School and Career Counselors and Advisors

Career, Salary and Education Information

What They Do: School counselors help students develop academic and social skills. Career counselors and advisors help people choose a path to employment.

Work Environment: School counselors work in public and private schools. Career counselors and advisors are employed primarily in colleges and universities but also work in career centers and private practice. Both types of counselors usually work full time.

How to Become One: Most school counselors need a master’s degree in school counseling or a related field and have a state-issued credential. Some states require licensure for career counselors and advisors.

Salary: The median annual wage for school and career counselors is $58,120.

Job Outlook: Employment of school and career counselors and advisors is projected to grow 8 percent over the next ten years, much faster than the average for all occupations. Increasing school enrollments is expected to lead to employment growth of these workers.

Related Careers: Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of school and career counselors with similar occupations.

Following is everything you need to know about a career as a school or career counselor or advisor with lots of details. As a first step, take a look at some of the following jobs, which are real jobs with real employers. You will be able to see the very real job career requirements for employers who are actively hiring. The link will open in a new tab so that you can come back to this page to continue reading about the career:

Top 3 School Counselor Jobs

  • School Counselor - The Stepping Stones Group - Stevensville, PA

    School Counselor Positions Available Now! - Stevensville, PA The Stepping Stones Group is currently interviewing School Counselors like YOU for the 2021-2022 School Year! Join us in our mission to ...

  • School Counselor - The Stepping Stones Group - Flint, MI

    MI Counselor License Required - School Based Experience Preferred * We encourage New Grads to apply Our passionate leadership team and expansive clinical support network ensure the delivery of the ...

  • Counselor - Remote - BetterHelp - Lake Oswego, OR

    Also, we are unable to accept substance abuse counselors , school counselors , registered nurses, career counselors , Christian counselors and business/life coaches (unless they have an additional ...

See all School Counselor jobs

What School and Career Counselors Do[About this section] [To Top]

School counselors help students develop academic and social skills and plans for after graduation. Career counselors and advisors help students and other clients develop skills, explore an occupation, or choose an educational program that will lead to a career.

Duties of School and Career Counselors and Advisors

School counselors typically do the following:

  • Help students understand and overcome social or behavioral challenges
  • Analyze data to identify factors, such as poor attendance, that negatively affect academic performance
  • Advise individuals and small groups based on their needs
  • Work with students to develop skills that support learning, such as effective time management and study habits
  • Evaluate students' abilities and interests through aptitude assessments and interviews
  • Collaborate with teachers and families to help students plan academic, career, and social goals
  • Teach students and school staff about specific topics such as bullying and drug use
  • Present options to students for educational or vocational plans after graduation
  • Maintain records as required
  • Report cases of possible neglect or abuse and refer students and parents to resources for additional support

The specific duties of school counselors vary with their students' ages.

Elementary school counselors visit classrooms or meet with students individually or in groups to help them develop their social and academic skills. They also meet with parents or guardians to discuss the child's strengths and weaknesses, challenges, or special needs. School counselors work with teachers and administrators to ensure that the curriculum addresses students' developmental and academic needs.

Middle school counselors work with school staff and families to help students improve their decision-making, study, and social skills. These counselors support students going through challenges in school or at home and offer one-on-one meetings to discuss these challenges. Middle school counselors also assist students in their transition to high school, preparing them for the next level of academic and social development.

High school counselors advise students in making academic and career plans. Many help students overcome personal issues that interfere with their academic development. They help students choose classes and plan for their lives after graduation. Counselors provide information about choosing and applying for colleges, training programs, financial aid, and internships and apprenticeships. They may present career lessons to help students learn how to search and apply for jobs.

Career counselors and advisors typically do the following:

  • Use aptitude and achievement assessments to help students or clients evaluate their interests, skills, and abilities
  • Evaluate students' or clients' background, education, and training, to help them develop realistic goals
  • Guide students in making decisions about careers, such as choosing an occupation and the type of degree to pursue
  • Help students select and apply for educational programs to obtain the necessary degrees, credentials, and skills
  • Teach students or clients job-search skills, such as interviewing and networking
  • Assist clients in locating and applying for jobs, by teaching them strategies that will be helpful in finding openings and writing a résumé

The specific duties of career counselors and advisors vary by student or client.

Career coaches work with people who have already entered the workforce. These counselors develop plans with customized objectives and activities to improve their clients' careers. They motivate their clients and support them to achieve the goals they set together. Career coaches also provide advice about entering a new occupation or helping to resolve workplace issues.

