Chances are that you’re figuring out whether a master’s in school counseling is for you. School counseling involves guiding students as they navigate their way through school life. As a counselor, you will have the ability to guide them and help them develop. Does that sound good? 

School counselors are integral to K–12 educational institutions. Growing up can be difficult and school students may struggle with a lot of different problems. School counselors are those friendly faces they can turn to when they need some extra support and a safe space to talk. 

Do you dream of being that person whom these little ones can lean on? Your job would be to assist them with their mental health and behavioral issues, ensuring your students can thrive. 

This article will tell you all that you need to know about the career of a school counselor, including how you can get your masters degree, what salary you will make, what a day in your job could look like and much more. We’ll answer all your questions along the way.

According to the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), school counselors work to maximize student success, promoting access and equity for all students. 

School counseling focuses on supporting students’ academic, emotional, and social development. Counselors work collaboratively with students, parents, teachers, and administrators to ensure students have the resources and support they need to succeed.

As a school counselor, you have the opportunity to help children who may be struggling with different problems. Your role would be to help these students cope with their problems. The duties you perform would include identifying any students needing support, assisting those students through short-term counseling, and helping them engage in their academic journey and development.

In most states, the minimum requirement to start practicing is to get your master’s in school counseling.

Related: Everything You Need To Know About Counseling Degrees.

School counselors play an important role in supporting students through the many challenges that they face. Here is a general description of the roles and responsibilities that school counselors have:

1. Personal/Social Development: Provide short-term counseling and classroom programs to address personal and social challenges and promote well-being for students.

2. Identifying issues affecting school performance: Assess and address factors such as academic struggles, attendance patterns, or personal challenges that impact student achievement.

3. Academic Support: Assist students with course selection and study strategies to enhance academic success

4. Collaboration and Consultation: Work with school staff, parents, and community agencies to coordinate support for students.

5. Advocacy and Leadership: Advocate for students’ rights and lead initiatives to improve school climate and inclusivity.

6. Spread Awareness: Educate students and faculty about subjects like drug abuse and bullying.

School counselors often serve students across different grade levels, tailoring their support to meet the unique developmental needs of each age group. Here’s a general overview of how school counselors might engage with students by grade level:

1. Elementary School (K–5):

  • Focus on foundational skills, social-emotional development, and early academic planning.
  • Provide guidance on basic study habits, interpersonal skills, and self-awareness.

2. Middle School (6–8):

  • Support students during the transition from elementary to secondary education.
  • Address challenges related to peer relationships, academic preparation, and personal identity development.
  • Introduce career exploration and assist with course selection for high school readiness.

3. High School (9–12):

  • Assist students in academic planning, course selection, and post-secondary preparation.
  • Provide guidance on college applications, career pathways, and future goal-setting.
  • Address more complex personal and social issues, including mental health concerns and college/career decision-making.

4. Across All Grade Levels:

  • Collaborate with teachers, administrators, and families to support students’ holistic development.
  • Implement school-wide programs, initiatives, and interventions to promote a positive and inclusive school climate.
  • Advocate for students’ needs and ensure equitable access to educational opportunities.

While these grade-level classifications provide a general framework, the specific roles and responsibilities of school counselors can vary based on the school’s context, student population, and local educational priorities.

The education you will require to become a school counselor depends on the requirements laid down by the state you wish to practice in. Be sure to check the requirements and plan your educational path accordingly. Typically, most states require at least a master’s in school counseling as an entry-level requirement. 

How to become a school counselor:

Bachelor’s degree: 

You can start by getting your bachelor’s degree in a relevant field like psychology, education, or sociology, among others. This can take you about four years. If you wish to strengthen your graduate school application, consider doing a related internship during this time.

Master’s degree: 

You will follow up your bachelor’s degree with a master’s in school counseling or a degree in counseling with a specialization in school counseling. Be sure to check if your program is accredited. This graduate-level degree can be completed in two years. 


As a part of your master’s program, you will have to complete an internship. This internship will help you gain the necessary hands-on experience and knowledge that will help you feel much more confident when you finally start working.


Depending on your state, you may have to appear for an examination, after which you will be permitted to apply for licensure and finally begin your practice. Here is a list of states and their requirements to become licensed school counselors.

Your master’s program in school counseling will usually span two years. The duration can vary if you decide to study part-time or online. Master’s in School Counseling typically ranges from 48 to 60 credits, depending on the institution. The courses you will study can be divided into five categories:

1. Core Counseling Courses: These courses cover foundational topics in counseling theory, techniques, and ethics. They usually constitute a significant portion of the required credits.

