How to Become a School Counselor

School Counselor Careers & Degrees

$61,000Avg / year
$29.33Avg / hour
4+ YearsEducation

Are you the person your friends always turn to for advice? Are you caring and understanding, but at the same time also a strong leader? Are you looking for a job where you can work closely with young people and achieve good results? If this sounds like you, then you might like to become a school counselor.

A school counselor provides students with a range of services and advice.

They might speak to them about issues they have at school or home, provide information about careers, or put them in contact with other health care professionals.

A good school counselor is a natural leader who is respected, but also trustworthy.

Your students will need to feel that they can trust you with very personal information, and also feel that you will be able to provide them with answers.

When you become a school counselor, you can look forward to a very rewarding career.

You’ll have the rare opportunity to do a job that contributes to your community, and helps young people to deal with adversity and be their best.

Education Requirements to Become a School Counselor

To become a school counselor, you will first need to attain a four year bachelor’s degree in education or psychology.

After completing this degree you will need to enroll in a master’s qualification in counseling, or school counseling.

It’s important to note that these are general requirements, and the rules within your state could vary.

Before you decide on a college program, you should check what the laws in your state require.

The American School Counselor Association website is a good source of information regarding education and state licensure requirements.

The state specific requirements are listed there.

College is a good time to start getting some work experience.

You might like to get an administrative job at a counselor’s or psychologist’s office, or complete an internship over your summer vacation.

You could also do some volunteer work for a counseling hotline or a similar job.

This will look great on your resume and also prepare you for your work in the future.

School Counselor Job Description

A school counselor provides assistance and advice to students on a range of issues.

Some students may wish to talk about problems in their family; others may have problems with drugs, or birth control.

The list is endless.

Many simply want life advice about their careers, or how to meet their goals better.

While many students see a counselor voluntarily, others are referred there by teachers.

This may be for disciplinary reasons, or for problems with academic performance.

Often a teacher may suspect a student is facing some personal issues, and suggest that they speak to the school counselor about it.

Here are some of the daily tasks you might complete once you become a school counselor:

  • Meeting with students
  • Setting appointments and meetings
  • Communicating with parents
  • Referring students to other specialists
  • Giving students information and advice
  • Developing plans for students to meet their goals

School Counselor Salary and Career Path

Most school counselors will work in high schools or colleges and will usually start their career in this kind of position.

Others may have worked in different areas of counseling before deciding to work for schools.

Many school counselors will stay in this position for the duration of their career.

Others will move on to supervisory roles within the education system.

Some may becomes school teachers, or social researchers.

Similar roles that a counselor may move on to later in their career could include:

The median wage for a qualified counselor is around $50,000 a year.

Those working in schools or colleges earn between $40,000 and $50,000 a year.

If you would like a career where you will be working closely with young people and helping them to be their best, then you might like to become a school counselor.

There are good employment prospects available, as well as a secure salary for those with the right qualifications.

While this job may be challenging at times, making a positive contribution to the success and happiness of young people can be very rewarding.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$68,810
New Hampshire$55,660
New Jersey$73,160
New Mexico$57,500
New York$68,890
North Carolina$52,360
North Dakota$59,740
Rhode Island$64,030
South Carolina$54,280
South Dakota$44,590
West Virginia$44,610
Puerto Rico$37,280
Virgin Islands$51,990

The top earning state in the field is California, where the average salary is $78,250.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

California - $78,250
New Jersey - $73,160
Maryland - $70,380
New York - $68,890
District of Columbia - $68,810
* Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors and Advisors, OCC Code 21-1012, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a school counselor do?

A school counselor can work in private or public high schools, elementary schools or middle schools.

The main aim of this member of the education team is to help the students with their educational goals and their career development, as well as personal and social development.

The typical responsibilities of a school counselor usually include providing counseling based on the needs of the students; helping students overcome behavioral and social problems; helping students develop realistic goals; developing a plan to achieve future academic and career goals; evaluating the abilities and interests of a student; identifying and reporting cases of abuse or neglect; teaching classes on various topics (bullying, drug abuse, and so on); developing strategies with teachers and parents, in order to help students succeed, etc.

How much do school counselors make?

On average, a school counselor can make a little more than $56.000 per year in the United States.

In case you decide to choose this career path, you can expect to earn anywhere between $33.500 and $94.000 annually.

The salary would certainly depend on a variety of factors – your education and experience level, the facility you work in, the location and so on.

School counselors in New Jersey, Massachusetts, and California, for example, have the highest average salaries.

An entry-level school counselor can earn around $16 per hour, while a top-level specialist with plenty of experience can make $45 and more per hour.

How much does it cost to become a school counselor?

In most cases, you would need a bachelor’s degree in counseling, education, social work, psychology or any other related field, in order to become a school counselor.

A year in a university can cost you anywhere between $8.000 and $45.000 (and more); the cost depends on a variety of factors (the books, supplies, and accommodation expenses are not included).

To improve job perspectives, you can decide to go for a master’s degree (it will cost you around $30.000 to obtain one).

In case you decide to pass the National Counselor Examination, you would have to pay a $275 examination fee.

What is the demand for school counselors?

Between 2016 and 2026, the school counselor job market is expected to grow by 12.6%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That is a little faster than the average for all occupations in the United States.

The career will be providing good employment opportunities in the near future.

The industry is mainly concentrated in Texas, New York, and California.

How long does it take to become a school counselor?

It will take you 4 years to obtain a bachelor’s degree and 1-2 years to earn a master’s degree.

You can consider seeking an internship during your last year in university to get that on-job experience as the majority of employers prefer the candidates to have at least a few years of experience.

Some states require school counselors to have a license.

You would typically need to have at least a bachelor’s degree, though sometimes a master’s or a Ph.D. is required; moreover, you would have to complete 3.000 hours of post-master’s work.

Still wondering which career path is right for you? take this free career interests test to find out.