School and Career Counselors

Career, Salary and Education Information

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

Work Environment: School counselors work in public and private schools. Career counselors work in colleges, career centers, and private practices. Both types of counselors generally 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.

Salary: The median annual wage for school and career counselors is $56,310.

Job Outlook: Employment of school and career counselors is projected to grow 8 percent over the next ten years, 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 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

  • Military Life Counselor - Embedded - JCS Military Support Services, Inc. - Great Falls, MT

    School assigned counselors must have past work experience in a school setting to qualify for assignment. * Must be able to prove US Citizenship. * Prior military service/military family member and/or ...

  • School Counselor Job-Anaheim, CA - Soliant Health - Anaheim, California

    Soliant is seeking a School Counselor for a contracted position in Anaheim, CA * Full time * Full school year * School Counselor /Mental Health Counselor /LMFT or Social Worker who is able to provide ...

  • Child & Youth Behavioral Counselor - JCS Military Support Services, Inc. - Grand Forks, ND

    Masters Degree We are seeking a Child and Youth Behavioral Counselor to work within the school district surrounding Grand Forks Air Force Base in ND. This position has the primary responsibility of ...

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Top 3 Career Counselor Jobs

  • Counselor - Maxim Healthcare Services - Portland, OR

    The Counselor /Mental Health Clinician provides counseling to patient's in medical facilities ... career opportunities in the healthcare industry.

  • Group Life Counselor IV/CDPT or CDP: Posting #19527 - SEA MAR Community Health Centers - Seattle, WA

    The Group Life Counselor IV is a CDPT position that is part of the multi-disciplinary treatment ... Working at Sea Mar Community Health Centers is more than just a job, it?s a fulfilling career ; a ...

  • Behavioral Science Counselor - Masters Degree - Corizon Health - Hornbeak, TN

    Our people, our practices, and our commitment to success are the traits that make us the ideal employer as you begin or continue to advance your correctional healthcare career . 1. Mental Health ...

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

School counselors help students develop the academic and social skills that lead to success in school. Career counselors help people develop skills, explore a career, or choose an educational program that will lead to a career.

Duties of School and Career Counselors

School counselors typically do the following:

  • Evaluate students' abilities and interests through aptitude assessments, interviews, and individual planning
  • Identify issues that affect school performance, such as poor classroom attendance rates
  • Help students understand and overcome social or behavioral problems through classroom guidance lessons and counseling
  • Counsel individuals and small groups on the basis of student and school needs
  • Work with students to develop skills, such as organizational and time management abilities and effective study habits
  • Help students create a plan to achieve academic and career goals
  • Collaborate with teachers, administrators, and parents to help students succeed
  • Teach students and school staff about specific topics, such as bullying, drug abuse, and planning for college or careers after graduation
  • Maintain records as required
  • Report possible cases of neglect or abuse and refer students and parents to resources outside the school for additional support

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

Elementary school counselors focus on helping students develop certain skills, such as those used in decisionmaking and studying, that they need in order to be successful in their social and academic lives. School counselors meet with parents or guardians to discuss their child's strengths and weaknesses, and any special needs and behavioral issues that the child might have. School counselors also work with teachers and administrators to ensure that the curriculum addresses both the developmental and academic needs of students.

Middle school counselors work with school staff, parents, and the community to create a caring, supportive environment for students to achieve academic success. They help the students develop the skills and strategies necessary to succeed academically and socially.

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 workshops to help students search and apply for jobs, write résumés, and improve their interviewing skills.

Career counselors typically do the following:

  • Use aptitude and achievement assessments to help clients evaluate their interests, skills, and abilities
  • Evaluate clients' background, education, and training, to help them develop realistic goals
  • Guide clients through making decisions about their careers, such as choosing a new profession and the type of degree to pursue
  • Help clients learn 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
  • Advise clients on how to resolve problems in the workplace, such as conflicts with bosses or coworkers
  • Help clients select and apply for educational programs, to obtain the necessary degrees, credentials, and skills

Career counselors work with clients at various stages of their careers. Some work in colleges, helping students choose a major or determine the jobs they are qualified for with their degrees. Career counselors also help people find and get jobs by teaching them job search, résumé writing, and interviewing techniques.

Career counselors also work with people who have already entered the workforce. These counselors develop plans to improve their clients' current careers. They also provide advice about entering a new profession or helping to resolve workplace issues.

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[About this section] [To Top]

School and career counselors hold about 324,500 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 8%
Other educational services; state, local, and private 4%
Self-employed workers 3%

School counselors often have private offices so that they can have confidential conversations with students.

School and Career Counselor Work Schedules

Most school and career counselors work full time. Some school counselors do not work during the summer when school is not in session.

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

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

Most school counselors 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.

Find a Degree:


Education for School and Career Counselors

Nearly all states and the District of Columbia require school counselors to have a master's degree in school counseling or a related field. Degree programs teach counselors the essential skills of the job, such as how to foster academic development; conduct group and individual counseling; work with parents, school staff, and community organizations; and use data to develop, implement, and evaluate comprehensive school counseling programs for all students. 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.

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

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations for School and Career Counselors

Public school counselors must have a state-issued credential to practice. This credential can be called a certification, a license, or an endorsement, depending on the state. Licensure or certification 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 states require applicants 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.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation for School and Career Counselors

Some states require school counselors to have 1 to 2 years of experience as a teacher, or to hold a teaching license, prior to being certified.

Important Qualities for School and Career Counselors

Analytical skills. School and career counselors interpret assessments to match interests and abilities with potential careers.

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

Interpersonal skills. School and career counselors must be able to work with people of all backgrounds and personalities. They spend most of their time working directly with clients, students, or other professionals and need to form and maintain good working relationships with them.

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

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

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

The median annual wage for school and career counselors is $56,310. 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 $33,610, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $94,690.

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 $63,280
Other educational services; state, local, and private 52,440
Junior colleges, colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 50,050
Healthcare and social assistance 38,790

Most school and career counselors work full time. Some school counselors do not work during the summer when school is not in session.

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

Employment of school and career counselors is projected to grow 8 percent over the next ten years, 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 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

Job prospects are expected to be good for those with counseling degrees, especially in schools and colleges, because of the need to replace the workers who leave the occupation each year.

Employment projections data for School and Career Counselors, 2018-28
Occupational Title Employment, 2018 Projected Employment, 2028 Change, 2018-28
Percent Numeric
Educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors 324,500 351,700 8 27,200


*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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