School and Career Counselors

Summary

school and career counselors image
School counselors help students develop social skills and succeed in school.
Quick Facts: School and Career Counselors
2012 Median Pay $53,610 per year
$25.77 per hour
Entry-Level Education Master’s degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2012 262,300
Job Outlook, 2012-22 12% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2012-22 31,200

What School and Career Counselors Do

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

Work Environment

School counselors work in public and private schools. Career counselors work in colleges, government agencies and career centers, and private practices. Both types of counselors generally work full time.

How to Become a School or Career Counselor

Most school counselors must be credentialed and have a master’s degree in school counseling or a related field. Many employers prefer that career counselors have a master’s degree. Career counselors who work in private practices may also need a license.

Pay

The median annual wage for school and career counselors was $53,610 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of school and career counselors is projected to grow 12 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Increasing school enrollments should lead to employment growth of school and career counselors. However, hiring may be limited, due to slow growth—or decline—in school funding from state and local governments.

Similar Occupations

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

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about school and career counselors by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What School and Career Counselors Do

School and career counselors
Career counselors assist people with the process of making career decisions.

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

Duties

School counselors typically do the following:

  • Help students understand and overcome social or behavioral problems through individual and group counseling
  • Provide individual and small group counseling based on student needs
  • Work with students to develop skills, such as organization, time management, and effective study habits
  • Help students set realistic academic and career goals and develop a plan to achieve them
  • Evaluate students’ abilities and interests through aptitude assessments, interviews, and individual planning
  • Collaborate with teachers, administrators, and parents to help students succeed
  • Deliver classroom guidance lessons on topics, such as bullying, drug abuse, and planning for college or careers after graduation
  • Identify and report possible cases of neglect or abuse
  • Refer students and parents to resources outside the school for additional support

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

Elementary school counselors focus on helping students develop skills, such as decision-making and study skills, that they need to be successful in their social and academic lives. They meet with parents or guardians to discuss their child’s strengths, weaknesses, and any possible special needs and behavioral issues. School counselors also work with teachers and administrators to ensure the curriculum addresses both the developmental and academic needs of students.

Middle school counselors work with students and parents to help students develop and achieve career and academic goals. They help 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 with personal problems that interfere with their education. 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 apprenticeships. They may present career workshops to help students search and apply for jobs, write résumés, and improve 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 in their careers. Some work in colleges to help students choose a major. They also help students determine what jobs they are qualified for with their degrees. These counselors also work with people who have already entered the workforce. Career counselors develop plans to improve their client’s current career and 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.

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

Work Environment

School and career counselors
School counselors work in private and public schools where they have private offices.

School and career counselors held about 262,300 jobs in 2012. The industries that employed the most school and career counselors in 2012 were as follows: 

Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private47%
Junior colleges, colleges, universities, and professional schools;
state, local, and private
31
Health care and social assistance9
Government4

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, prisons, and state government career centers.

Work Schedules

Both school and career counselors generally work full time. Some school counselors have summers off when school is not in session.

How to Become a School or Career Counselor

School and career counselors
Master’s programs in career counseling prepare students to teach career development techniques and assess clients’ skills and interests.

Most school counselors must be credentialed, which most often requires a master’s degree. Many employers prefer that career counselors have a master’s degree. Career counselors who work in private practice may also need a license.

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; and working with parents, teachers, and other school staff. These programs often require students to gain experience through an internship or practicum.

Most employers prefer that career counselors have a master’s degree in counseling with a focus on career development. Career counseling programs prepare students to teach career development techniques and assess clients’ skills and interests. 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. Other states allow full-time teaching experience to be substituted, in place of the internship requirement. 

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, a license is not required in many settings. Career counselors in private practice, however, generally must be licensed. Licensure requires a master’s degree and 2,000 to 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience. In addition, counselors must pass a state-recognized exam and complete annual continuing education credits. 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.

Important Qualities

Compassion. 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. Being able to work with different types of people is essential for counselors. They spend most of their time working directly with clients and students or other professionals and need good working relationships.

Listening skills. Good listening skills are essential for school and career counselors. They need to give their full attention to their students and clients 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.

