Counseling and Guidance

Counseling and guidance programs prepare individuals to work as school counselors with students in K-12 school settings. This article can help you decide if counseling and guidance is the right field for you.

Inside Counseling and Guidance

Counseling and guidance programs are generally available at the graduate level for students who want to work as guidance counselors in elementary and secondary schools. In addition to a master's degree, a certification or license is usually needed for employment.

Prior to entering a graduate program in guidance and counseling, students typically earn bachelor's degrees in fields such as teaching, psychology or other areas of social science and education. To learn more about how to become a school counselor, explore the many resources available at

Education and Certification Information

Colleges and universities typically offer degrees and courses in counseling and guidance in their education or psychology departments. According to the American School Counseling Association (ASCA), a minimum of a master's degree is required to be a professional school counselor ( Courses in these programs may include career counseling, developmental psychology, program evaluation, counseling theory and group dynamics. A supervised internship is also an important part of a counseling master's degree. Master's degree programs in counseling and guidance typically require two years of full-time coursework and an internship.

Certification is required in most states, and requirements can be vastly different depending on the location. In some states, like Kansas and Nebraska, individuals must already be licensed as teachers and hold master's degrees in counseling before they can be considered as candidates for certification. Conversely, completing an approved master's degree program that includes a counseling internship or practicum is sufficient in states like Washington and Massachusetts.

Some graduate programs are accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). Students who complete CACREP-accredited programs may have an easier time becoming certified because of rigorous standards that are required for accreditation (

Below are links regarding programs that may help you reach your goal of becoming a guidance counselor.

Distance Learning

While internship requirements make it impractical for master's degrees in counseling to be completed entirely online, options are still available for coursework to be completed from your home computer. Explore the links below to find out about how to complete some of your counseling coursework online.

Career Options

School guidance counselors may work with students individually, in groups and in classroom settings. Counselors in high schools help students with course selection as well as college applications, while those who work with younger students monitor children and offer insight to parents and teachers on their skills and strengths. It's important that counselors in schools be comfortable speaking in front of groups of students.

Depending on the path you take to earn a degree in guidance counseling, there may be several options for careers working in schools. The following links give you more information about career options related to guidance counseling.

Employment Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for school and career counselors were expected to grow 12% from 2012-2022 ( As of May 2013, the average annual income for counselors working in elementary and secondary schools was $63,100 (BLS).

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