School Counseling

School Counseling Degree

Of all the concentrations of psychology, school counseling is the one that receives the most inquiries from the public. What, exactly, is it that school counselors do all day? Why do we even need them? Why do people get a school counseling degree or school psychology degree and what can they do with it?

School counselors play a vital role in the development and nurturing of our young people. They help provide character education, violence prevention and career planning, to name a few. They help students who are being bullied; students who may be anxious about transitioning from an elementary school to a middle school; and help guide which courses are best for the career choices our children are interested in as they get older. 

Education and Training

So how does one become a school counselor? 

Most states require school counselors to obtain a master’s degree in school counseling or a related field before being able to work in the industry. Those who are seeking a graduate degree will learn how to counsel students individually or in groups and to help foster academic development. They also will learn techniques that are helpful for meeting with and addressing the concerns of parents and school staff. 

A U.S. News and World Report special edition ranking the best colleges in the United States selected 16 colleges and universities as among those worthy of inclusion on the list. There are also many schools which offer both online school counseling degrees and a masters degree in school counseling. They include: University of Maryland, University of Georgia, University of Missouri, University of Wisconsin – Madison, University of North Carolina – Greensboro, Pennsylvania State University, Ohio State University, University of Minnesota, University of Florida, Indiana University – Bloomington, University of Central Florida, and the University of Iowa.

The types of graduate degrees available for this profession include:

  • Master’s Degree – Students who enroll in a master degree program in school counseling can expect to learn how to provide psychological support services to students in elementary and secondary school settings. They also will learn how to assist school officials and parents. There will be a focus on teaching the skills necessary to promote academic goals, career planning, and personal and social development. Learning how to evaluate a student’s abilities, interests, talents and personality as part of the overall assessment tools for helping that student to succeed also is a vital part of this degree. 
  • Doctorate Degree – A Ph.D. is not required in order to work in a school setting; however, those who possess a doctorate degree are more likely to earn higher wages. Doctorate degree programs at most colleges and universities prepare students in much the same way as a master’s degree program. In addition, doctoral degree program students can expect to receive instruction in legal and professional requirements, therapeutic counseling intervention, vocational counseling and sociological and psychological foundations related to the school setting. 

In addition to classroom or virtual learning programs, prospective school counselors also are required to receive 2,000 to 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience. There are numerous programs that provide not only on-campus learning, but also distance learning options, for those seeking a graduate-level degree in school psychology. 

Upon completion of a graduate program, school counselor candidates must apply for a state-issued license to practice. Most states require a criminal background check as part of their licensing requirements. A complete listing of the requirements for each state can be found on the American School Counselors Association website

Future Growth and Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for school and career counselors is anticipated to grow by 19 percent by the year 2020. The growth trend is being attributed to increasing enrollment in elementary, middle and high schools. 

The average median salary for school counselors is $53,380. In the bottom 10 percent of wage earners for this profession, the base salary was $31,630. The top 10 percent in the field earned just over $86,000 annually. 

Article by Shari Berg,

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