Pay

School and Career Counselors

Median annual wages, May 2012

School and career counselors

$53,610

Community and social service occupations

$40,400

Total, all occupations

$34,750

 

The median annual wage for school and career counselors was $53,610 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The bottom 10 percent earned less than $31,920, and the top 10 percent earned more than $86,680.

In May 2012, the median annual wages for school and career counselors in the top four industries in which these counselors worked were as follows:

Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and
private
$60,560
Government50,710
Junior colleges, colleges, universities, and professional
schools; state, local, and private
46,630
Health care and social assistance35,590

Both school and career counselors generally work full time. Some school counselors have summers off when school is not in session.

Job Outlook

School and Career Counselors

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Community and social service occupations

17%

School and career counselors

12%

Total, all occupations

11%

 

Employment of school and career counselors is projected to grow 12 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations. While overall employment growth is expected due to increasing school enrollments, hiring may be limited, due to slow growth—or decline—in education funding from state and local governments.

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

Despite these projected increases in school enrollment, however, employment growth for school and career counselors will depend on state and local government budgets. When state and local governments experience budget deficits, they may lay off employees, including counselors. As a result, employment growth may be reduced by state and local government budget difficulties.

Demand for career counseling is projected to increase in vocational rehabilitation organizations and in private practice. Companies may expand their use of employment assistance programs and career counseling, to retain talent and increase the productivity and morale of their employees. Career counselors also will be needed to assist career changers and to help laid off workers find employment, as well as to help military personnel transition into the civilian job market.

Employment projections data for School and Career Counselors, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors

21-1012 262,300 293,500 12 31,200 [XLS]

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of school and career counselors.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2012 MEDIAN PAY
High school teachers

High School Teachers

High school teachers help prepare students for life after graduation. They teach academic lessons and various skills that students will need to attend college and to enter the job market.

Bachelor’s degree $55,050
Human resource specialists

Human Resources Specialists and Labor Relations Specialists

Human resources specialists recruit, screen, interview, and place workers. They often handle other human resources work, such as those related to employee relations, payroll and benefits, and training. Labor relations specialists interpret and administer labor contracts regarding issues such as wages and salaries, employee welfare, healthcare, pensions, and union and management practices.

Bachelor’s degree $55,640
Kindergarten and elementary school teachers

Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers prepare younger students for future schooling by teaching them basic subjects such as math and reading.

Bachelor’s degree $53,090
Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists

Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists help people manage and overcome mental and emotional disorders and problems with their family and relationships. They listen to clients and ask questions, to help the clients understand their problems and develop strategies to improve their lives.

Master’s degree $41,500
Middle school teachers

Middle School Teachers

Middle school teachers educate students, typically in sixth through eighth grades. Middle school teachers help students build on the fundamentals they learned in elementary school and prepare them for the more difficult curriculum they will face in high school.

Bachelor’s degree $53,430
Psychologists

Psychologists

Psychologists study cognitive, emotional, and social processes and human behavior by observing, interpreting, and recording how people relate to one another and their environments.

See How to Become One $69,280
Rehabilitation counselors

Rehabilitation Counselors

Rehabilitation counselors help people with emotional and physical disabilities live independently. They work with clients to overcome or manage the personal, social, and professional effects of disabilities on employment or independent living.

Master’s degree $33,880
Social and community service managers

Social and Community Service Managers

Social and community service managers coordinate and supervise social service programs and community organizations. They direct and lead staff who provide social services to the public.

Bachelor’s degree $59,970
Social and human service assistants

Social and Human Service Assistants

Social and human service assistants help people get through difficult times or get additional support. They assist other workers, such as social workers, and they help clients find benefits or community services.

High school diploma or equivalent $28,850
Social workers

Social Workers

Social workers help people solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives. One group of social workers, clinical social workers, also diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional issues.

See How to Become One $44,200
Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors

Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors

Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors advise people who suffer from alcoholism, drug addiction, eating disorders, or other behavioral problems. They provide treatment and support to help the client recover from addiction or modify problem behaviors.

High school diploma or equivalent $38,520
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, School and Career Counselors,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/school-and-career-counselors.htm (visited December 20, 2014).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014