School Guidance Counselor Career Guide

Are you interested in becoming a school counselor for an elementary, middle, or high school? Well, school counselors are one of the most important members of the educational team and are essential to the academic and emotional success of many students. With this guide you will learn what a school counselor is, the different types of school counseling degrees (including a master's in school counseling), the careers that can be obtained, the roles and responsibilities that they take on, as well as tips on how to become a school counselor.

What Is a School Counselor?

A school counselor is a key member of a student’s educational team who assists them in the areas of academic achievement as well as career and social/emotional development, with an overall goal of transforming today’s students into tomorrow’s productive and thriving adults.

School Counselor vs Guidance Counselor

In recent years, many schools have transitioned away from the name guidance counselors and are instead referring to them as school counselors. You may be wondering, “What’s the difference between a school counselor and guidance counselor?” In the past, a guidance counselor’s main purpose was to guide students down the road to college, which they did through writing letters of recommendation and sending out student’s transcripts. However, these days there has been much more of a need for a counselor’s guidance through aspects of everyday life as well.

Today, school counselors assist students in not only academics and post-high school planning, but also in the areas of emotional support, family intervention, and social development. These additional services have been linked to the achieving of higher grades, improved behavior, and an overall better educational experience in full.

Types of School Counseling Degrees

In order to become a School Counselor, there are two types of degrees that are usually required. First, you will need to earn a bachelor’s degree in counseling, psychology, or in a related program. In these programs, your education will be focused on learning how to assist those with mental and behavioral problems. After a bachelor’s degree is completed, you will then need to earn a master's in school counseling in one of the above programs as well to solidify your expertise.

Types of School Counseling Careers

The school counseling careers listed below can all be found at elementary school, middle school, high school and college levels.

A school counselor assists students in several areas including academics, career, and emotional support. This includes building student academic schedules and individual/group counseling to determine future and personal goals. The average annual salary for a school counselor is ~$53,610.   

A career counselor specifically assists students in setting realistic career goals while helping in the process of applying to college as well counseling for what comes after. This includes transcript sending, resume writing, interview coaching, and academic counseling. The average annual salary for a career counselor is ~$56,040.

A school psychologist works closely with students who are struggling with learning, behavioral, and educational disorders. This includes highly-individualized counseling, the transfer of learning, processing and coping skills, and the promotion of positive behavior. The average annual salary for a school psychologist is ~ $57,444.  


School Counselor Roles and Responsibility 

The most important role of a school counselor is to help students achieve the utmost success throughout their educational career in the smoothest manner possible. This includes helping students learn better study habits, identify their interests, and set realistic goals for the future.  

Some of their day-to-day school counseling duties include:

●    Ensuring students receive emotional support in the classroom
●    Counseling students individually or in a group
●    Being a guest speaker to a class or holding special events to bring awareness to topics such as bullying
●    Observing children in the classroom to assess strengths, weaknesses, and special needs

How to Become a School Counselor

Becoming a school counselor requires hard work and devotion and brings forth an extensive amount of reward. Listed below are the steps that explain how to become a school counselor:

  1. Complete a bachelor’s degree in counseling, psychology, or in a related field. This allows you to learn and explore the basics of what a counseling career entails.
  2. Earn a master’s degree in school counseling. This is where you become an expert on counseling theories, learning and behavior disorders, learning theories, and student services.
  3. Complete a graduate internship where you work and get experience in real-life counseling settings in order to meet certification requirements.
  4. Pass any required exams for certification/license. These exams will depend based on the requirements for the state in which you are looking to work.
  5. Earn additional certifications. Earning additional certifications will give you expertise in multiple areas of counseling and will make room for more opportunities within your career.
  6. Continue your education. It is important to stay up-to-date with new trends and changes within the counseling field so you are able to provide the best assistance to your patients.

Your GMercyU Path to a Masters in School Counseling

Gwynedd Mercy University offers one of the top school counseling programs in PA that will help you suceed in starting your career as a school counselor. The Online Masters in School Counseling degree program is a 60-credit, Pennsylvania Department of Education-approved school counseling certification program that aligns with the components of the American School Counseling Association’s (ASCA) National Model. Throughout the masters in school counseling program online, you’ll benefit from personal attention and mentorship provided by our experienced and caring faculty members. After graduation, you will be eligible to apply for certification as a K-12 school counselor in the State of Pennsylvania.

The program aligns with the overall goal of our Counseling Program, which also includes: 

Clinical Mental Health Concentration  
This concentration prepares you for a career counseling adolescents, families and adults and/or gaining the credentials to assume supervisory positions in mental health community agency settings.  

College Counseling and Student Affairs Concentration
Gain expertise to help enhance student development and remediate difficulties in higher education settings. Potential practice areas span a wide variety of contexts, including career counseling and mental health counseling.

Post-Master’s Certificate in School Counseling
If you hold a counseling master’s degree and want to expand into school counseling, we offer a post master's certificate program that prepares you for licensure. 

 Learn more about GMercyU’s masters in school counseling program online.