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How to Become a School Counselor – Career Sidekick

School Counselor 5 Steps to Career

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

Start by obtaining a bachelor’s degree in psychology, counseling, education, or a related field. Building a solid foundation in these areas will prepare you for advanced studies and practical experience.

Do I need a degree to become a School Counselor?

Yes, to become a school counselor, you typically need a degree. Most school counselor positions require candidates to have at least a master’s degree in school counseling or a closely related field. This advanced degree provides the necessary training and education to effectively support students’ academic, social, and emotional needs.

While a bachelor’s degree in a related field like psychology or education is a starting point, a master’s degree is generally considered the minimum requirement for licensure and certification as a school counselor. It equips you with the skills, knowledge, and practical experience needed to excel in this role and make a positive impact on students’ lives.

Pursue a Master’s Degree

Complete a master’s degree program in school counseling or a closely related discipline. This advanced education is typically required for licensure and equips you with the necessary skills to support students effectively.

How long does it take and how much does it cost to get a degree in School Counseling?

The time and cost to obtain a degree as a school counselor can vary based on factors such as the level and type of degree, the institution you attend, whether you study full-time or part-time, and whether you’re eligible for financial aid or scholarships. Here’s a general overview:

  • Bachelor’s Degree: To become a school counselor you first need to obtain a degree in a related field such as counseling, education, psychology, etc. This typically takes around 4 years of full-time study. The cost varies widely depending on the school, location, and whether you attend a public or private institution. On average, tuition and fees for a bachelor’s degree can range from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars per year. The average annual cost of a bachelor’s degree in counseling is $23,050.
  • Master’s Degree: To become a licensed school counselor, a master’s degree is often required. A master’s in school counseling usually takes around 1 to 2 years of full-time study. The cost varies significantly based on the institution. On average, tuition and fees for a master’s degree can range from several thousand to over twenty thousand dollars per year. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the median annual tuition cost for a Master’s in counseling is about $12,170 for public tuition and fees.
  • Additional Costs: Keep in mind that in addition to tuition, you’ll likely have to budget for textbooks, supplies, and possibly internship or practicum expenses. Some programs may require background checks or certification exams, which also come with associated costs.

Financial aid options, including scholarships, grants, and loans, can help offset the costs of your education. Many universities offer financial assistance specifically for students pursuing degrees in counseling or related fields. It’s important to research and compare different schools and programs to get a more accurate estimate of the time and cost required to obtain a degree as a school counselor. Additionally, factors like your location, whether you attend in-person or online, and your personal circumstances will influence the overall cost and duration of your education.

Can I complete an online degree program in School Counseling?

Yes, you can pursue a master’s degree in school counseling through online programs offered by many accredited universities. Online degree programs in school counseling provide flexibility and convenience, allowing you to balance your studies with other commitments, such as work or family responsibilities. Some programs also require in-person or virtual practicum or internship experiences to ensure you gain hands-on skills and practical training.

When considering an online degree program in school counseling, it’s important to ensure that the program is accredited by a recognized accrediting body. Accreditation ensures that the program meets certain standards of quality and that your degree will be recognized by employers and licensing boards.

Before enrolling in an online program, research the curriculum, faculty, and any in-person requirements to make sure the program aligns with your career goals and learning preferences. Additionally, check if the program provides support services, such as academic advising and career counseling, to help you succeed in your studies and future career as a school counselor.

What are some web resources to learn skills to become a School Counselor?

There are several web resources that can help you learn skills and gain knowledge to become a successful school counselor. Here are some valuable online platforms and websites:

  • American School Counselor Association (ASCA): The ASCA website offers a wealth of resources, including webinars, articles, toolkits, and professional development opportunities specifically tailored to school counselors.
  • Counseling Today: This online publication by the American Counseling Association covers a wide range of topics related to counseling, including school counseling. It provides insights, research, and practical tips for aspiring school counselors.
  • Education Week: Education Week’s counseling section features articles, blogs, and resources related to school counseling and student well-being.
  • The Counseling Teacher: This website offers a range of educational videos on topics relevant to school counseling, such as emotional intelligence, communication skills, and personal development.
  • National Center for Youth Issues (NCYI): NCYI offers online resources and training for school counselors, covering topics like bullying prevention, behavior management, and social-emotional learning.
  • Therapist Aid: While geared towards therapists, Therapist Aid provides free worksheets, handouts, and resources that can be adapted for school counseling purposes.
  • This website offers a variety of counseling resources, worksheets, and activities that can be useful for school counselors working with students on various issues.

