School counselors are one of the unsung heroes of the education system, working diligently behind the scenes to keep kids studying strategically, relating to their peers, taking their mental health seriously, and preparing for college. It’s a profoundly enriching career path for those with an interest in child and youth development.
“I work with children and families every day, empowering them with the knowledge to better assess their education,” says Brittney Campbell, who received her Master of Science in School Psychology from California Baptist University. “I am humbled and honored every day to work with so many wonderful families”
Such sentiments aren’t rare among those who have completed a Master of in School Counseling or other related programs—which is a must when setting out on your path to a career in this field.
U.S. News and World Report also sings the praises of the school counselor profession. So much, that the role ranks at #6 on its list of Best Social Services Jobs and at #63 on its list of 100 Best Jobs. Add to that the potential for summers off, and you’ve got just a few of the many benefits you’ll experience while pursuing work with a Master of School Counseling degree
A school counseling graduate degree trains students to work with children to address psychological problems, help them navigate relationships, develop time-management skills, control feelings of stress, and plan for their educational futures and career paths. Many Master of School Counseling degree programs offer concentrations in subjects like art therapy, bilingual counseling, bullying prevention, and special needs counseling.
This master’s program may be termed as Master of Arts or Master of Science or even a Master of Education, and include terminology such as “school” or “child psychology.” When it comes to program format, there are plenty of on-campus programs available. You can also complete your degree through a growing number of online programs.
This degree is one of the requirements for certification or licensure, which you’ll need when seeking employment as a school counselor in many states. As you begin the application process, be sure to look for programs that are accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP). This way, you’ll be fully prepared to become certified by the National Board for Certified Counselors and gain licensure as a school counselor by state licensing boards.
A solid option for people with an interest in child and adolescent development, the degree is best for those who enjoy working with students, or educators who want to move out of a strictly classroom-focused environment. Many applicants to these school couleling programs have completed coursework in social science—such as a bachelor’s degree in psychology—and may have some professional experience in psychology or education.
To apply to Master of School Counseling programs, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree—likely in a social science or education field if you’re the proactive type—and GRE score. While professional experience in either of the above fields is a plus, it’s rarely a requirement.
Clinical child psychologist: A master’s in school counseling program prepares students to treat the mental health concerns of children and adolescents in a clinical setting, whether in private practice or a healthcare institution. This type of clinical practice takes particular training and skill due to specifics of childhood brain development and the sensitivity required while working in emotionally demanding situations.
Clinical psychologists are well-compensated, with median salaries coming in at $79,010 per year. Those who are self-employed in private practice have the potential to earn much more. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the profession is also growing quickly, with employment in psychology likely to grow 14 percent by 2026, or twice the average rate for U.S. occupations.
School counselor: A school counselor oversees the well-being of children and young adults in a school setting. Professional school counseling involves offering guidance to students on emotional and psychological issues, helping them navigate relationships, providing coaching in areas like time-management and stress relief, and assisting students as they plan for higher education and/or career development.
According to the Bureau of Labor, school counselors make a median annual salary of $56,310, with some of the top earnings in this category pulling in around $95,000. As for job prospects, employment for school counselors expected to increase by 13 percent by 2026, which is almost twice the rate of the average U.S. profession.
Career counselor: Working most commonly in high school or college settings, career counselors help students hone in on their optimal career path and map out a route to employment. While working as a school counselor, you’ll guide students as they align their career goals with their strengths and interests, offer encouragement as they apply to colleges or interview for jobs, and support them as they begin the transition into a new phase of life.
Social worker: A Master in School Counseling program teaches skills that can easily translate to a career in social work, where you’ll have the option to focus on working with young people. In general, social workers help people and families who face a diverse range of issues like unemployment, child welfare concerns, medical needs, or substance abuse disorders. They may also diagnose and address mental and emotional problems among the communities they serve.
Social workers can expect to earn amedian salary of $49,470 per year, with the potential for pay to top $80,000. The social work employment outlook is strong, too. According to BLS, social work jobs are expected to increase by 16 percent by 2026, which is more than double the average job growth within the U.S.
Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors: It’s not just pre-college anxiety and standardized testing woes that have young people asking for help. Thanks to your educational background, you’ll also be equipped to work with young adult populations to address issues of substance abuse and mental health in a variety of health facility environments.
Counselors in this role pull in a median salary of $44,630, with the highest earners making almost $73,000. The job outlook is very strong in this area; employment is expected to increase 23 percent by 2026, more than three times the average growth for U.S. occupations.
A master’s program in school counseling is easily made more attractive by the promise of ever-growing job prospects and solid pay you can expect once you graduate. But to someone with your skills, the real significance of this career path may be found in your work helping young people, whether they’re making a game plans for their dream school or asking for help at a time when they may need it most.
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