What is a School Counselor?

If you’re a parent or student, you’ve probably asked yourself “What is a school counselor? Can this person help me?” School counselors are educated professionals who work to create academic and personal plans for student success. Counselors have different duties depending on the type of school where they are employed. Elementary school counselors work with young children to help them develop socially and academically. Middle school counselors start to focus on career plans for students and help families plan the volunteer and classroom experience students need to achieve their goals. High school counselors assist students in preparing for college or the workforce, and may help students with personal problems as well. College school counselors help students find jobs and internships, but usually refer students to mental health counselors for assistance with personal issues. Most school counselors work full-time at public schools or universities, although some private schools may also hire counselors.

Degree and Experience Requirements

Most school counselors have a master’s degree, although some have only a bachelor’s degree. Many programs of study require internships or supervised practicums. School counselors may become licensed or certified by their state, but this credential is only required for private practice counselors. Education and experience needs will vary depending on the age group that counselors want to work with. All counselors should understand developmental psychology, sociology and education principles. High school and college counselors will need to be familiar with local companies and government agencies to help students find places to work.

How much do School Counselors make?

School counselors make approximately $50,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The lowest 10 percent earned around $30,000, and the top 10 percent earned about $86,000. College counselors earn the most, and elementary school counselors earn the least. Pay depends on education, area and experience. Many school counselors start at a lower salary but are guaranteed steady annual wages and good benefits. A master’s degree will increase earning potential. Like many school-based positions, salary brackets depend on state and local government funding. Urban areas typically offer higher wages and a higher cost-of-living compared to rural areas. With experience and licensure, counselors can open a private practice and set their own rates.

Future Prospects

The need for school counselors is expected to grow 19 percent by 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The need for K-12 counselors will experience single-digit growth while the demand for college counselors is projected to grow 34 percent. Job demand is highly dependent on region. A small school district may only have the budget for one counselor, no matter how many students enroll in school. Larger school districts may have more ability to hire additional workers. College counselor employment will depend on enrollment numbers. As more students, especially in higher education, understand the answer to “What is a school counselor?,” the need for school counselors will increase.