Do you love interacting with adolescents and you think that you would be interested in becoming a high school counselor? Are you a little unsure that you will be able to effectively handle practically any adolescent type situation that comes your way? Are you attempting to do your homework so that you can be as informed as possible as you make important decisions regarding your professional future? That will always be a great plan; continue reading below so that you can learn the most pertinent information about this potential career path.
It is important to understand that while a career as a high school counselor (sometimes also called a guidance counselor) is often a very rewarding career, it can also be extremely challenging at times. While your job responsibilities will surely be numerous, your overall job description is to help prepare a group of teens so that they can learn to make solid decisions that will affect their future in a positive manner. It is important to note that as a high school counselor you will be working to help students make decisions regarding their present and future social life, their academic life, their personal image, and any difficulties that they may be experiencing. All in all, you will be working to help young students become the most productive members of society that they possibly can. Since you will be working with students who are high school age, you can also expect to work with colleges and universities in your area. This is largely due to the fact that you will need to stay abreast of all scholarship offers or learning opportunities that are available to your students and that you can help them apply for.
In addition to helping your students prepare for college, you will also need to consistently be on the lookout for educational programs or resources that may be beneficial to your students. Should you decide to introduce a particular student or group of students to a certain program or resource; you can also expect to be responsible for helping the individual become acclimated to the program or resource and for successfully completing it. As previously mentioned, you will also be responsible for counseling your students in areas not involved with academics or education. For instance, if you have a student who is struggling with drug use or suicidal thoughts, then you will need to provide comfort or assistance to them in their time of need. It is most common for high school counselors to have completed at least some level of a graduate degree program. In addition to your educational requirements you can also expect to need a valid license for the state in which you live. It is important to note that the requirements for licensure vary slightly from one state to another, so it will likely be a good idea to familiarize yourself with what is mandated by your state.
School counselors assist students in developing social skills and academic prowess so that they can succeed in gaining the best education possible. Counselors are not tasked to work only with students who have problems. They also help young students with typical tasks like putting together academic plans and choosing a viable career path. Since school counselors conduct evaluations and assessments, they learn where students’ strengths lay, and thus can predict what work setting will produce successful results for the students. School counselors often are responsible for facilitating workshops and developing programs. They may also become advocates for students and their goals. Counselors know better than anyone, once they know students, just how much potential they have in the areas of furthering their education and choosing and preparing for careers. School counselors’ duties vary with the age of the students they counsel.
Elementary School Counselors
School counselors at the elementary level focus on aiding students in the development of specific skills, including those used in studying and making decisions. They will need these skills if they wish to become successful in their academic and social lives. Counselors can meet with guardians or parents to discuss their children’s strong and weak areas, and any behavioral issues or special needs. They can also work together with administrators and teachers to make sure that the school curriculum addresses the academic and developmental needs of the students.
Middle School Counselors
Counselors in middle schools work with the parents, staff and community, to create a supportive and caring climate so that students can achieve success in academics. They are helpful to students in developing the strategies and skills they need to succeed both socially and academically.
High School Counselors
High school level counselors give advice to students, to help them make plans, academically and career-wise. They may also help students to overcome personal problems that may interfere with their scholastic development.
Counselors at this level also help students in choosing classes, and in planning for their lives after they graduate. They provide the students with information about selecting colleges, as well as applying for admission, and dealing with apprenticeships, internships, training programs and financial aid. They can also help students search for jobs, apply, write good resumes and improve their skills in interviews.
School counselors generally help in:
• Identifying issues that may impact a student’s performance in school, like poor attendance
• Evaluating the interests and abilities of students through individual planning, aptitude assessments and interviews
• Counseling groups and individuals on the basis of school and student needs
• Helping students to understand and overcome behavioral or social problems through counseling and guidance lessons
• Helping students to create plans that help them achieve their academic and eventual career goals
• Working with students in the development of skills like time management, effective study habits and organizational abilities
• Teaching school staff and students about topics that include drug abuse, bullying and planning for college and beyond
• Collaborating with parents, teachers and administrators to help their students succeed
• Reporting potential abuse or neglect cases and referring parents and students to outside resources for support
Most school counselor positions require a Master’s degree or beyond in the psychology or education field. In addition, many states will require graduates to have a teacher’s license if they want to work as a counselor. From initial coursework to advanced education, psychology schooling will lead students toward a successful career. The levels of education are:
Certificate or Diploma
Students will need more schooling than the typical nine months or so required for a certificate or diploma, to become a school counselor. They can get a diploma, but it usually requires hours beyond their Master’s degree to get this.
