What’s the Best Degree Path for Becoming a School Counselor?

Not every education professional who makes a difference in students’ lives does so from within a classroom. School counselors play vital roles in helping students resolve or cope with academic, behavioral, social and personal problems and with developing skills and planning for achievements. Besides the rewarding nature of the work, school counselors also are among the top 10 highest paying careers in education, earning between $38,740 and $65,360 per year. To attain a position in this field, aspiring school counselors must typically hold a graduate degree.

The Role of a School Counselor

At every level of education, from elementary school to high school, school counselors play an important role in the lives of students. They work with students in groups or one-on-one to help them cultivate the social skills they need. When students are struggling academically, school counselors help facilitate communication between teachers, parents, school administrators and the students themselves to find ways to resolve problems and plan for achieving academic goals. They also work directly with the student in teaching organization, studying and time management skills.

School counselors at different levels of the education system also have different responsibilities, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). At the high school level, for example, school counselors help students choose their future career and educational paths and prepare for their professional goals. They may help students apply to colleges or trade schools. In elementary schools, of course, the focus is instead on helping students develop life skills like decision-making and study skills. 

A School Counselor’s Education

The first step to becoming a school counselor is to earn a bachelor’s degree. Because a master’s degree in counseling (M.Ed. or M.S. in Counseling) is required for most of these jobs, candidates have more options to choose from when studying at the undergraduate level. The most popular undergraduate degree majors for aspiring school counselors are those that provide a solid background for these students’ later graduate-level studies and professional work, such as education, counseling or psychology.

Once an aspiring school counselor has earned a bachelor’s degree, he or she can then enroll in graduate school, though some graduates choose to gain some experience first in a related profession, like teaching. During their master’s degree programs, aspiring school counselors will learn introductory school counseling material, methods for counseling groups and individuals, developmental psychology, ways of helping exceptional learners succeed, school and multicultural society, lifestyle and career development counseling and other important matters. They will also participate in internship and practicum opportunities to gain real-world experience. Depending on the state, school counselors also need certifications, licenses or endorsements to practice and possibly a minimum number of years of teaching experience.

School counselor is a rewarding job for those who enjoy the challenging and fulfilling nature of helping young people. The salary potential and job satisfaction associated with this position are well worth the need to earn both an undergraduate and graduate college degree.

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