It wasn’t that long ago when the job of a school counselor was thought of as a role that supported students as they got thinking about what they would be doing after high school graduation. These days, the profession requires so much more than that—from helping students with mental health and emotional problems to addressing others with academic issues, and of course, some career guidance, too.
While more specific job requirements differ from school district to school district, and from elementary up to high school, one thing is true for every school counselor: their work helps young people in immediate and life-changing ways.
“I love being a school counselor because I believe in the power and freedom that being educated/skilled provides each person," says Diane Sorden, school counselor at Flagstaff High School in Flagstaff, Arizona. “I feel blessed to be able to watch as students find their passion, develop their knowledge/skills, and make a plan for their future."
The sense of satisfaction reported by many school counselors makes it unsurprising to see school counselor listed as #6 on its U.S. News and World Report list of Best Social Services Jobs, and as #63 on its list of 100 Best Jobs.
These trusted individuals are essential to ensure student success and wellbeing. They help students excel in school, manage problem situations and behavioral issues, and pursue higher education options. They may also intervene to ensure students welfare and report possible cases of abuse.
A Master of Arts in School Counseling degree is a direct route into this field.
1. There's (almost) no getting by without one. A degree at this level is one of the essential requirements for certification to work as a school counselor in most states. Getting an MA in School Counseling is a straightforward way to satisfy this requirement; you’ll graduate fully prepared to get certified by the National Board for Certified Counselors and to become licensed as a school counselor by state licensing boards.
2. Accredited programs will be a huge benefit later. To make sure you’re getting the best education and will be prepared to be certified as a school counselor, look for a program that is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP).
3. Not to mention, summer's off!
As a school counselor, you'll work in schools for usually nine months out of the year, just like teachers, and enjoy the summer to spend as you please. This is one of the largest benefits of this career choice, providing the opportunity to travel, pursue hobbies, make extra income, or even spend time honing your counseling theories before a new school year.
4. A healthy job market. Employment for school counselors is increasing at a rate of 13 percent, almost twice as fast as U.S. occupations on average. The field will add 36,700 new jobs between 2016 and 2026. With a master's degree, your job prospects will be solid for years to come.
5. What about salary? Professionals with their masters in school counseling can expect to earn an average salary of $55,410 per year, with earning potential topping $90,000. Those who choose to work as other types of counselors, social workers, and community and social service specialists can expect to average $43,860 per year.
6. Career counseling is an option, too. Some MA in School Counseling programs will help you specialize in career counseling, which will allow you to not only work with students in a high school and college level school setting but also to help adults in transition on their career journeys. Your career development may include work at social service agencies, workforce development and training centers, and career counseling practices.
7. You choose a specialization—and age group. Many programs offer specialization options in their MA in School Counseling programs, like art therapy, family counseling, bilingual counseling, cultural competency, bullying prevention, and special needs counseling. A master's will also give you the option to work with elementary school students, college students, or age-groups in between. Since the issues that you’ll face as a counselor will vary widely by educational level and school setting, you’ll be able to choose the demographic you want to work with.
Regardless of their age, kids and teens face profound challenges like anyone else. As a counselor, you’ll be the front line for helping students deal with serious matters that could impact their well-being in and out of school. An MA in School Counseling will prepare you for this role—and launch your career spent changing the lives of young people.
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