Associate Degree in School Counseling
A two-year program looks appealing to many students, and, depending on how much schooling they have already had, there may be some programs that will help them on their way to becoming a practicing school counselor.Today, the minimum qualification for working as a school counselor includes a Master’s degree. They may opt to begin with a two-year associate degree program, to help determine whether they are truly interested in getting their bachelor’s or their master’s degree. Some of the courses offered in two-year associate degree programs include: College student affairs, Elementary school counseling and Secondary school counseling.
Bachelor's Degree in Counseling
Most people studying to become school counselors start their careers by pursuing a bachelor’s degree in areas including psychology, counseling or education. When students pursue a career in school counseling, they will in nearly all cases need to go on to earn a master’s degree in psychology, education or counseling.
Master's Degree in Counseling
A master’s degree in school counseling prepares graduates to properly pursue their professional goals. Counselors who plan to work in a school environment will be trained to provide evaluation, advocacy and assessment, as well as career, academic, developmental, social and personal counseling. School counselors work with many areas of the population, including the students, teachers, parents, community members and coaches, along with administrators and staff of the school. Most graduate programs online in school counseling require the student to complete an internship, usually 100 hours, and 600 hours of practicum experience. These aspects of schooling sound time-consuming, but they should not dissuade students from pursuing their career goals.
The internship and practicum are built into the school programs, so they’re manageable, even for busy students. The experience gained and relationships built during these programs will look good on a resume and as references for employment opportunities in the future. Some master’s programs in school counseling also will require residencies. These must be done face-to-face, and they normally take place several times during the program, for several days or a week at a time. Residencies can provide students with numerous benefits, from developing new relationships with fellow students and the faculty to richly enhancing the educational experience. Many online program graduates list their residency as among their top highlights. The majority of residencies take place on a college’s main campus. They must be sure to keep in mind the extra costs incurred at this time, like meals, transportation and lodging.
Licensing for School Counselors
Most school counselors must be licensed in their state’s education department. The program may cover K-12, but there are opportunities to tailor it to the middle or high school levels. The internship should be served in a setting appropriate to that level. The licensing that is used by many states includes a state exam, the Praxis or the NTE. Students must become familiar with their state board at their earliest schooling period, since maintaining a current membership with the American School Counselor Association will benefit them.
Careers in School Counseling
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2014 about 273,400 people were employed in the United States as school or career counselors. The mean wage was $54,560 per year or about $26.23 per hour. When they graduate, they can work within various private and public-school types, and serve students of different ages. Typically, the education required for entry-level work is a Master’s degree. The job outlook is good, with an expected eight percent increase in positions between 2014 and 2024. This works out to about 22,500 more positions between 2014 and 2024.Students’ training in psychology may also allow them to work into a position in private practice or with a counseling group that helps with addiction, family issues or other areas. This depends on any other schooling they may have had.
School Counseling at a glance:
Mean annual wage for school counselors: $54,560 as of 2016
Most popular school counselor positions: Elementary school counselor, high school counselor, college-level counselor, others as needed by individual states
Essential skills: Good listener, able to assess students and situations, appreciative of diversity, highly effective communicator, authoritative but friendly dealings with people, able to evaluate people and issues and coordinate with students and others
Online Associate Degrees in Psychology: School Counseling
There are very few associate degree programs in counseling that can be completed online. There are more online programs in psychology. If a student wants to become a school counselor, an online associate’s degree program could be a positive step toward that goal. Many psychology associate’s degree programs may be completed in their entirety through online study. Students may access course materials and lectures as their personal schedules permit. They will need to communicate with their instructors via e-mail, and meet all deadlines. In some schools, students may need to attend in-person for pre-admission testing or orientation.
