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Elementary School Guidance Counselor Education Requirements

Elementary school guidance counselors work with primary school students, parents and teachers to ensure that academic, social and developmental needs are met. An elementary school counselor meets with students individually and visits classrooms to observe learning and socialization. They then assess any problem areas and advise parents and teachers regarding a student's educational goals. A master's degree in school counseling is generally the minimum requirement for a career in the field.

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Education Requirements for Elementary School Guidance Counselors

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), states have different education standards for elementary school guidance counselors; however, a master's degree is a common requirement (www.bls.gov). Many colleges and universities offer master's degrees in school counseling, counseling psychology or similar fields that prepare students for careers as elementary school guidance counselors. Undergraduate students interested in becoming elementary school guidance counselors should consider majoring in psychology or education.

Students in graduate-level school guidance counseling programs study individual and group counseling, ethical issues, working with diverse students and counseling theory. Standard coursework includes counseling practices, childhood development, psychology and multicultural counseling. Many counseling graduate programs include fieldwork, which brings students into contact with children and working elementary school guidance counselors.

Some graduate programs for elementary school guidance counselors prefer applicants who have experience working with children in an educational setting. There are programs specifically tailored to certified teachers who wish to transition into counseling careers.

Licensure Information

Each state's department of education outlines the licensure requirements for elementary school guidance counselors. According to the BLS, most states require school guidance counselors to hold a master's degree in order to be licensed, while others only require counselors to have state school counseling certification and some graduate-level credits. Counselors who live in states that require licensure must often complete continuing education requirements. Other states require school counselors to have certificates in both teaching and counseling in addition to teaching experience.

The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) offers the National Certified School Counselor (NCSC) credential for elementary school guidance counselors (www.nbcc.org). The credential is voluntary; counselors seeking this certification must have at least a master's degree and three years of post-graduate work experience in order to qualify for the examination. Acquiring the NCSC credential can lead to greater job opportunities and salary increases.

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