How to Become a School Counselor

Back in the day your high school guidance counselor likely would hand you a few college applications and send you on your way, those days are long gone. Today’s guidance counselors are regarded as essential team members on a school’s staff.   Currently, 93% of school guidance counselors hold a master’s degree or higher degree.(1) As counselors and educators, school counselors are involved in many aspects of the student populations daily life. From helping to understand what’s going on in school and at home, and to creating academic plans to make them successful now and in the future.

School Counselors Impact

According to various recent studies a school counselor is one of the best investments any school can make. Students who work with their schools guidance counselor are meaningfully more likely to apply to college and get a college degree.2 In higher-poverty regions, reducing the student-to-counselor ratio had quantifiable academic and behavioral outcomes. (2) School counselors have also been shown to grow the percentage of minority students who are eligible for AP classes.   Even at the elementary school level, school counselors have implemented robust, data-driven programs to demonstrate substantial academic improvements over similar schools with no such programming.2 The most important data shows there is a clear link between school counselors and student college preparedness. (2)

A Typical Day for School Counselor’s

As with most educators, a school counselor’s day is dependent on the needs of their students. Direct meetings with students encompass a large part of a counselor’s day.  That time is typically spent working with students to develop learning goals, applying for colleges or scholarships, or understanding the origin of disruptive classroom behavior. Whether they’re working on student’s academic or behavioral goals, counselors spend a good portion of their day fostering clear channels of communication among students, parents and other faculty at their school.

Depending on the student population they work with, school counselors may find various daily tasks unique to different stages of a child’s development.  Some counselors also work with administrators at the school to develop school-wide programs to increase academic outcomes. They may be turned to in the creation of the school’s master schedule or be asked to help buildout school-wide initiatives to improve academic performance or limit behavioral issues. 

Elementary school counselors typically focus on childhood development. Elementary school is a key time where students are nurturing lifelong attitudes toward learning. They are obtaining a sense of aptitude and confidence in the classroom and are building their decision-making and communication skills. Critically, a highly involved school counselor might be able to identify students with learning disabilities and create a plan of prevention and counseling that will ensure the student has a chance to succeed in the future.

Middle school is the transition from childhood to adolescence and can be a difficult time for students and their families. School counselors fill an important role to help students start connecting their education with practical, real-world applications. Middle school students are developing a strong sense of self and are often dependent on peers for confirmation and approval. At this time, they are starting to express more independence in their lives, and counselors will work with students to build study plans, and to help recognize any issues that might hinder learning in the future.

High school counselors are often actively engaged with guiding students from adolescence to adulthood. Most significantly, counselors create student awareness of their educational and vocational options post-graduation.

Counselors Provide a Clear Head in a Crisis

During a time of crisis for a student the school counselor will act as point person to resolve the issue. School offers many challenging situations to students, and when their reactions impact other students undesirably, it’s the school counselor who will help foster conversations and lead students toward mutual understanding and trust. If crisis occurs, school counselors will work with students on understanding their emotions and finding peaceful resolutions.

Training to Be a School Counselor

If you have interest in being a school counselor, it’s vital to have a solid grasp of child development and human development throughout the lifespan. Prevention and intervention skills are also important, since a large part of the school counselor’s job is to recognize troublesome behavior in students and guide them to avert such behavior in the future. As demographics change, school counselors should be knowledgeable in theories of multicultural counseling, specifically with school-aged kids.

1 Retrieved on March 16, 2018, from

2 Retrieved on March 21, 2018,