Gain Practical Experience

Acquire hands-on experience through internships, practicums, or supervised counseling sessions. Many programs include a practical component to help you apply theoretical knowledge in real-life situations.

Internship opportunities for aspiring School Counselors

Aspiring school counselors can benefit from various internship opportunities to gain practical experience and develop their skills. Here are some avenues to explore for school counseling internships:

  • Local Schools and School Districts: Reach out to schools and school districts in your area to inquire about internship opportunities. Many schools offer formal internship programs where you can work alongside experienced counselors, observe counseling sessions, and assist with various tasks.
  • Colleges and Universities: Colleges often have counseling centers where you can intern and gain experience working with college students on academic and personal issues.
  • Nonprofit Organizations: Some nonprofit organizations focus on youth development, mental health, or educational support. These organizations may offer internship positions that align with school counseling goals.
  • Community Centers: Community centers often provide programs and services for children and adolescents. Volunteering or interning at such centers can give you the chance to work with young people in a supportive environment.
  • Mental Health Clinics: Some mental health clinics offer internships or volunteer opportunities that allow you to work with clients, including children and adolescents, under the supervision of licensed therapists.
  • Youth Camps and Programs: Summer camps, afterschool programs, and youth organizations offer opportunities to engage with children and teenagers, helping you develop your counseling and mentoring skills.
  • Online Counseling Platforms: Some online platforms offer virtual counseling services for students. Interning with such platforms can give you experience in providing remote counseling and support.
  • Professional Associations: Organizations like the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) may provide information about internship opportunities, conferences, and networking events.

When seeking an internship, make sure to clarify the expectations, responsibilities, and supervision provided. Additionally, internships may be paid or unpaid, so consider your financial situation and availability when exploring these opportunities.

Essential Skills You Will Learn as a School Counselor

As a school counselor, possessing a range of valuable skills is essential to effectively support students and contribute to a positive school environment.

  • Communication and Interpersonal Skills: Strong communication skills are paramount, enabling you to connect with students, parents, teachers, and administrators. Active listening, empathy, and the ability to convey information clearly and compassionately are crucial in building meaningful relationships and providing effective guidance.
  • Decision-making and Critical Thinking: Problem-solving skills are equally important, allowing you to analyze complex situations, identify underlying issues, and develop tailored solutions. Adept at critical thinking, you can help students navigate academic, social, and personal challenges, empowering them to make informed decisions.
  • Cultural Competence and Collaboration Skills: Cultural competence is invaluable in today’s diverse educational landscape. Being sensitive to various backgrounds, beliefs, and identities ensures that you can provide inclusive and culturally relevant support to all students. Collaboration skills enable you to work seamlessly with colleagues, parents, and community resources to create a comprehensive support network.
  • Organization and Adaptability: Organization and time management are essential for juggling multiple responsibilities, from individual counseling sessions to organizing events and maintaining records. Adaptability allows you to respond effectively to changing needs and unexpected situations, ensuring that your support remains relevant and impactful.
  • Ethical and Legal Responsibility: Lastly, a solid foundation in ethical and legal considerations is vital. Upholding confidentiality, abiding by ethical guidelines, and understanding relevant laws are essential to providing responsible and effective counseling services.

By cultivating these valuable skills, you can thrive as a school counselor and make a lasting positive impact on the lives of students.

Obtain Licensure or Certification

Research the specific licensure or certification requirements in your state, as they vary. Typically, you’ll need to pass an exam and meet certain educational and experience criteria to become a licensed school counselor.

Start Your Career

With your education, experience, and licensure in place, you’re ready to embark on your career as a school counselor. Apply for positions in educational settings, such as elementary or secondary schools, and begin making a positive impact on students’ lives through counseling, guidance, and support.


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