How to Become a School or Career Counselor
Master’s programs in career counseling prepare students to teach career development techniques and assess clients’ skills and interests.
Most school counselors must have a master’s degree in school counseling or a related field and have a state-issued credential. Some employers prefer that career counselors have a master’s degree. Career counselors who work in private practices may also need a license.
Most states require school counselors to have a master’s degree in school counseling or a related field. Programs in school counseling teach students about fostering academic development; conducting group and individual counseling; working with parents, school staff, and community organizations; and using data to develop, implement, and evaluate comprehensive school counseling programs for all students. These programs often require students to gain experience through an internship or practicum.
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 programs 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 and an internship or practicum completed under the supervision of a licensed professional school counselor.
Some states require applicants to have 1 to 2 years of 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.
Although some employers prefer to hire licensed career counselors, licensure is not required by all states. Contact information for state regulating boards is available from the National Board for Certified Counselors.
Work Experience in a Related Occupation
Although most states do not require work experience in a related occupation, some states require school counselors to have 1 to 2 years of classroom teaching experience, or to hold a teaching license, prior to being certified. Please see the Similar Occupations tab for more information on teaching occupations.
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 different types of people. They spend most of their time working directly with clients, students, or other professionals and need to form and maintain good working relationships.
Listening skills. Good listening skills are essential for school and career counselors. 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.