School Counselor

Job Duties

School counselors provide educational counseling to individuals and groups, most often students who are considered to be at risk and those who have special needs. They work with these students to promote their academic, career, and personal and social development. Through interviews, counseling sessions, tests, or other methods, they help students evaluate their abilities, interests, talents, and personality characteristics. They operate career information centers and career education programs. Counselors in high schools assist students with college majors, admission requirements, entrance exams, financial aid, trade or technical schools, and apprenticeship programs. They also help students develop job search techniques, such as resume writing and interview techniques. Counselors at the elementary school level observe children playing and then consult with teachers and parents to evaluate the children’s strengths, problems, or special needs.

School counselors help students cope with problems that are either social, behavioral, or personal. They help students develop and enhance the life skills they need to deal with problems as they arise later in life. They attempt to facilitate the student’s personal, social, and academic growth. They also work to identify cases of domestic abuse and other family issues that affect the development of students. The work with students either individually, in small groups, or in entire classes.

Job Skills

School counselors should have a strong desire to help others. It is crucial that they possess the ability to inspire trust, respect, and confidence in students. They should be able to work independently or in a team. And they must follow the code of ethics associated with their certifications and licenses.


In 2002, school counselors earned a median annual salary of $44,100. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $24,930, and the highest 10%, who earned more than $70,320. Many have the option of earning additional income by working summers in the school system or in other jobs.

Training and Education

All States require school counselors to hold State school counseling certification, and most require the completion of a master’s degree. Some States require school counselors to have had some teaching experience and to possess both counseling and teaching certificates. Most States have some type of counselor licensing that governs the practice. Most require the completion of a master’s degree in counseling, the accumulation of 2 years or 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience beyond the master’s degree level, the passage of a State-recognized exam, adherence to ethical codes and standards, and the satisfaction of annual continuing education requirements.

School counselors can advance by moving to larger schools; becoming directors or supervisors of counseling, guidance, or pupil personnel services; or becoming counselor educators, counseling psychologists, and education administrators. Some go on to work for a State’s department of education.


In 2002, school counselors held about 228,000 jobs. Most worked in elementary and secondary schools, as well as colleges and universities.

Job Outlook

Between 2002 and 2012, employment of school counselors is expected to grow about as fast as the average. Growth will be due to increased student enrollment, State legislation requiring counselors in elementary schools, and an expansion in the responsibilities of counselors. Counselors are becoming more involved in crisis and preventive counseling. However, school budget constraints will somewhat temper employment growth.

For more information on how to pursue this profession, please see our Education Degree directory.