Are you looking for a career in the education field but not entirely sure teaching is for you? Do you still want to work with students and help them grow? Becoming a guidance counselor may be the right choice!
To become a guidance counselor, you must obtain a bachelor’s degree, which does not necessarily have to be in education. You must then continue on to receive a master’s degree in school counseling.
It is helpful to take education, psychology, sociology and/or counseling theory classes during
your undergraduate coursework.
Jill Smilinich, a current guidance counselor from West Seneca East Senior High School in Buffalo, New York, says “My undergraduate degree is in business administration with a concentration in human resource management. I enjoyed the human resource part of business, but the office setting was not for me. I was coaching at the time and felt I would enjoy the school setting and working with kids, which is what ultimately led me to pursue a degree in school counseling. It was the best decision I ever made!”
Some skills that are extremely useful as a guidance counselor include organizational skills, being an effective communicator, excellent writing skills, patience, empathy, flexibility and the ability to multi-task.
How to prepare before your career
It is quite common in the school counseling master’s program that students take part in an internship. The internship will differ from school to school; however, students are commonly able to work in schools, college admissions counseling or community/agency work.
Smilinich says, “In my experience, the internship was the most beneficial part of the program. It was an eye-opening experience. There are so many different things that happen in schools that I was unaware of as a student. It was also exciting to apply the things I was learning in the classroom to real situations.”
Even though school counselors are certified K-12, each level is different and it is important to explore all of your options in order to decide what fits best for you.
There are numerous skills that are essential to becoming a guidance counselor. First of all, you must be an effective communicator. Since you will be handling students on a daily basis, you will need to be able to communicate your thoughts efficiently and properly. Communication skills and strong writing skills will be beneficial when you are writing letters of recommendation and/or talking with colleges for students.
A counselor will need the ability to empathize with students, have patience to assist with decision making, and should possess strong organizational skills.
The job outlook for counseling in general is expected to increase in the coming years until about 2018. For school counseling, the job expectancy is supposed to increase by 14%. Much of this pertains to states requiring counselors in elementary schools. The job responsibilities of school counselors is changing because counselors are more involved in crisis and preventive counseling to help students deal with issues of drug, alcohol, bullying, suicide and death.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national average salary for guidance counseling is $55,970. In elementary and secondary schools the average is $62,310 and in college and universities the average is $48,770.