2. Specialization Courses: Programs may offer specialized courses focused on school counseling topics such as academic development, career counseling, and child and adolescent counseling.

3. Practicum and Internship: A portion of the credits is often dedicated to supervised practicum and internship experiences in school settings, providing students with hands-on training and practical skills.

4. Elective Courses: Depending on the program structure, students may have the opportunity to select elective courses that align with their interests or career goals.

5. Thesis or Capstone Project: Some programs require students to complete a thesis, research project, or capstone experience, which can contribute to the overall credit requirements.

Reach out to specific universities and inquire about the programs that you are interested in to get detailed information about credit requirements, curriculum structure, and other program-specific details. Accreditation bodies like CACREP (Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs) may also set certain standards that influence program length and credit requirements.

You want to do your master’s in school counseling; that’s an excellent choice that will help you put your best foot forward in the job market. But do you know about the different types of master’s available and which one could be the best fit for you? We’ve put together some common types of master’s degree programs in school counseling so that you can learn what the difference is between each of them.

Here are some common types of master’s degrees available for school counseling:

1. Master of Education (M.Ed.) in School Counseling: 

This is a common degree for aspiring school counselors. M.Ed. programs often focus on both the theoretical and practical aspects of school counseling, preparing students for roles in K-12 educational settings.

2. Master of Arts (M.A.) in Counseling with a School Counseling Specialization: 

This degree provides a broader foundation in counseling principles, with a specific focus on school settings. The M.A. generally offers a more comprehensive counseling background, which can be beneficial for individuals interested in a variety of counseling roles.

3. Master of Science (M.S.) in School Counseling: 

Similar to the M.Ed., the M.S. degree emphasizes a scientific and research-oriented approach to school counseling. Programs are expected to offer a stronger foundation in research methodologies and data analysis.

4. Master of Counseling Psychology with a School Counseling Emphasis: 

This degree blends principles of counseling psychology with a focus on school-based interventions and support. It will likely appeal to those interested in understanding the psychological aspects of student development and behavior.

5. Dual Degrees in School Counseling: 

Some institutions offer dual-degree programs that combine a master’s in school counseling with another complementary field, such as clinical mental health or social work. By merging these disciplines, students gain a broader skill set and understanding, equipping them to address diverse client needs and expanding their career opportunities across both educational and community settings.

Which type of degree should you choose?

– Consider your goals: 

If you are primarily interested in working as a school counselor in K–12 settings, any of the above master’s degrees can be suitable. However, if you have a specific interest in counseling psychology or a desire for a broader counseling foundation, you might lean toward an M.A. or a program with a psychological emphasis.

– Dual Degree: 

A dual degree is good for those who want to pursue a more versatile career. With a dual degree, you will be able to boost your career options and enhance your skills. Your degree will let you work in different fields, which can keep your job interesting and dynamic.

– Accreditation: 

Ensure that the program you choose is accredited by relevant bodies, such as the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP) or other accrediting bodies. Accredited programs meet most state standards and can enhance your credentials and job prospects.

– State Requirements: 

Different states have varying licensure or certification requirements. Research the specific requirements in the state where you intend to practice to ensure that your chosen program aligns with those expectations.

– Program Curriculum: 

Review the curriculum of each program. Look for courses, practical experiences, and opportunities that align with your interests and career goals.

– Seek Guidance: 

Consider speaking with current school counselors, program alumni, or academic advisors to gain insights into different programs and their suitability for your aspirations.

Earning a master’s in school counseling is a significant step. It speaks of your passion for guiding and supporting students in their educational journey. This degree will provide you with a comprehensive understanding of counseling theories, strategies, and interventions tailored specifically for school settings. 

The curriculum will blend academic coursework with practical experiences, such as internships or practicums, giving you hands-on training to effectively address the diverse needs of students. As a graduate, you’ll emerge with the knowledge and skills to foster academic success, emotional well-being, and personal growth among students.

Counselors are a very important part of school settings. Students benefit greatly from the assistance of a school counselor in many ways. A school counselor serves as a trusted ally, providing a safe space for students to express their thoughts, feelings, and concerns. Through individualized guidance, counselors help students develop essential life skills, enhance self-awareness, and build resilience to overcome challenges.

The support and expertise of a school counselor empower students to thrive academically, emotionally, and socially, paving the way for their overall well-being and success.

Becoming a school counselor offers a fulfilling and meaningful career path. With that being said, here are a few reasons why you should become a school counselor: 

1. You’ll Make a Difference: As a school counselor, you have the unique opportunity to positively influence students’ lives, helping them navigate challenges and achieve their full potential.

