Summary

school and career counselors image
School counselors help students develop social skills and succeed in school.
Quick Facts: School and Career Counselors
2016 Median Pay $54,560 per year
$26.23 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Master's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2016 291,700
Job Outlook, 2016-26 11% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 33,000

What School and Career Counselors Do

School counselors help students develop the academic and social skills needed to succeed in school. Career counselors help people choose careers and follow a path to employment.

Work Environment

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

How to Become a School or Career Counselor

Most school counselors need a master’s degree in school counseling or a related field and have a state-issued credential. Some states require licensure for career counselors. 

Pay

The median annual wage for school and career counselors was $54,560 in May 2016.

Job Outlook

Employment of school and career counselors is projected to grow 11 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. Increasing school enrollments is expected to lead to employment growth of these workers.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for school and career counselors.

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 About this section

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

School counselors help students develop the academic and social skills that lead to success in school. Career counselors help people develop skills, explore a career, or choose an educational program that will lead to a career.

Duties

School counselors typically do the following:

  • Evaluate students’ abilities and interests through aptitude assessments, interviews, and individual planning
  • Identify issues that affect 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 specific topics, such as bullying, drug abuse, and planning for college or careers after graduation
  • Maintain records as required
  • 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. School counselors meet with parents or guardians to discuss their child’s strengths and weaknesses, and any special needs and behavioral issues that the child might have. 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 environment 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 that will be helpful in finding openings and writing 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, helping students choose a major or determine the jobs they are qualified for with their degrees. Career counselors also help people find and get jobs by teaching them job search, résumé writing, and interviewing techniques.

Career counselors also work with people who have already entered the workforce. These counselors develop plans to improve their clients’ current careers. They also provide advice about entering a new profession or helping to resolve workplace issues.

Some career counselors work in outplacement firms and assist laid-off workers with transitioning into new jobs or careers.

Work Environment About this section

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

School and career counselors held about 291,700 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of school and career counselors were as follows:

Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private 44%
Junior colleges, colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 34
Healthcare and social assistance 10
Other educational services; state, local, and private 4
Self-employed workers 3

School counselors often have private offices so that they can have confidential conversations with students.

Work Schedules

Most school and career counselors 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

School and career counselors
Career counselors who work in private practices may also need a license.

Most school counselors 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.

Education

Nearly all states and the District of Columbia require school counselors to have a master’s degree in school counseling or a related field. Degree programs teach counselors the essential skills of the job, such as how to foster academic development; conduct group and individual counseling; work with parents, school staff, and community organizations; and use data to develop, implement, and evaluate comprehensive school counseling programs for all students. 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.

Many master’s degree programs in counseling 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, an internship or practicum completed under the supervision of a licensed professional school counselor, and successful completion of a test.

Some states require applicants 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.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Some states require school counselors to have 1 to 2 years of experience as a teacher, or to hold a teaching license, prior to being certified.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. School and career counselors interpret assessments to match interests and abilities with potential careers. 

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

Listening skills. School and career counselors need good listening skills. 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.

Pay About this section

School and Career Counselors

Median annual wages, May 2016

School and career counselors

$54,560

Counselors, social workers, and other community and social service specialists

$43,020

Total, all occupations

$37,040

 

The median annual wage for school and career counselors was $54,560 in May 2016. 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 $32,400, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $90,030.

In May 2016, 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 $62,100
Junior colleges, colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 48,500
Other educational services; state, local, and private 48,380
Healthcare and social assistance 37,080

Most school and career counselors work full time. Some school counselors do not work during the summer when school is not in session.

Job Outlook About this section

School and Career Counselors

Percent change in employment, projected 2016-26

Counselors, social workers, and other community and social service specialists

15%

School and career counselors

11%

Total, all occupations

7%

 

Employment of school and career counselors is projected to grow 11 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations.

Rising student enrollments in elementary, middle, and high schools is 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.

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

Job Prospects

Job prospects are expected to be good for those with counseling degrees, especially in schools and colleges, because of the need to replace the workers who leave the occupation each year.

Employment projections data for school and career counselors, 2016-26
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2016 Projected Employment, 2026 Change, 2016-26 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors

21-1012 291,700 324,700 11 33,000 employment projections excel document xlsx

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

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 Help 2016 MEDIAN PAY Help
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 $58,030
Kindergarten and elementary school teachers

Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers instruct young students in basic subjects, such as math and reading, in order to prepare them for future schooling.

Bachelor's degree $55,490
Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists

Marriage and Family Therapists

Marriage and family therapists help people manage and overcome problems with family and other relationships.

Master's degree $49,170
Middle school teachers

Middle School Teachers

Middle school teachers educate students, typically in sixth through eighth grades. They 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 $56,720
Psychologists

Psychologists

Psychologists study cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavior by observing, interpreting, and recording how individuals relate to one another and to their environments. They use their findings to help improve processes and behaviors.

See How to Become One $75,230
Rehabilitation counselors

Rehabilitation Counselors

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

Master's degree $34,670
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 manage workers who provide social services to the public.

Bachelor's degree $64,680
Social and human service assistants

Social and Human Service Assistants

Social and human service assistants provide client services, including support for families, in a wide variety of fields, such as psychology, rehabilitation, and social work. They assist other workers, such as social workers, and they help clients find benefits or community services.

High school diploma or equivalent $31,810
Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors

Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

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

See How to Become One $42,150
training and development specialists image

Training and Development Specialists

Training and development specialists help plan, conduct, and administer programs that train employees and improve their skills and knowledge.

Bachelor's degree $59,020

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about counseling and information about counseling specialties, visit

American Counseling Association

For more information about school counselors, visit

American School Counselor Association

For more information about career counselors, visit

National Career Development Association

For more information about state credentialing, visit

National Board for Certified Counselors

O*NET

Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, School and Career Counselors,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/school-and-career-counselors.htm (visited November 01, 2017).

Last Modified Date: Tuesday, October 24, 2017

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. For most profiles, this tab has a table with wages in the major industries employing the occupation. It does not include pay for self-employed workers, agriculture workers, or workers in private households because these data are not collected by the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey, the source of BLS wage data in the OOH.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's CareerOneStop.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2016 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2016, the median annual wage for all workers was $37,040.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2016

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2016, which is the base year of the 2016-26 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2016-26

The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2016-26

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2016-26

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2016 to 2026.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

2016 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2016, the median annual wage for all workers was $37,040.