What is a School Counselor?

Many students don't have the smoothest experience when going through school. That's where a school counselor comes into play—helping to ease students of all levels (from elementary school to college) through these often rocky years.

School counselors are trained to give valuable assistance to students, helping them with their academic goals, as well as their social, personal, and career development. With their help, students can navigate problems a bit easier and with confidence.

What does a School Counselor do?

Students of all ages need guidance and support, especially when going through academic, social, and personal issues. School counselors act as advocates for the student's well-being, listening to their concerns in a caring, non-judgemental way.

A school counselor sitting down and talking to a student.

There can be various issues that students come to see a school counselor for, such as bullying, depression, relationship troubles, low self-esteem, learning disabilities, poor academic performance, and parental issues (just to name a few). Depending on the issue, a school counselor can help develop a positive and realistic path towards academic or career goals, or can refer students to a mental health counselor or psychologist for further support.

School counselors typically do the following:

  • Help students understand and overcome social or behavioural problems through individual and group counseling
  • Provide individual and small group counseling based on student needs
  • Work with students to develop skills such as organization, time management, and effective study habits
  • Help students set realistic academic and career goals and develop a plan to achieve them
  • Evaluate students’ abilities and interests through aptitude assessments and interviews
  • Develop strategies with teachers, administrators, and parents to help students succeed
  • Teach classes on topics such as bullying, drug abuse, and planning for college or careers after graduation
  • Identify and report possible cases of neglect or abuse
  • Refer students and parents to resources outside the school for additional support

Are you suited to be a school counselor?

School counselors have distinct personalities. They tend to be social individuals, which means they’re kind, generous, cooperative, patient, caring, helpful, empathetic, tactful, and friendly. They excel at socializing, helping others, and teaching. Some of them are also enterprising, meaning they’re adventurous, ambitious, assertive, extroverted, energetic, enthusiastic, confident, and optimistic.

Does this sound like you? Take our free career test to find out if school counselor is one of your top career matches.

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What is the workplace of a School Counselor like?

School counselors work in public or private elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools. They often have private offices so that they can have confidential conversations with students.

School counselors generally work full time and have summers off when school is not in session.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are School Counselors like?

Based on our pool of users, school counselors tend to be predominately social people. This finding is encouraging in that it endorses one of the primary prerequisites of working as a school counselor: connecting with, being communicative with, being empathetic with, being social with other people.

Should I become a School Counselor?

Anyone considering a career as a school counselor should first consider the set of foundational characteristics and skills that often define the role:

Passion for helping others
While this characteristic may seem rather simplistic, it must in fact be at the very foundation of any school counselor’s motivation. The counseling profession can be very challenging, if not taxing. Practitioners without a genuine passion to help typically do not last in the role. According to some studies, 60 percent of school counselors leave the profession within the first two years.

Empathy and perceptiveness
The capacities to read personalities, to perceive concerns, and to discern situations as a whole are among the most valuable traits that a counselor can naturally possess or develop.

Communication skills
Perhaps more than any other position in the education sector, that of school counselor calls for particularly advanced communication abilities. Key to success in the role is the capacity to build relationships and connect not only with students, but with parents, teachers, and school administrators. Only by listening to students and understanding their needs, interests, and concerns can a counselor effectively collaborate with them and offer optimal support and advice.

Organization and analytical skills
School counselors are expected to maintain clear and organized records and to have available significant amounts of information and data, with which to appropriately counsel students. When providing career development advice, for example, they must be familiar with various potential career path; job markets; majors programs; and educational institutions, including universities, colleges, and vocational schools.

All counselors, especially those employed in school settings, must uphold the highest of ethical and professional standards. School counselors will invariably encounter delicate and potentially damaging situations which require that they fulfill their legal responsibility to report such occurrences as suspected abuse.

How long does it take to become a School Counselor?

The common pathway to a career as a school counselor is as follows:

• Bachelor’ Degree – four years
• Master’s Degree – two years
• Internship / Practicum – normally, a minimum of 600 hours; dependent on curriculum structure and jurisdictional requirements

Completing doctoral studies adds about another two years to this educational track.

Are School Counselors happy?

School counselors rank highly among careers. Overall they rank in the 71st percentile of careers for satisfaction scores. Please note that this number is derived from the data we have collected from our Sokanu members only.

This very high happiness quotient in the school counseling occupation is easily explained: People in this profession play an important role in the lives of students. Their primary objective is to help students in their school succeed and make positive decisions to support academic and personal development. It is difficult to imagine a more noble purpose. And generally speaking, people with a noble purpose lose themselves in their work – and ultimately find themselves. They feel rewarded and are happy.

Steps to becoming a School Counselor

Becoming a school counselor involves earning a bachelor's and master's degree, completing an internship, obtaining the appropriate counseling credential, and participating in continuing education.

School Counselors are also known as:
Student Counselor School Counsellor Student Counsellor Certified School Counselor