2. You’ll Give Holistic Support to Students: You’ll be equipped to address students’ academic, social, emotional, and career needs, providing comprehensive support that fosters well-rounded development.

3. You Will Build Meaningful Relationships: Developing meaningful relationships with students, families, and educators allows you to create a collaborative environment focused on student success and well-being.

4. You’ll Perform Diverse Roles: School counselors wear many hats, from providing individual counseling and group sessions to collaborating with teachers on student interventions and supporting college and career readiness.

5. Educating Others On The Importance Of Mental Health: In today’s complex and fast-paced world, school counselors play an important role in emphasizing the importance of mental health. By fostering a culture that recognizes and values mental well-being, counselors empower students to prioritize self-care, seek support when needed, and develop healthy habits.

6. Continuous Learning and Development: The field of school counseling is dynamic, offering opportunities for professional growth, ongoing learning, and specialization in areas that align with your interests and passion.

7. Advocate for Change: You’ll have the platform to advocate for students’ needs, influence school policies, and contribute to creating inclusive and supportive school communities.

8. You’ll Have A Good Schedule: If you’re employed within a school, then you get breaks when the school is not in session. That means you’ll be able to enjoy more holidays, like summer and winter breaks.

In essence, pursuing a career as a school counselor offers the chance to make a meaningful impact, embrace a multifaceted role, and contribute positively to the educational journey of students.

Do you know the levels of education in school counseling? Including your bachelor’s and your doctoral degree, you will have four major educational milestone degrees. Here’s a breakdown for you.

Here are the degree levels in school counseling: 

1. Bachelor’s Degree: 

There is no specific bachelor’s degree for school counseling. The most common degrees that aspiring school counselors go for are bachelor’s in psychology, education, or related areas. These degrees lay a good foundation for your master’s in school counseling. 

2. Master’s Degree: 

This is the most common requirement for school counselors. Programs are often titled Master of Education (M.Ed.) in School Counseling, Master of Arts (M.A.) in Counseling with a School Counseling specialization, or Master of Science (M.S.) in School Counseling. These programs delve into the theories, techniques, and practices specific to school settings.

3. Educational Specialist (Ed.S.) Degree: 

A post-master’s degree that offers advanced training and specialization in school counseling. It provides deeper knowledge and can lead to leadership roles or specialized positions within the educational setting.

4. Doctoral Degrees (Ph.D. or Ed.D.): 

While not mandatory for school counseling roles, some professionals pursue doctoral degrees for advanced research, academic, or leadership opportunities in the field. These degrees emphasize research, theory development, and advanced practice.

When considering a career in school counseling, it’s essential to be aware of the specific educational requirements and licensure criteria for your desired state or region. Additionally, accreditation by bodies such as the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP) can be a valuable indicator of program quality and alignment with professional standards.

Related: Types Of Doctorate Degrees 

The time it takes to become a school counselor can vary based on several factors, including educational requirements, state licensure or certification processes, and individual career goals. It typically takes about 6 to 8 years. 

Here’s a general overview of the typical timeline:

1. Bachelor’s Degree: Most aspiring school counselors begin by earning a bachelor’s degree, which usually takes about 4 years of full-time study.

2. Master’s Degree: A master’s degree in school counseling is typically required for entry into the profession. Master’s programs in school counseling often take 2-3 years to complete, depending on the program’s structure, full-time or part-time enrollment, and any additional requirements such as internships or practicum experiences.

3. Post-Master’s Experience: Some states or districts may require a certain number of supervised hours or years of experience in a school setting after completing the master’s degree before obtaining full licensure or certification.

4. Licensure/Certification: Upon completing the necessary education and experience requirements, aspiring school counselors must obtain licensure or certification to practice in their state. The process typically involves passing a state-approved exam and meeting other state-specific requirements, which can vary.

5. Continuing Education: Once licensed or certified, school counselors often need to engage in continuing education or professional development activities to maintain their credentials and stay current in the field.

In summary, the path to becoming a school counselor usually involves completing a bachelor’s degree, obtaining a master’s degree, gaining post-master’s experience, and obtaining state licensure or certification. Depending on individual circumstances and state requirements, this process can take approximately 6–8 years or more. It’s essential to research and understand the specific requirements in your state or region to plan your educational and career paths effectively.


– Median Pay: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2022, the median annual wage for school and career counselors was $60,140. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $38,280, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $98,530. However, salaries can vary with factors like geographic location, school district funding, and years of experience influencing earnings.

