due to many careers requiring a college degree, school counselors are typically well-versed in the various types of information students need to help them apply to college and have success at college.

Is a School Counselor the same as a Guidance Counselor?

As the school counseling profession underwent changes in the 1990s and 2000s, researchers and practitioners favored the term “school counselor” over “guidance counselor” to indicate the enhanced role of working with all students on academic, social/emotional, and career development. “Guidance counselor” now represents an older model of school counseling which has less emphasis on working with all students.

Master Degree in School Counseling Salary Information

School and career counselors had a median annual wage of $55,410 in 2017.
(Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Employment Forecast for School Counselors

Several factors, including state and federal economic indicators, retirements and local, state, and possibly federal school counseling program expansion initiatives, influence the job outlook for school counselors.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts 13 percent employment growth for school and career counselors from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations.

Financing an Online School Counseling Degree

Many colleges and universities offer online students financial aid. Online students as well as traditional students applying for federal financial aid must attend a school which has accreditation from an accrediting agency which has recognition from the Department of Education.

Our Financial Aid Guide for Online College Students provides vital information about the various types of financial assistance such as Federal Direct Subsidized Loans, Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans, Grants, Lifetime Learning Credit, the American Opportunity Tax Credit, Parent Plus Loans, Grad Plus Loans, and more.
Financial Aid Guide for Online College Students

Professional Associations

American School Counselor Association

The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) members include certified and licensed school counselors, program directors and supervisors. The Association provides publications, professional development, peer networking and other resources to professional school counselors worldwide.

American Counseling Association (ACA)

ACA, a non-profit organization has numerous chartered divisions, each offering leadership and resources to specializations within the counseling profession. The American Counseling Association provides members access to publications, journals, webinars, as well as conference education sessions.

Association of Child and Adolescent Counseling (ACAC)

ACAC serves as support and information network for counselors working with children and adolescents in all environments, including schools, private practice and hospitals agencies. Association of Child and Adolescent Counseling helps counselors understand the unique needs of children and adolescents. The Association supports the implementation of new strategies, and provides professional development activities.

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