How Do I Become a Guidance Counselor?

If you are a caring listener and have a calling to make a difference in the lives of others, you might wonder how to become a guidance counselor. Guidance counselors help students develop socially, cope with problem behavior and realize their academic and career goals. Guidance counselors, also referred to as school counselors, can work at any level of the education system. They find employment in public and private elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, community colleges and universities.

Guidance counselors’ duties depend on the age group of the students they serve. Elementary and middle school guidance counselors spend more time dealing with social and behavioral development and helping students who are struggling academically than they spend helping students prepare for the future. High school guidance counselors address these issues and personal problems their students are having, but they are concerned with preparing students for college, technical school or training for an entry-level career. Guidance counselors at the college level focus on developing career opportunities. They may help with writing résumés, networking and applying for jobs and internships.

To obtain a position as a guidance counselor, candidates must hold an advanced degree and acquire the appropriate credentials required by the state in which they live. First, aspiring guidance counselors will earn an undergraduate degree, typically in a program of study such as psychology, social work or communications. These topics give aspiring guidance counselors a solid educational background to draw from as they begin pursuing their master’s degree in school counseling. While pursuing this degree, aspiring guidance counselors will learn about child and adolescent psychology and development. Their coursework will cover counseling on both an individual and a group basis. Candidates will have the opportunity to practice these counseling strategies during supervised internships. School counseling programs also cover effective communication strategies for working with teachers and parents as well as students. After graduating, aspiring guidance counselors must earn the license, certification or endorsement required by the state in which they intend to work.

Guidance counselors earn a median annual salary of $53,380, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The type of employer a guidance counselor works for plays a significant role in salary. In universities, guidance counselors earn a median annual salary of $44,610, while junior college counselors earn $51,050 and elementary and secondary school counselors make $60,000 per year, the BLS reported. Though their salaries are not as high, job opportunities are expect to grow more quickly for guidance counselors at the college and university level. The BLS expects a 34 percent increase in employment opportunities for college guidance counselors, significantly faster growth than the 14 percent expected across all occupations.

Are you a people person with great communication skills? Do you like working with children, young adults or college students getting ready to make their way in the world? If so, knowing how to become a guidance counselor could be your first step toward a meaningful new career.

Featured Degree Programs