How to Become a School or Career Counselor or Advisor
Career counselors who work in private practices may also need a license.
School counselors typically 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 and advisors.
Nearly all states and the District of Columbia require school counselors to have a master's degree, which is typically in a field such as counseling or psychology. Degree programs teach counselors the essential skills of the job, such as how to foster development; conduct group and individual counseling; work with support systems, such as parents, school staff, and community organizations; and use data to develop, implement, and evaluate comprehensive counseling programs. 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. For career or academic advisors, employers may prefer candidates who have a bachelor’s degree and work experience.
Master’s degree programs in counseling usually 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. Depending on the state, this credential may be called a certification, a license, or an endorsement. Obtaining this credential 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 employers prefer or require candidates 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.
Optional certifications for career and academic advisors are available from some professional associations.
Analytical skills. School and career counselors and advisors interpret student records, schoolwide data, and assessments to match interests and abilities with potential careers.
Compassion. School and career counselors and advisors often work with people who are dealing with stressful and difficult situations, so they must be able to empathize with their clients and students.
Interpersonal skills. School and career counselors and advisors must be able to work with people of all backgrounds and personalities. They need to form and maintain collaborative relationships with clients, students, or other professionals.
Listening skills. School and career counselors and advisors need to give full attention to students and clients in order to understand their problems.
Speaking skills. School and career counselors and advisors must communicate effectively with clients and students. They should express ideas and information in a way that their clients and students understand.