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School Counselor

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(5.6 out of 10)

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Unemployment Rate

7.1 percent

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Don’t let one of the 237,480 professionals currently working in this vocation hear you utter the term “guidance counselor.” Apparently, that would be so 1980. The men and women who provide academic, personal and developmental support to school-age children prefer the name “school counselor” these days. But that term doesn’t scratch the tip of the chalkboard for the duties of the profession. Elementary school counselors interact with young kids, either individually or in small groups, acting as a sounding board for all of their day-to-day activities. They might also assist teachers in assessing students’ abilities and interests, and they ensure that children with different needs receive proper care and education. High school counselors have similar responsibilities, but they also help youngsters transition from secondary school into the workforce or collegiate life. They could assist students with getting application materials together, coordinating study trips, proctoring entrance tests and chaperoning college visits. They may also help a young person determine their career path and help him or her enter an apprenticeship. According to Gail M. Smith, a school counseling director for the Cobb County School District in Georgia and a board member with the American School Counselor Association, “It is one of the best professions in the world. We get to work with students and see them achieve.”

By the year 2022, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a 11.9 percent increase in employment for educational, guidance, school and vocational counselors, which translates to an impressive 31,200 new jobs.


The Labor Department reports that school counselors brought home a median salary of $53,610 last year. The best-paid made $86,680 while the lowest-paid earned about $31,920. The highest-earning counselors generally work in the federal executive branch, labor unions and elementary and secondary schools. The top earners live in the metropolitan areas of El Centro, Calif., Atlantic City and Fairbanks, Alaska.

Salary Range

75th Percentile $69,370
Median $53,610
25th Percentile $41,020


Working in counseling requires a significant amount of training. Specific requirements to earn a practicing license or certificate vary by state, but most school counselors must also have at least a master’s degree. During their time at an accredited degree program, an aspiring counselor will most likely get supervised experience in the field, as well. Many public school systems prefer candidates to have both counseling and teaching certificates.

Reviews & Advice

This might be a fast-growing profession, but competition to land jobs is still intense, particular in some school districts. That’s one reason Smith recommends that prospective counselors begin thinking about job placement early on. “I always recommend that candidates become involved in a national counseling organization while they’re still in their graduate program,” she says. “That gives them networking opportunities that they might otherwise miss.” Hopefuls should also look for ways to begin working with children early. “I want to know that the applicant enjoys working with children,” Smith says. “If there’s no mention of children on the resume, then I’m going to put them aside.”

Job Satisfaction

Upward Mobility poor Below Average
Stress Level poor Above Average
Flexibility fair Average
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Last updated by Kimberly Palmer.

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