What Does an Associate Degree Program in Psychology: School Counseling Entail?
Psychology associate degrees online provide a solid start for people who want to work as school counselors. Students learn principles, foundational and historical theories and other topics related to their study of human behavior. The only prerequisite for taking associate degree course work is usually a high school diploma or GED. Previous courses taken at the college level may need to show a minimum grade point average, or GPA, for students to be accepted. Credit may sometimes be given for college-level exam program testing (CLEP) or life experience. Graduates generally earn an Associate of Science in Psychology or Social Psychology.
Program Information and Requirements
Associate’s degree programs offered online usually take about two years to earn. A virtual orientation may be required, to explain the program to online students. Afterwards, they may access their practice exercises, research assignments, instructor notes and class objectives online. It may be a requirement of students to log in a specific number of times each week, although the specific hours can be tailored to each student. Instructors usually give answers to questions, exam results, reviews and guidance via voicemail, fax or e-mail. Online students often will need to access websites and programs specific to the school they are attending. If this is pertinent, the school will provide students with personal IDs and e-mail accounts. Some programs provide technical support via email or phone, through which students have access to 24-hour a day help.
Associate’s Degree in Psychology: School Counseling
Associates degree programs in psychology, taken online, focus on introductory principles and theory, in addition to specific concentrations like social psychology, which is helpful for eventual school counselors. General education courses are also included in the requirements for credit, as they are in conventional programs. Common courses include:
• Human Development
This course has as its focus the development of physiological, physical and social changes that occur from birth to death. It also emphasizes life stages and human needs, and the similarities and differences in various demographic groups.
• Personality Theories
This class teaches personality traits that are humanistic, cognitive, biological, behavioral and social. The students in these classes will research theories, evidence and human behavior dynamics in specific personalities.
• Psychology Foundations
In this course, students will be exploring the techniques, methods, foundations, history and biology of psychology. They will also study in topics related to cognition, emotions, motivation, personality, behavioral relationships, brain functions and hormones.
Career Outlook for Graduates of Associate Degree Programs in Psychology: School Counseling
Associate psychology degrees are an excellent first step for people pursuing additional education, to become a school counselor. These classes help students in obtaining lower level technician or human service positions, which may or may not be available locally.
An associate’s degree is of value to employers in many areas, from human services to child care. Schools that offer online psychology associates degrees suggest these potential associate degree level careers:
• Youth counselor
• Psychiatric orderly or nursing assistant
• Human service assistant
• Case technician
• Addiction rehabilitation assistant
• Home care aide
The median pay for this type of position varies, but a workable average is about $28,670 per year or $13.78 per hour. The number of jobs in these fields is at least 145,200 and the job growth outlook is at five percent, which is average for the economy. It is expected that more than 7,600 jobs will open between 2014 and 2024.
Online Bachelor's Degrees in Psychology: School Counseling
This degree is the next step for serious candidates in school counseling. A bachelor’s degree is generally earned in counseling, psychology, education or social work. After students obtain this degree, they typically work on a master’s degree in school counseling. They need that degree to accept a position of school counselor in most states.
What Does a Bachelor's Degree Program in Psychology: School Counselor Entail?
A B.S. in psychology is the degree program that focuses on counseling students who deal with social issues, and on directing and guiding students to fully achieve their scholastic and career goals. A simple psychology degree is acceptable in many cases, but most students major in psychology and minor in counseling. This allows them to gain all the knowledge they will need for advising, educating and counseling students in public or private schools.
Bachelor’s Degrees in Education
Guidance counselors will work in the education field, so earning a bachelor’s degree in education is helpful. If they major in education and minor in counseling, students will be ready to meet most of the educational requirements needed for guidance counselors.
Bachelor’s Degrees in Counseling
Some schools do not offer degrees in counseling, but this type of degree is helpful, with an education emphasis. If this option is available, it is a choice recommended by those who have specialized in the position of guidance counselor.
