What is a School Counselor?

A school counselor provides support and guidance to students within an educational setting. They play an important role in promoting academic, social, and emotional development among students. School counselors work in elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as colleges and universities, with the goal of ensuring students' overall well-being and success.

In their role, school counselors provide a range of services to students, including academic counseling, career guidance, and personal/social counseling. They help students set academic goals, choose appropriate courses, and develop study skills. Additionally, they assist students in exploring career options, providing information about college admissions, vocational training, and employment opportunities. School counselors also address students' personal and social concerns, such as peer relationships, bullying, mental health issues, and coping with stress or family problems. They may conduct individual or group counseling sessions, implement prevention programs, and collaborate with teachers, parents, and other professionals to support students' holistic development.

What does a School Counselor do?

A school counselor sitting down and talking to a student.

School counselors serve as advocates for students, providing a supportive and nurturing environment where they can thrive academically, emotionally, and socially. By addressing students' diverse needs, they contribute to their overall well-being and success, helping them navigate challenges and develop the necessary skills to become resilient, well-rounded individuals.

Duties and Responsibilities
The duties and responsibilities of school counselors can vary depending on the grade level and specific needs of the students. However, there are several common roles and responsibilities associated with this profession:

  • Academic Counseling: School counselors assist students in academic planning and goal setting. They provide guidance on course selection, academic programs, and graduation requirements. They work with students to develop study skills, time management strategies, and academic improvement plans. School counselors also monitor students' progress, identify any academic concerns, and provide interventions or referrals as needed.
  • Personal/Social Counseling: School counselors address students' personal and social concerns. They provide individual or group counseling to help students navigate issues such as self-esteem, peer relationships, bullying, stress management, and conflict resolution. They may also support students facing personal challenges, such as family problems, grief, or mental health issues, and connect them with appropriate resources or services.
  • College and Career Guidance: School counselors assist students in exploring post-secondary education and career options. They provide information on college admissions, scholarships, financial aid, and career pathways. They help students assess their interests, skills, and goals to make informed decisions about their future. School counselors may organize college fairs, career workshops, and individualized career planning sessions to support students' college and career readiness.
  • Crisis Intervention and Support: School counselors play a crucial role in crisis intervention and providing emotional support during challenging situations. They respond to immediate crises within the school community, such as accidents, incidents of violence, or emotional distress. They collaborate with other school staff, community agencies, and families to ensure students' safety and well-being. School counselors may also implement preventive measures, such as anti-bullying programs or mental health awareness campaigns.
  • Collaboration and Consultation: School counselors collaborate with teachers, administrators, parents, and other professionals to support students' overall development. They participate in team meetings, Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings, and student support teams to provide input and advocate for students' needs. They consult with teachers and parents on strategies to address academic, behavioral, or social-emotional concerns. School counselors also work closely with community organizations and agencies to connect students and families with external resources when necessary.
  • Data Collection and Evaluation: School counselors collect and analyze data to assess the effectiveness of their programs and interventions. They may conduct surveys, assessments, and evaluations to measure students' progress, satisfaction, and outcomes. This data helps school counselors make informed decisions, improve their services, and advocate for students' needs.

Types of School Counselors
There are various types of school counselors who specialize in specific areas to address the unique needs of students. Here are a few examples:

  • Elementary School Counselors: These counselors work specifically with students in elementary schools (typically kindergarten through fifth or sixth grade). They focus on providing age-appropriate counseling, guidance, and support to young children. Elementary school counselors may address social skills development, classroom behavior management, academic support, and early intervention for any potential issues affecting students' well-being.
  • Middle School Counselors: Middle school counselors work with students in the transitional years of sixth through eighth grade. They help students navigate the challenges of adolescence, including self-identity, peer relationships, academic planning, and career exploration. Middle school counselors often provide guidance on transitioning to high school, course selection, and preparing students for the academic rigor and responsibilities of secondary education.
  • High School Counselors: High school counselors support students in grades nine through twelve. They assist students with academic planning, college and career guidance, and personal development. High school counselors may help students with college admissions, SAT/ACT preparation, scholarship applications, and career exploration. They also address social-emotional concerns, mental health issues, and provide guidance on post-graduation options, such as vocational training or employment.
  • College and Career Counselors: These counselors work specifically with students in post-secondary institutions, such as colleges and universities. They provide guidance and support related to college admissions, course selection, major exploration, and career planning. College and career counselors help students navigate the college application process, provide resources for financial aid and scholarships, and assist with post-graduation planning.
  • Special Education Counselors: Special education counselors work with students who have special needs or disabilities. They collaborate with teachers, parents, and other professionals to develop Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for students with disabilities. Special education counselors provide academic and behavioral support, ensure accommodations and modifications are implemented, and help students develop skills to maximize their potential.

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?

The workplace of a school counselor primarily revolves around the educational setting, such as elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, or post-secondary institutions. Here's a glimpse into the typical workplace of a school counselor:

School Office: School counselors often have their own office within the school building. This space serves as a private and confidential setting where they meet with students individually or in small groups for counseling sessions. The office is typically equipped with resources, materials, and tools to support students' academic, social, and emotional needs. It may also include a computer, files for student records, and materials for college and career planning.

Classrooms and Group Settings: School counselors may conduct classroom presentations and group sessions on various topics, such as career exploration, study skills, bullying prevention, or social-emotional development. They collaborate with teachers to provide classroom-based lessons and interventions that promote students' well-being and enhance their personal and academic skills.

