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School Counseling Programs

School counseling has become a norm in the American education system nowadays. School counselors play a significant role in ensuring the success of students. These professionals provide counseling services which includes identifying and assessing behavioral problems, and helping students overcome social/personal issues. Many schools and colleges hire school counselors to create a perfect learning environment, to ensure students in need of counseling or support receive help.
The American School Counselor Association is a leading organization that emphasizes on professional development of school counselors and promotes this field around the globe. School counseling has become a popular choice of career in recent years. US News & World Report has ranked this occupation among the best social services jobs of today. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job growth rate for school counselors is 12% (2012-2022) which is faster that average.

School Counseling Education

If you enjoy working with students, and want to contribute to their social and academic well-being, this may be the career or you. You will need at least a master’s level school counseling degree to qualify for the job. A number of universities are offering school counseling programs at undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate level. If you are looking for a flexible mode of learning, you can also pursue online school counseling degrees. Whether you go for an on-campus degree, or an online school counseling degree, the coursework will remain similar, if not the same, enabling you to prepare for a challenging career ahead as a school counselor.

Bachelor in Counseling

The first step to becoming a school counselor is completing your undergraduate education. You can opt for a four year bachelor degree in counseling. Please note that bachelors in school counseling is rarely offered by any institute. The bachelor in counseling degree will provide you with a general understanding of counseling and psychology. 
The degree in counseling will equip you with in-depth knowledge of counseling and its role in today’s society. You will learn about different psychological theories and their relation to problem diagnosis, assessment, and counseling. The initial semesters of the program will cover a range of general and liberal arts courses. The curriculum will vary slightly from school to school, but will generally include courses from the following:

  • Arts and humanities
  • Social sciences
  • Mathematics
  • Anthropology
  • Sciences
  • Writing

Masters in School Counseling

This is a two-year graduate program that is designed to prepare students for roles as counselors in educational settings. The program will cover diverse theoretical subjects and also provide students with hands on experience. Students will gain a complete understanding of counseling skills and theories.
The first few semesters will cover a range of introductory courses that will familiarize students with basic psychological theories and counseling techniques.  Further in the program, more advanced courses are covered. Students will learn how to apply these theories in practical settings and develop strong communication skills. Here are a few of the courses students are most likely to study in this degree:

  • Theories of counseling

In this course, students will explore different theories of counseling. Important topics such as conceptualization and counseling process are covered in detail.

  • Guidance and group counseling

This course will help students understand the counseling theory related to group work. Students will learn how to apply counseling theories to groups in schools.

  • Human development

This course is geared towards providing students with in-depth knowledge of adolescent development and human behavior. The course will highlight topics such as research and theories of child development.

  • Tests and measurements

Students will learn about the basic concepts in measurement. The course will help students learn how to apply measurement techniques and tests, and interpret results.

  • Promoting cultural competence

This course will cover the cognitive considerations of counseling in culturally diverse environments. Students will learn how to incorporate various socio-cultural dimensions into the process of counseling.

Internship and Skill Development

Developing strong communication skills, analytical skills, and assessment skills is an important part of the program. Many schools offering school counseling graduate programs include an internship as a degree requirement. The internship is typically completed in a school/educational environment. Students practically learn how to apply counseling techniques, interviewing techniques, and gain exposure to the professional world of school counseling.

PhD in School Counseling

A PhD in school counseling or counselor education is the highest level of education you can get. It is a post-graduate program that can take around four to eight years to complete. The aim of this program is to provide students with knowledge and experience needed for leadership roles.
Students will extend their knowledge base through scholarly inquiry and research. Emphasis is placed on research, teaching, and skill development.  The first year or two are dedicated to theory-based learning and developing fundamental concepts. The program will also provide students with an overview of national counseling organizations and their roles. By the end of the program, students will be required to undergo a thorough research and develop a basis for their thesis or dissertation. Here are some of the objectives of the program:

  • Design and implement quantitative research methodologies
  • Understand the models and methods of assessment
  • Gain in-depth knowledge of theories pertaining to the practice of counseling
  • Understand social issues, social changes theories, and psychological aspects relevant to school counseling

It is also possible to pursue an online doctorate in school counseling.

School Counseling Certificate Programs

Among the few non-degree programs, students can opt for a certificate program in this area. A few colleges are offering school counseling certificate programs. This is a short course that can take six to eight months to complete. It is designed to provide students with career knowledge and skills. A school counseling certificate program can help boost a career and upgrade skills of a professional.

School Counseling Certification and Licensure

Certification may not be mandatory for this career, but can help improve career prospects. The National Board for Certified Counselor (NBCC) is currently offering The National Certified School Counselor Certification (NCSC). You must fulfill all the requirements to qualify for a certification. These requirements may include having a master’s degree, gaining work experience, and more.
Some states may require counselors to have a license for practice. These requirements will vary from state to state. You can learn more about the licensing process by contacting your local/state licensing board.

Distance Education

For many, pursuing college education can be difficult mainly due to costs or a job that can’t be sacrificed. To help such students, colleges are now offering online school counseling programs.  Students can choose from a range of programs including masters in schools counseling online, post-graduate school counseling degree online, and other short school counseling courses.  The trend of distance education is growing fast as this mode of learning is more flexible, cost-efficient, and easy to pursue.

Employment Opportunities

Most school counselors work in schools and colleges. You can also choose to work in social assistance and government agencies. As a school counselor, you will assist students, provide counseling services, and work for their betterment. The income level will vary from place to place and will depend upon your job position, experience, and employer organization. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, school counselors made a median annual income of $53,610 in 2012. Over 30,000 new job opening are expected by the year 2022.


Frequently Asked Question(s)

Q:What will I learn in graduate programs in school counseling?

A:A graduate degree in school counseling will help you learn about different counseling theories and child/adolescent development theories. The program will cover different courses which will help you build a strong foundation of theoretical knowledge and a advanced skill set needed for careers in this field. The coursework and learning outcomes may vary from college to college.

Q:What is a comprehensive school counseling program?

A:A comprehensive school program aims to enhance the ability of the students to fully utilize the educational opportunities available to them. The program's design, delivery and content are focused on creating an environment for students from which they can gain the most. These programs partner with other academic and behavioral initiatives to effect positive changes in student achievement.

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