High School Counselor: Educational Requirements

High school counselors help students with any issues they may be having, such as making decisions regarding their career or college plans. Individuals interested in this profession will likely need to earn a master's degree, which includes a supervised experience in the field.

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Educational Requirements for High School Counselors

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), high school counselors differ from other school counselors in that they provide career- and college-counseling services (www.bls.gov). They also help students work through their problems, whether they're behavioral, social or personal. Besides offering counseling services, high school counselors may develop programs or speak to classes to raise awareness of certain issues. They often interact with parents and school administrators.

Undergraduate Education

Prospective high school counselors may consider undergraduate programs in psychology or a related major. These programs often include relevant coursework in areas such as childhood or adolescent psychology, educational psychology and lifespan development. Individual courses in topics like child abuse and domestic violence may also be available. An internship or practicum, which provides work experience, may be required or offered as an elective.

Graduate Education

The BLS indicates that most states require school counselors to hold a master's degree. Students may consider programs that have earned a recognized accreditation, which may help with becoming licensed. The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs accredits master's degree programs in school counseling (www.cacrep.org). The American Psychological Association also accredits counseling and school psychology programs at the doctoral level (www.apa.org).

Master's degree programs in educational psychology or school counseling offer advanced coursework in subject areas like adolescent and human development, educational sociology and human learning. Additional research-related courses, such as statistics or research methods, are typically included. Graduate students may be required to complete research projects.

An extensive period of professional practice is usually required. Through a practicum or internship, individuals gain experience working with high school students. During this process, faculty members or practicing counselors supervise graduate students. Some schools have clinics on campus that allow students to gain additional experience.

Licensing Information

The BLS reports that licensing requirements for high school counselors vary by state, including some that require school counselors to hold a teaching certification or have teaching experience. Many states require individuals to undergo a background check and pass a certifying exam. All states have continuing education requirements that high school counselors must meet over a certain period, which the American School Counselor Association reports as often being five years (www.schoolcounselors.org).

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Educational, guidance, school and vocational counselors who worked for elementary or secondary schools earned a mean annual salary of $62,970 in 2012, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Because schools are admitting more students, they will need more counselors to assist those students. Data from the BLS shows employment opportunities for elementary and secondary school counselors are expected to grow by eight percent between 2010 and 2020.

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