Meetings and Collaboration: School counselors participate in meetings with teachers, administrators, and other support staff to discuss student progress, intervention strategies, and individualized support plans. They collaborate with teachers to address academic concerns, behavioral issues, or any other challenges that may impact students' learning and well-being. School counselors may also attend team meetings, IEP meetings, or student support team meetings to provide their expertise and contribute to students' educational planning.

Community Engagement: School counselors may engage with the local community and collaborate with external agencies or organizations to provide additional resources and support for students and families. They may coordinate college fairs, career exploration events, or invite guest speakers to share their expertise. School counselors also work closely with community mental health providers, social service agencies, and other community partners to ensure a comprehensive network of support for students.

Technology and Administrative Tasks: School counselors utilize technology for various tasks, such as managing student records, conducting research, accessing educational resources, and communicating with students, parents, and colleagues. They may use online platforms for scheduling appointments, maintaining confidential records, and providing virtual counseling services when necessary. Additionally, school counselors handle administrative responsibilities, such as documentation, data collection, and reporting to meet school or district requirements.

The workplace of a school counselor is dynamic and multifaceted, with a balance of direct student interaction, collaboration with school staff, and administrative tasks. It provides a supportive environment where school counselors can make a positive impact on students' academic success, personal growth, and overall well-being.

Frequently Asked Questions



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School Counselor vs School Psychologist

When it comes to providing comprehensive support to students in educational settings, both school counselors and school psychologists play important roles. While their responsibilities may overlap in certain areas, there are distinct differences between these two professions. Understanding the unique roles and contributions of school counselors and school psychologists is essential in ensuring that students receive the holistic support they need to thrive academically and emotionally.

School Counselor
School counselors support students' academic, social, and emotional development within an educational setting. Their primary role is to provide guidance, counseling, and support services to help students succeed academically and personally. School counselors work directly with students, parents, teachers, and administrators to address individual needs, promote a positive school climate, and enhance students' overall well-being. They typically focus on providing proactive interventions and strategies to support students' personal growth and success. Key responsibilities of school counselors include academic counseling, career exploration, social-emotional support, crisis intervention, and collaboration with other educational professionals.

School Psychologist
School psychologists specialize in addressing students' psychological and behavioral needs in an educational setting. They apply their expertise in psychology and education to assess, diagnose, and treat various mental health and learning disorders. School psychologists conduct psychological evaluations and assessments to identify students' strengths, challenges, and appropriate interventions. They work closely with students, parents, teachers, and other professionals to develop and implement individualized plans to support students' academic, social, emotional, and behavioral development. School psychologists may also provide counseling services, consultation, and collaborate with external resources to ensure students receive the necessary support and accommodations.

While there may be some overlap in their responsibilities, the main difference between school counselors and school psychologists lies in their primary focus and training. School counselors primarily focus on providing guidance, counseling, and support services to address students' academic and personal development needs. They often provide preventive interventions, guidance on career exploration, and assistance with academic planning. In contrast, school psychologists specialize in assessing and addressing students' psychological and behavioral needs, including diagnosing and treating mental health disorders. They conduct evaluations, provide counseling and therapeutic services, and support the implementation of Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for students with special needs.

School counselors and school psychologists often work collaboratively to support students' comprehensive well-being. They contribute their unique skills and perspectives to address various aspects of students' needs. Together, they form a multidisciplinary team that promotes the academic, social, emotional, and behavioral success of students in schools. By working in partnership, school counselors and school psychologists enhance the support system available to students and ensure a comprehensive approach to their educational journey.

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Pros and Cons of Being a School Counselor

Being a school counselor can be a rewarding and fulfilling career path, as it allows professionals to make a positive impact on the lives of students. However, like any profession, there are both pros and cons to consider.


  • Making a Difference: School counselors have the privilege of positively impacting the lives of students. They help students overcome challenges, develop essential skills, and achieve their academic and personal goals. Being able to witness the growth and success of students can be incredibly rewarding.
  • Building Relationships: School counselors have the opportunity to build meaningful relationships with students, parents, and colleagues. They create a supportive and trusting environment where students feel comfortable sharing their concerns and seeking guidance. Building these relationships can foster a sense of community and collaboration within the school.
  • Varied Responsibilities: School counselors have a diverse range of responsibilities, which can provide professional growth and learning opportunities. They engage in academic counseling, career guidance, crisis intervention, and advocacy work. This variety keeps the work interesting and allows counselors to continually develop new skills.


  • Heavy Workload: School counselors often face heavy workloads due to the high demand for their services. They may have large caseloads, which can make it challenging to provide individualized attention to every student. Balancing administrative tasks, counseling sessions, and other responsibilities can be demanding and require effective time management skills.
  • Emotional and Mental Strain: School counselors frequently deal with students facing a wide range of emotional and mental health issues. This can be emotionally taxing and may require counselors to manage their own self-care to prevent burnout. The responsibility of supporting students through challenging situations can take an emotional toll.
  • Navigating Complex Issues: School counselors are often faced with complex and sensitive issues such as bullying, abuse, mental health concerns, and academic difficulties. They must navigate these issues while respecting confidentiality, ethical guidelines, and legal obligations. It requires strong problem-solving skills, empathy, and the ability to handle difficult situations.