How to Become an Education Advisor

Learn how to become an education advisor. Research the education requirements, training, licensure information and experience you will need to start a career as an education advisor.

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Do I Want to Be an Education Advisor?

An education advisor, also called an academic advisor, is a consultant who gives high school and college students advice on how to plan their educational paths. Typically sought out by students and their families, these professionals may be self-employed or they might work for consulting firms. Those who are self-employed may need to spend considerable time seeking new customers and might work evenings and weekends to meet clients' scheduling needs.

Job Requirements

The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) recommends that parents only employ education advisors who have worked as career counselors in a school for at least five years. Going by that guideline, advisors who follow industry best practices may need the same academic credentials as counselors in a school setting, such as a master's degree in counseling. Licensing or certification may be required. The following table presents the core requirements for this career.

Common Requirements
Degree Level Master's*
Degree Field(s) Counseling*
Licensure and/or Certification Academic advisors and school career counselors must typically be licensed or certified by the state in which they are employed. Requirements may differ by state*
Experience Five years as a career counselor in a school environment**
Key Skills Active listening, speaking, reading comprehension, social perceptiveness, critical thinking, writing, judgment and decision making, active learning, complex problem solving, service orientation***
Computer Skills Analytical or scientific software, circuit boards, computer chips and processors, educational software***
Technical Skills Use of personal digital assistants, videoconferencing systems, liquid crystal display projectors***
Additional Skills Knowledge of psychology, therapy, counseling, education and training***

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **National Association for College Admission Counseling, ***O Net Online.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Individuals who wish to become education advisors according to the guidelines set up by NACAC typically begin the education process by earning a bachelor's degree. The educational requirements necessary to become a school counselor or academic advisor varies by employer and state. All states require a bachelor's degree, and many require a master's degree, for which a bachelor's is a necessary prerequisite. According to the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), a degree program in counseling typically includes coursework in human growth and development, counseling methods for both individuals and groups, appraisal methods and cultural foundations related to counseling.

Success Tip:

  • Consider taking coursework for teacher certification. Although many states do not require school counselors to be certified teachers, such certification may add value to a counselor's professional profile and improve his or her chances of employment. Since some states do require that counselors also be certified teachers, a background in education gives a prospective career counselor more flexibility in the locations where he or she may practice. Please note that the certification required to become a teacher is different from the certification required for a counselor.

Step 2: Earn a Master's Degree

Many state regulatory boards require school academic counselors to have master's degrees in counseling. Graduate courses in this degree program may include advanced counseling classes and courses on ethics, testing procedures, career development and cultural issues. Graduate students may also be required to write a thesis.

Success Tip:

  • Participate in a practicum or internship. Many state regulatory boards require master's candidates in counseling to take part in a practicum or internship. Practicums and internships may give students the opportunity to apply the theoretical concepts learned in their coursework to practical experiences encountered in the field. Interns may learn how to give guidance in the classroom, in group counseling sessions and in one-on-one counseling sessions with individual students.

Step 3: Become a Certified Counselor

Although every state requires school counselors to obtain some kind of licensure, each state has different requirements for individuals seeking to become certified. Sometimes this certificate is referred to as an endorsement. All individuals who complete the certification process must fulfill some combination of education and experience requirements. They may also need to pass an examination. The ASCA website lists the educational advisor certification requirements by state.

Step 4: Gain Experience as a School Counselor

A prospective education advisor may add credibility to his or her professional profile by working as a guidance counselor or academic advisor in a school setting for up to five years. A counselor working in a high school setting typically helps students with both academic and personal concerns. He or she advises students on class schedules, discipline issues, academic testing concerns and career plans. A counselor working in a university setting typically advises college students about curriculum choices in preparation for a career.

Success Tip:

  • Join a professional association. An educational counselor working in a school setting may prepare for a career as an education advisor by joining one of the two professional associations dedicated to this particular field of consulting. The Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) is an association of independently employed education advisors that helps match advisors with families who need educational guidance. To become a member, advisors must have a master's degree, three years of experience in educational counseling and have advised at least 50 students. Alternatively, newer advisors can be admitted to the IECA with a letter of recommendation from an IECA member. The Higher Education Consultants Association (HECA) is a similar organization that matches students and parents with self-employed college admissions counselors. The minimum requirements for education advisors to join the HECA include having a bachelor's degree and experience working as a higher education educational counselor.
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