School and Career Counselors

Career, Salary and Education Information

Top 3 School Counselor Jobs

  • Non Public School Counselor (Bilingual) - RISE Institute - San Francisco, CA

    Participate in IEP's and complete all Behavioral Support Plans for assigned clients

  • Licensed Therapist (LPC or LCSW) - Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare - Roanoke, VA

    LPC or LCSW preferred. Qualifications Required: • License: Active, Unrestricted license in the State of Virginia as a Licensed Professional

  • Administrative Assistant - Compass Education - Beverly Hills, CA

    Maintaining an extensive database of school counselors and educational

See all School Counselor jobs

Top 3 Career Counselor Jobs

See all Career Counselor jobs

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

School counselors help students develop academic and social skills and succeed in school. Career counselors assist people with the process of making career decisions by helping them develop skills or choose a career or educational program.

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 impact 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 certain topics, such as bullying, drug abuse, and planning for college or careers after graduation
  • 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. They meet with parents or guardians to discuss their child’s strengths and weaknesses, and any possible special needs and behavioral issues. 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 climate and atmosphere 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 to find openings and how to write 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. They may help students choose a major or help students determine what jobs they are qualified for with their degrees.

Career counselors also work with people who have already entered the workforce. These counselors develop plans to improve their client’s current career. They also provide advice about entering a new profession.

Some career counselors work in outplacement firms and assist laid-off workers with transitioning into new jobs or careers. Others work in corporate career centers to assist employees in making decisions about their career path within the company.

Career counselors who work in private practice must spend time marketing their practice to prospective clients and working with clients to receive payments for their services.

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

School and career counselors held about 273,400 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most school and career counselors were as follows:

Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private 45%
Junior colleges, colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 33
Community and vocational rehabilitation services 5
State and local government, excluding education and hospitals 3

School counselors work in private and public schools. They often have private offices so that they can have confidential conversations with students. Career counselors work in colleges, businesses, government agencies, and career centers.

School and Career Counselor Work Schedules

Both school and career counselors generally 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 employers prefer that career counselors have a master’s degree. Career counselors who work in private practices may also need a license.

School and Career Counselor Education

Most states require school counselors to have a master’s degree in school counseling or a related field. Programs in school counseling teach students about fostering academic development; conducting group and individual counseling; working with parents, school staff, and community organizations; and using data to develop, implement, and evaluate comprehensive school counseling programs for all students. These programs often require students to gain experience through an internship or practicum.

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 programs 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. 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 and an internship or practicum completed under the supervision of a licensed professional school counselor.

Some states require applicants to have 1 to 2 years of 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.

Although some employers prefer to hire licensed career counselors, licensure is not required by all states. Contact information for state regulating boards is available from the National Board for Certified Counselors.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Although most states do not require work experience in a related occupation, some states require school counselors to have 1 to 2 years of classroom teaching experience, or to hold a teaching license, prior to being certified. Please see the Related Careers section for more information on teaching occupations.

Important Qualities for School and Career Counselors

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 different types of people. They spend most of their time working directly with clients, students, or other professionals and need to form and maintain good working relationships.

Listening skills. Good listening skills are essential for school and career counselors. 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 was $53,370 in May 2014. 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 $31,960, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $86,610.

In May 2014, the median annual wages for school and career counselors in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private $60,660
State and local government, excluding education and hospitals 49,860
Junior colleges, colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 46,850
Community and vocational rehabilitation services 35,870

Both school and career counselors generally work full time. Some school counselors do not work in 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 from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Rising student enrollments in elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as colleges and universities, may 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.

However, any employment growth may be tempered by strained state and local government budgets. When governments experience budget deficits, they may lay off employees, including counselors.

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 in vocational rehabilitation services to assist those who change careers, to help laid-off workers find employment, and to help military personnel transition into the civilian job market.

Employment projections data for School and Career Counselors, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors 273,400 295,900 8 22,500


*Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Used by permission.

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