A career in school counseling can be very rewarding as school counselors work directly with students and play an active role in shaping their futures. They work to maximize students' success by helping them apply relevant academic strategies. They promote access and equity for all students, regardless of where they come from. Children with a difficult home life may have their emotions managed by school counselors, who also give them a secure and healthy outlet to express themselves. They are very important members of the school team that help their students succeed by planning for life after school.
Counseling as a career
An educational counselor has a wide array of responsibilities, depending on the educational institution they work for and their specific role in the faculty. The workload is usually heavy, with around 250 students depending on one school counselor for guidance and help. As hectic as that may sound, a career in educational counseling is very fulfilling, as you shape many students' minds and futures.
Additionally, the people who can benefit most from the guidance of a school counselor are students from low-income families and students belonging to racial minorities. Unfortunately, these students usually don't have access to counselors as their schools are mostly understaffed. That is why pursuing a career in educational counseling is a very good decision, as you will be able to help children from very deserving communities.
Your specific job description and the salary you earn as an educational counselor will depend on your employer. Getting further education, like a counseling doctorate, will help you advance your career. Still, it is not a requirement of the field.
The role of a counselor
A school counselor has many duties. As a counselor, you are responsible for providing individual academic planning for each student and helping them set realistic academic goals. You might also have to hold counseling lessons and address a whole class of students. You will also be required to provide short-term counseling to needy students. And referrals for any long-term support that may be considered advisable. This role will require you to advocate for students and to collaborate with students' families, teachers, and the school administration. You will also be tasked with identifying the students' issues and acting in their best interest by helping them overcome those issues.
Students can also be called to mandatory meetings with the educational counselor. Still, the goal is never to correct their behavior for the benefit of the school. Instead, it is a school counselor's job to help students constructively and healthily improve their situation.
How to get into educational counseling?
To become an educational counselor, you must take the following steps.
Get a Bachelor's Degree
The first step to becoming a school counselor is getting a Bachelor's degree, usually a four-year program. Ideal candidates for a career in educational counseling have an undergraduate degree in a field relevant to school counseling, like a bachelor's in Psychology, Education, or Social work. Degrees like these will provide you with an understanding of human development and behavior. They will lay good groundwork for you to become an educational counselor. Let's say you wish to work as an educational counselor and have a bachelor's degree in an entirely different subject. If so, you are eligible to obtain a related master's degree if you have taken courses in general psychology, statistics, and research methodologies, among other topics.
Complete a Master's Degree in School Counseling
After a bachelor's degree, you will have to earn a master's degree in school counseling, which can take anywhere from two to three years to complete. You will be required to complete some credits involving rigorous coursework and research on various topics related to the field. You must choose your degree program carefully to be well-equipped for your future career. Your degree program will best serve you if it is aligned with the needs of today's students and includes content on social justice, diversity, and helping students with disabilities. Go for programs that offer flexible options, like online study or hybrid learning.
Complete Your Internship
It is not a separate step but a part of your master's degree. It will require you to complete a decided number of hours of internship or clinical experience before getting your degree. The details of this requirement vary depending on the state where you want to practice as an educational counselor. Some degree programs require practicum experience, an in-person activity designed to help students better understand what it means to be an educational counselor. Completing the required hours will help you accomplish your master's degree, allowing you to appear for a counselor's exam and obtain your license.
Pass Your State's Counselor Exams
It is a critical step in your path toward a career in educational counseling. A basic skill exam will test mathematics, literacy, and education knowledge. The discipline exam delves deeper into your chosen specialty. It will test you on topics like the role of a school counselor, the ethical and legal aspects of counseling, human growth and development, and the management of counseling programs. The tests will consist of multiple-choice questions and be administered on computers at select locations.
Apply for Your Certification
All school counselors are licensed by the state where they are working. Usually, obtaining a license requires completing formal education in school counseling from an accredited university, an internship or practicum, and passing the state's counselor exam, like Praxis. The actual procedure varies from state to state. Still, it may involve completing a form, providing transcripts and official test scores, and paying a fee. The requirements and procedures of each state are subject to frequent changes and updates, so it is best to get reliable and up-to-date information from the state's education department.
A school counselor provides essential emotional and social support, in addition to academic guidance, to any student in need of it. To become an educational counselor, you must acquire a bachelor's and a master's degree in a relevant field. You will be required to complete a certain number of hours of internship or practicum experience, after which you will appear for an exam. Passing your counselor's exam will lead you to become an accredited and licensed school counselor ready to help shape their students' futures.