How to Become A School Counselor

A school counselor’s job is to help students build the academic and social skillset that they need to lead a successful academic life in school.

Should I Become a School Counselor?

The basic job requirement for a school counselor is to guide students regarding social, psychological and academic issues. School counselors may be employed in public or private schools. In addition to dealing with students, they also have routine interactions with school teachers, school administration and parents. School counselors typically have full-time jobs and maintain a full schedule, but they often get summer vacations like other teachers.

Education Required

Typically, a master's degree is required

Major Requirement

School counseling or a related field


Every public-school counselor should have state licensure (In some states the counselors should have a teaching certificate on top of a counseling certificate)


Some states require school counselors to have 1 to 2 years of experience as a teacher

Key Skills

Empathy and compassion; Interpersonal, Analytical and Communication skills

Annual Mean Salary

$60,160 (Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors)

Job Outlook

8% (Faster than average)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2018)

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics categorizes School Counselors in the category of School and Career Counselors. According to the BLS 2018 data, the people employed in this profession earned an annual mean salary of $60,160 which amounts to $28.93 per hour. Furthermore, BLS reported California as the state with the highest employment rate (32,400) and as the top paying state for this occupation with an annual mean salary of $74,530.

Career Requirements

School counselors play a significant role in students’ development throughout their academic life from kindergarten through college. They provide guidance and valuable advice to students on all sorts of matters related to family, college and career planning etc. Due to the sensitive nature of their job, they are required to have excellent communication skills as well as patience and empathy. This job can also be challenging as it demands emotional strength to deal with youngsters who experience social or academic issues and pressures.

Steps to Becoming a School Counselor

In order to build a career as a School Counselor, you must complete the following education, work and licensure requirements.

Step-1: Education

Some states need school counselors to have a teacher certification. If you want to land a job in any one of these states, then you must choose a major that would provide you with a certification. To become eligible for a state certification, you must obtain at least a 4-year bachelor’s degree in the relevant field. In addition to completing the required education, you must teach for at least 1 to 2 years if you want to acquire a state issued teacher certification. Numerous states require at least a master’s degree for school counselors to work. Typically, a master’s degree in Educational Psychology or School Counseling with a specialization in School Counseling is acceptable.

Step-2: Field Experience 

Many educational programs provide students with field experience in the form of internships. These internships allow students to gain hands-on experience by placing them in school settings under the supervision of experienced school counselors. Some states require school counselors to obtain a teaching license/certificate and have some teaching experience.

Step-3: Licensure and Certification

All states in the U.S. require school counselors to be licensed. The licensure programs are usually offered by 2 different institutes which generally meet the requirements in most states. These institutes are:

  1. Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs
  2. The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC)

The NBCC offers 2 types of certifications that are, the National Certified Counselor (NCC) as well as the National Certified School Counselor (NCSC). The process of acquiring a licensure or certification requires candidates to,

  • At least hold a bachelor's degree (although master’s degree is preferred)
  • Complete a teacher preparation program
  • Acquire student teaching experience of 1 to 3 years
  • Clear a background check
  • Pass a written examination

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