States’ Requirements for Guidance Counselors
In many states, students need to earn a certification from the state, before working as a guidance counselor. Each state’s certification may be unique. Students who have a goal of becoming a guidance counselor should review the state requirements where they plan to work, to make sure that they are earning the proper certification to satisfy that state’s requirements.
Career Outlook for Graduates of Bachelor's Degree Programs in Psychology: School Counselor
Students can earn their bachelor’s degrees in universities and colleges, on-campus or online. The number of years required may vary by school, but most B.A. (Bachelor of Arts) degrees take four years to earn. There are many jobs available for students who have a bachelor’s degree in counseling. Businesses hire people with degrees in counseling to work in various departments. Positions available include:
• Human resource assistant
• Mental health technician
• Human services worker
• Non-profit organization worker
• Vocational rehabilitation assistant
• Case management assistant
• Life skills instructor
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a median pay for human service workers and similar opportunities for associate’s degree holders at $31,810 per year or $15.29 per hour. The job outlook is good, showing 11% expected growth from 2014 to 2024, which is higher than the average rate of growth for positions available. This works out to approximately 44,200 new jobs (or existing jobs with the people holding them retiring).
Online Master's Degrees in Psychology: School Counseling
Counseling is a field in which the work is rewarding, but students will need a master’s degree for most school counselor positions. Online master’s degree programs are flexible and allow students to continue working in their current jobs while they study. If a student has completed their bachelor’s degree in counseling or in a related field, and they plan to continue their education, the online master’s in counseling program is an excellent choice.
What Does a Master's Degree Program in Psychology: School Counselor Entail?
Master’s degree level course work is much more in-depth than students have previously experienced, while earning their associate’s or bachelor’s degree. The core course work includes:
• Developmental Psychology
This topic is a part of many subjects, exploring health, organizational, social and abnormal psychology, so that students learn to provide useful methods of recognition, assessment and treatment.
• Ethics and Psychology
Courses in legal psychology and ethics are useful in exploring statutory challenges, which may arise due to the presence or absence of ethical practices, mental-specific health care and reporting responsibilities mandated by the government.
For patient care and guidance, proper written communication is essential. Students will be learning and adhering to the style guide accepted by the American Psychological Association (APA).
Psychology, at its core, means studying the mind. This should not be confused with psychiatry, which is more focused on proper methods of treatment. The topic of research is one that students will frequently visit and revisit.
Core Course Concentrations
• School Psychology
Graduates with this major can seek licensure and certification, and then focus on helping young students to set and achieve goals, and to develop productive, effective life skills and habits.
• Cognition, Learning & Child Psychology
Students who are interested in work that is geared to children may wish to look into this area of study. There are other concentrations in addition to school psychology. These may be helpful to students who also want the opportunity to branch out into different fields. They include:
• Engineering Psychologists
Students can utilize their research skills and analytic abilities in this area of study, to explore motor skills, perception and attentional processes.
• Military Psychology
This area focuses psychology as it applies to military life and post-military life. Counselors in this field are specialists in anger and stress management, and leadership and grief strategies.
Students who are interested in the area of clinical psychology can consider study in this field, which is also known by the description of perceptual or sensation psychology.
• Forensic Psychology
Students with an aptitude for assessing pathologies, motivations and desires of criminals and victims may fit well in this field. If they decide to expand beyond school work, they can use their psychology schooling and experience in the justice field.
• Consumer Psychology
This area focuses on the market research, perception and motivation behind the marketing for consumers. Students can take this opportunity to focus also on occupational and industrial psychology.
Career Outlook for Graduates of Master's Degree Programs in Psychology: School Counselor
The career outlook for school counselors and school psychology is promising, across the United States. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that many current practitioners are nearing retirement age in the next decade, opening doors for new school counselors. The median pay for school counselors nationwide is $54,560 per year or $26.23 per hour. The number of jobs in this field in 2014 was 273,400. The outlook for openings in the field shows an 8% expected growth, which is an average rate for the field. Between 2014 and 2024, the U.S. is expected to add 22,500 school counselor positions. There will likely be differences in the salaries and job availability by school district, region and state. Some school counselors will additionally engage in part-time private practice, which provides additional income and employment.