How to Become a High School Counselor

Three Parts:Getting the Necessary Education and CredentialsFinding a Position at a High SchoolUnderstanding the Position

High school counselors are a very important part of any high schooler’s experience. A good high school counselor can assist students with many of their daily stresses and struggles, from passing their classes to applying for colleges to giving them support for any personal issues they may be dealing with. To become a high school counselor, you will need to get several key credentials and look for open positions in the field. You will also need to be aware of the expectations of the role and develop the skillset necessary to be a successful high school counselor.

Part 1
Getting the Necessary Education and Credentials

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    Earn a bachelor’s degree in education or counseling. Start your educational journey to becoming a school counselor by getting a bachelor’s degree in education or counseling at an accredited college or university. Many states in the U.S. look for guidance counselors who have a background in both counseling and education. You may look for a bachelor’s program that focuses on school counseling or offers school counseling as a major. You can also do a major in education and a minor in counseling if your university does not offer a major in school counseling.[1][2] v
    • During your degree, you will learn counseling techniques, curriculum building, career planning, leadership skills, adolescent development, and psychology.
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    Get a master’s degree in school counseling. Many aspiring school counselors will pursue a master’s degree in the field to broaden their education and increase their hiring prospects. You should look for universities and colleges that offer the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs (CACREP) credentials in their school counseling master’s program. Make sure your graduate degree covers school and guidance counseling, as you will need these credentials to work in high schools.[3]
    • In your graduate program, you will learn about group and guidance counseling, counseling theories, administrative duties, counseling ethics, career counseling, and assessing your potential students.
    • Depending on your program, you may also do a supervised internship as well as a thesis or a research paper. Your internship will be a good opportunity to make connections at a high school and possibly apply for a position at the school once you graduate.[4]
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    Apply for a teaching license in your state. Once you have earned your bachelor’s degree and your master’s degree, you should apply for a teaching license in the state you intend to work in. Some states require you to obtain a school counseling certification as well as a teaching license. As well, some states also require you to do a practicum of a minimum amount of hours to successfully earn your teaching license. You will need to check with your state’s licensing board to get more information on your state’s requirements.[5]
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    Earn your national counseling certification. To become fully certified as a school counselor, you may consider getting your national counseling certification. This is done through the National Board for Certified Counselors. Some states may require this certification to be employed as a school counselor at a high school in the state.[6]
    • To obtain this certification, you may need to pass a multiple choice exam, prove you have experience in a school setting, and prove you have advanced degrees in school counseling.
    • You can also do a voluntary national certification through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, which is a 10-year certification. This certification allows you to work as a guidance counselor with a wide age range, from early childhood to high school.

Part 2
Finding a Position at a High School

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    Get in contact with guidance counselors at high schools in your area. You should set up appointments with guidance counselors who work at high schools in your area or in areas where you would like to be employed. Talk to them about their job duties, their experiences as a counselor and any possible open positions that they know of.[7]
    • You may also use this an opportunity to shadow the counselor to get a better sense of the expectations and skills required for the position. Shadowing the counselor will allow you to see how you can put all your education and your credentials into practice in a high school setting.
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    Turn your internship position into a full time position. If you completed an internship at a high school during your graduate studies, you may want to consider trying to turn your internship experience into a full time position. Working your existing contacts could help you land a position that you are familiar with and will enjoy.
    • Get in touch with your supervisor or superior during your internship and let her know you are looking for a full time position. You should express how much you enjoyed your internship experience and would love the opportunity to work at the high school on a permanent basis.
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    Join a guidance counselor association. To make contacts in the field and build your professional network, you may consider joining a guidance counselor association. In the United States, the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) is a good professional association that accepts new members every year.[8]
    • Joining the ASCA can give you access to thousands of other professional counselors and help you advertise for a position at a high school in this network. You can also do continuing education and training and apply for liability insurance through the association.[9]
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    Apply for positions online and in person. You can also look for open positions in school counseling online through job websites as well as in person through responding to job postings that you notice advertised in the classifieds or through your school board newsletter.
    • When applying for these positions, you should create a resume and cover letter that discuss your educational credentials and your hands on experience in the field. You should also cite references who will confirm your credentials and provide excellent personal recommendations of your skillset and expertise in school counseling.

Part 3
Understanding the Position

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    Be aware of the expectations and duties of the position. As a high school counselor, you will need to fulfill several duties and expectations in your role. You will need to be able to create a comprehensive school counseling program for the high school that focuses on academics, career development and personal/social development for the students. You will also need to provide a school counseling curriculum and work with other educators at the school.[10]
    • You will need to meet with students one on one to assess their goals and career aspirations. A high school counselor is also expected to counsel students individually and in small groups to discuss any behavioral problems or issues. You may need to also provide crisis intervention for students if a difficult situation occurs at school.
    • As a high school counselor, you will also need to help your students choose the best strategies for formulating their future plans and prepare them for entry into the workforce or for college. You may need to run workshops and training on career skills, educational opportunities, and goal setting for students. You should also help students get financial assistance for their education if they are in need.
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    Keep in mind the skills necessary for the position. As a high school counselor, you should also have certain personal skills and abilities to be successful. High school counselors will need to be empathetic towards students, displaying compassion and good listening skills. You should also be a good communicator and perceptive around students and other educators.[11]
    • A good high school counselor will also be adaptable and able to work with all types of personalities. You should be excited to work with young people and be able to handle stress well, as you will be a position of counseling others.
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    Note the average pay for the position. High school counselors get paid an average of $63,000 a year. Your salary may go up if you decide to be a counselor at the college or postsecondary level.[12]
    • The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 19% job growth for school counselors from 2010-2020.[13] Though the position does have a record of high turnover, as about 60 percent of counselors leave their position within two years, most high school counselors have stable job prospects.

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Categories: Classroom Management and Student Conduct | Teacher Resources