School counselors typically perform the following tasks:
- Evaluate and advise students using interviews, counseling sessions, interest and aptitude assessment tests.
- High school counselors typically provide information to students about college, university, vocational or technical schools, internships, apprenticeships, or volunteering opportunities.
- Help students overcome social, behavioral, and personal problems through counseling.
- Provide individual and group counseling in cases of student emergency or need.
- Work with students to develop good study habits and valuable skills that will aid them in their academic and professional life, such as organization and time management.
- Help students set realistic academic and career goals, and help them create a plan for achieving them.
- Work with students who have learning disabilities and special needs.
- Identify and report cases of neglect and abuse.
What is a School Counselor?
A school counselor is someone who helps students deal with academic, social, and personal problems through counseling, interviewing, and assessment. Some of the students a school counselor will help include students with learning disabilities or special needs, students with personal problems, students suffering from abuse at home, students with social problems or problems getting along with other students, students with behavioral problems, and students having trouble adjusting to a new school. School counselors also help students learn study skills, and teach life skills such as organization, time management, and goal-setting. School counselors will be required to report cases of neglect and abuse if they obtain knowledge that this is occurring in a student’s home.
In high schools, something else that school counselors typically do is provide information about taking college admissions testing, such as the SAT or the ACT. They also provide information about potential colleges and universities, vocational and technical schools, as well as internships and apprenticeships. School counselors are also expected to assess students (or teach students how to assess themselves) to see in what areas the individual has interest in academically and professionally. This information can help the student to determine what career field they should enter.
Some of the traits that make for a successful school counselor are:
- Empathy – Counselors often work with people who are experiencing stressful and difficult situations, so being able to empathize and demonstrate compassion to the students they advise is very important. When dealing with special needs students or students with learning disabilities, compassion and empathy go a long way toward giving these students the help they need.
- Communication skills – The ability to work with a diverse student body is essential. School counselors spend most of their time working directly with students and other staff members. Good listening skills are necessary to give their full attention to students and understand their problems so that they can help. Good speaking skills allow a counselor to express ideas and information in a way that is easily understood by students and is delivered in a tactful way that does not offend students in a culturally diverse student body.
How to become a School Counselor
Most school counselors must have a Master’s degree. Programs that prepare school counselors develop skills and knowledge with regard to fostering academic development, counseling, working with parents, teachers, and other school staff. These programs will often provide valuable experience to the potential school counselor through an internship, where they are supervised and their skills can be practiced and honed through evaluation and feedback.
School Counselor Requirements
School counselors in public schools must have a state-issued credential to practice. This credential is known by different names in different states, such as license, certification, or endorsement. Obtaining this credential often requires a Master’s degree in school counseling, and a period of supervised experience (internship) by a licensed professional school counselor, although some states allow candidates to substitute full-time teaching experience for the internship requirement. In addition, some states require up to 1 or 2 years of classroom teaching experience, or to hold a teaching license, before being certified as a school counselor. Most states require a background check as part of the process of obtaining this credential.
School Counselor Salary
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that school counselors have a median pay of $53,610. The salary for a school counselor ranges from $31,850 on the low end up to $86,870 on the high end. Elementary and secondary schools employ the majority of school counselors, followed by colleges and universities. School counselors typically work full-time, but some of them get the summer off, when school is not in session.