– Variations: School counselors working in certain regions or urban areas with higher living costs typically command higher salaries than those in rural areas. Also, counselors with more experience under their belt or those with advanced degrees or specialized certifications may have increased earning potential.

Job Outlook:

– Positive Growth: The demand for school counselors is generally expected to grow. According to BLS, there is a projected 5% increase in demand for school counselors from 2022 to 2032, which is higher than average for all professions. This increase in demand can be attributed to increasing awareness of the importance of mental health and the role of counselors in supporting students’ academic and emotional well-being.

– Diverse Opportunities: School counselors can find opportunities in various educational settings, including elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as in specialized programs or alternative educational settings.

In summary, the salary and job outlook for school counselors is very positive. While salaries can vary based on multiple factors, the growing recognition of the importance of mental health and comprehensive student support suggests positive job growth and opportunities in the field of school counseling. 

According to BLS, here are some states that offer high salaries to school counselors and related professions:

States Hourly Mean SalaryAnnual Mean Salary 
California$ 38.99$ 81,100
Washington$ 38.07$ 79,180
Massachusetts$ 36.95$ 76,860
New Jersey$ 36.82$ 76,580
Connecticut$ 34.58$ 71,920

Most school counselors agree that there is no typical day for them. Each day is different and unique. You typically start around 7 a.m. or 8 a.m. by organizing materials and crafting lessons tailored to students’ needs. These lessons encompass a variety of topics, ranging from academic skills to fostering social-emotional growth.  

Beyond teaching, you will also have students come up to you for counseling, either individually or in group sessions. You create a supportive environment, allowing students to share their concerns and develop vital life skills.

You will also delegate your time to students who have learning difficulties. After these sessions, you may coordinate with teachers and parents to explain the progress of the child. You can also expect to have many meetings throughout the day.

A school counselor’s job can be very busy, with many different tasks constantly cropping up. But at the same time, it is one of the most rewarding professions out there. Students rely on you for support and guidance. Each day offers you the chance to positively influence students’ lives, helping them navigate challenges, cultivate resilience, and realize their full potential.

You play a significant role in creating an inclusive and supportive educational environment where every student feels valued and empowered to thrive. You get to make a positive difference in students’ lives and help them every day.

Here are essential skills for a school counselor to effectively support students’ academic, social, and emotional well-being:

1. Active Listening: Attentively understanding and responding to students’ concerns and perspectives during counseling sessions.

2. Empathy: Demonstrating genuine understanding and sensitivity to students’ feelings and experiences.

3. Communication Skills: Articulating ideas clearly and fostering open dialogue with students, parents, teachers, and other stakeholders.

4. Being Friendly and Approachable: Creating a welcoming atmosphere where students feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and concerns, fostering trust and open communication.

5. Managing Multiple Tasks Throughout the Day: Balancing various responsibilities and priorities effectively, ensuring that each student’s needs are addressed promptly and comprehensively.

6. Maintaining Professionalism, Unbiased Approach, and Respect: Upholding ethical standards and treating every student with fairness, respect, and without favoritism, ensuring a supportive and inclusive environment for all.

7. Conflict Resolution: Mediating conflicts, facilitating constructive conversations, and empowering students with effective conflict resolution skills.

8. Collaboration: Working collaboratively with educators, administrators, and external agencies to coordinate comprehensive support for students.

9. Adaptability: Flexibly responding to evolving student needs, educational trends, and challenges within the school environment.

10. Ethical Decision-Making: Upholding ethical standards, maintaining confidentiality, and prioritizing students’ best interests in all counseling practices.

These are some of the skills that equip school counselors to navigate the multifaceted challenges of their role.

Now that you have a better understanding of what the school counselor role entails, you’re ready to embark on a fulfilling career journey. Remember, the path will have its challenges, but each day brings a chance to make a positive difference in students’ lives. Continuing your education, like getting a master’s in school counseling, can equip you with more knowledge to enhance your skills. Stay curious, be open to learning, and always prioritize the well-being of the students you serve. Your dedication will undoubtedly shape brighter futures for many.

Is being a school counselor a good job?

Yes, being a school counselor can be a rewarding and fulfilling profession. It offers the opportunity to positively impact students’ lives, address their concerns, and guide them toward academic and personal success.

What challenges do school counselors commonly face?

School counselors may face challenges such as addressing diverse student needs, managing large caseloads, navigating school policies and systems, and balancing administrative tasks with direct student support. Staying updated with counseling techniques and resources is also essential.