How to Become a School Guidance Counselor

Written by julie maria anderson
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How to Become a School Guidance Counselor
An elementary school guidance counsellor will help identify special needs in students. (

School guidance or education counsellors fulfil an important role by working with students and families from elementary through high school. At the elementary level, a school guidance counsellor will work with students to determine special needs, address emotional or social issues, reduce bullying, and identify family problems.

A guidance counsellor at the high school level will focus more on academics and assisting students in preparation for college admissions and future careers. School guidance counsellors will also conduct assemblies and seek to educate students on important topics, such as substance abuse.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Experience working with children
  • Bachelor's degree
  • Master's degree in counselling or psychology
  • Specialised certification as a school counsellor

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  1. 1

    Obtain a bachelor's and then a master's degree from an accredited college or university. Major in child psychology or counselling. This should include courses such as human growth and development and testing/appraisal. Elective courses in education are also useful. A master's degree will include hours of supervised clinical counselling experience.

  2. 2

    Become certified as a school guidance counsellor. This will typically involve a number of hours spent in supervised work with a certified, experienced school counsellor. It will usually also include a written test. Counsellors must retake and pass the exam or complete 100 hours of continuing education every five years in order to remain certified.

  3. 3

    Obtain current child abuse clearance and criminal/background checks. Some states also require an FBI background check. It is likely your employer will cover the cost of these checks.

  4. 4

    Apply at the school or school district of your choice for any available elementary or secondary school guidance counsellor positions. School districts often post all available positions on their websites.

Tips and warnings

  • A school guidance counsellor will typically work the same nine- to 10-month school year schedule as a teacher.
  • According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2009, the job outlook for a school counsellor is very good and is expected to grow 13 per cent. The annual salary is approximately £34,450.

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