When someone decides to become a school counselor, they likely have many outstanding qualities. School counselors are empathetic, caring, and highly intelligent individuals. In addition to these qualities that make school counselors the perfect fit to help students with their mental health, school troubles, and personal paths towards academic success, comes a distinct level of determination.
The school counseling profession is not the easiest one to enter but it is admirable. School counselors work hard to earn their title and place in the field. Professional school counselors must earn their degrees, get hands on experience in school settings, and receive the proper certifications per their preferred school district. Today’s school counselor may look different than the past but they are more qualified to assist students than ever before.
Picking A Degree Program for School Counseling
First things first when it comes to becoming a school counselor: choosing a degree program for you. When it comes to picking the right degree program, prospective school counselors need to carefully research their options to find one that is suitable for their career goals. Requirements for these positions are created and enforced at the state level. While the majority of these jurisdictions only consider applicants who have a master’s degree in school counseling, this isn’t a universal requirement. Many states also offer multiple pathways for qualification or have additional requirements, so students and professionals should consult with their state’s department of education or school counseling board for current information. The right comprehensive school counseling program will not only help aspiring school counselors develop skills but also help their job outlook.
Academic Requirements for School Counselors
To qualify for school counseling positions in most states, applicants need to have successfully completed a master’s program from an accredited institution. Some states, like Kansas, also require a certain level of academic performance reflected in the candidate’s grade point average (GPA). Academic requirements may also include a minimum number of credit hours in specific areas of study, like diversity education or career development practices. Currently, Alaska is one of the few jurisdictions that only requires applicants to have a bachelor’s degree from a recognized education program. The American School Counselor Association has the necessary information for an aspiring school counselors efforts.
State Accreditation Process for Becoming a School Counselor
Meeting the academic requirements for a counseling position is only the first step towards accreditation. Exact requirements for accreditation vary significantly between states, with some also incorporating a licensing process. Typically, applicants must demonstrate competency in key topic areas through their past experience or by completing an examination. Some states, like Delaware and Colorado, also require counselors to successfully complete certain portions of the Praxis exam.
Working as a School Counselor
While school counseling degrees and occupations serve a relatively narrow role, qualified candidates are still in demand across the United States. In fact, job outlook predictions forecast a growth of 13 percent from 2016 to 2026, which is faster than the average across all industries, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. While the profession does enjoy a stable job outlook, fluctuating demand between many local school systems means that professionals may need to travel to find suitable opportunities. Elementary school counselors, middle school counselors, and high school counselors will always have a place in this work force but professionals may need to look a little harder for the right opportunity for them.Elementary school counselors, middle school counselors, and high school counselors will always have a place in this work force but professionals may need to look a little harder for the right opportunity for them.
Preparing for a Career as a School Counselor
Current and prospective students who are considering a career in school counseling should start planning their future as soon as possible. The first step is researching specific state requirements to find a program that will open up future professional opportunities. It’s also a good idea to explore relevant internships working with youth to see if it’s the right kind of work environment. Students who want to broaden their horizons can also incorporate other types of coursework, like foreign language or psychology, that might facilitate their professional efforts.
While becoming a professional school counselor does require a great deal of research and education, school counselors help children, teenagers, and young adults achieve success both in school and out of school. For many professionals, this makes it all worth it. Mental health issues can widely vary depending on a child’s background and home life but additional support from a school or guidance counselor can help students find their way. For many individuals, school counselors play a big role in why they went on to lead fulfilling lives after leaving the classroom.
Choosing the right degree pathway is about more than a single state’s requirements, but students should always consider these as part of their decision-making process. Local accreditation is necessary for most counseling jobs in the public school system, so it’s an essential step in building a career. Since most states require counselors to have a master’s degree in school counseling or guidance, students should plan their academic career with this in mind.