College advisors help students choose a major or determine the jobs they are qualified for with their degrees. These advisors also help people find and get jobs by teaching them job search, résumé writing, and interviewing techniques. College advisors often specialize in counseling students in one area of the college experience, such as admissions or financial aid.

Some career counselors work in outplacement firms and assist laid-off workers with transitioning into new jobs or careers.

Work Environment for School and Career Counselors and Advisors[About this section] [To Top]

School and career counselors hold about 333,500 jobs. The largest employers of school and career counselors are as follows:

Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private 44%
Junior colleges, colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 35%
Healthcare and social assistance 7%
Other educational services; state, local, and private 4%
Self-employed workers 3%

School and Career Counselor and Advisor Work Schedules

Both types of counselors and advisors usually work full time. Most counselors and advisors who work in schools and colleges may not work when school is not in session, such as during the summer.

How to Become a School or Career Counselor or Advisor[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for School and Career Counselors near you!

School counselors typically must have a master’s degree in school counseling or a related field and have a state-issued credential. Some states require licensure for career counselors and advisors.

Education for School and Career Counselors and Advisors

Nearly all states and the District of Columbia require school counselors to have a master's degree, which is typically in a field such as counseling or psychology. Degree programs teach counselors the essential skills of the job, such as how to foster development; conduct group and individual counseling; work with support systems, such as parents, school staff, and community organizations; and use data to develop, implement, and evaluate comprehensive counseling programs. These programs often require counselors to complete an internship.

Some employers prefer that career counselors have a master's degree in counseling with a focus on career development. Career counseling programs prepare students to assess clients' skills and interests and to teach career development techniques. For career or academic advisors, employers may prefer candidates who have a bachelor's degree and work experience.

Master's degree programs in counseling usually require students to have a period of supervised experience, such as an internship.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Public school counselors must have a state-issued credential to practice. Depending on the state, this credential may be called a certification, a license, or an endorsement. Obtaining this credential typically requires a master's degree in school counseling, an internship or practicum completed under the supervision of a licensed professional school counselor, and successful completion of a test.

Some employers prefer or require candidates to have classroom teaching experience, or to hold a teaching license, prior to being certified. Most states require a criminal background check as part of the credentialing process. Information about requirements for each state is available from the American School Counselor Association.

Some states require licensure for career counselors; check with your state for more information. Contact information for state regulating boards is available from the National Board for Certified Counselors.

Optional certifications for career and academic advisors are available from some professional associations.

Important Qualities for School and Career Counselors and Advisors

Analytical skills. School and career counselors and advisors interpret student records, schoolwide data, and assessments to match interests and abilities with potential careers.

Compassion. School and career counselors and advisors often work with people who are dealing with stressful and difficult situations, so they must be able to empathize with their clients and students.

Interpersonal skills. School and career counselors and advisors must be able to work with people of all backgrounds and personalities. They need to form and maintain collaborative relationships with clients, students, or other professionals.

Listening skills. School and career counselors and advisors need to give full attention to students and clients in order to understand their problems.

Speaking skills. School and career counselors and advisors must communicate effectively with clients and students. They should express ideas and information in a way that their clients and students understand.

School and Career Counselor Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for school and career counselors and advisors is $58,120. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $35,620, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $97,910.

The median annual wages for school and career counselors in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private $64,960
Other educational services; state, local, and private $52,590
Junior colleges, colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private $51,660
Healthcare and social assistance $42,300

Both types of counselors and advisors usually work full time. Most counselors and advisors who work in schools and colleges may not work when school is not in session, such as during the summer.

Job Outlook for School and Career Counselors and Advisors[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of school and career counselors and advisors is projected to grow 8 percent over the next ten years, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Rising student enrollments in elementary, middle, and high schools is expected to increase demand for school counselors. As enrollments grow, schools will require more counselors to respond to the developmental and academic needs of their students. Colleges will need to hire additional counselors to meet the demand for career counseling services from their students.

Demand for career counseling is projected to increase in universities as an increasing number of campuses open onsite career centers to help students develop skills and prepare for transition to the workforce.

Career counselors and advisors also will be needed to assist those who change careers, to help laid-off workers find employment, and to help military personnel transition into the civilian job market.

Job Prospects for School and Career Counselors and Advisors

About 33,100 openings for school and career counselors and advisors are projected each year, on average, over the decade.

Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment projections data for School and Career Counselors and Advisors, 2019-29
Occupational Title Employment, 2019 Projected Employment, 2029 Change, 2019-29
Percent Numeric
Educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors 333,500 360,400 8 26,800


A portion of the information on this page is used by permission of the U.S. Department of Labor.


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