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What is School Counseling?

School counseling college degree programs and related educational programs provide students with the necessary skills to help people of all ages navigate their academic and career paths. These comprehensive programs offer a range of courses that focus on topics such as mental health, special education, learning disabilities, guidance strategies, and ethical practice. Most school counseling degree programs require the completion of at least 120 credits in order to graduate.

The type of school counseling degree program chosen will depend on the student's goals. Bachelor's degrees are typically completed within four years and can lead to entry-level positions in secondary positions, but you will not be able to work in schools or mental health settings. Master's degrees will take up to two additional years to complete and are designed to fully prepare graduates to work as licensed professional counselors or in educational administration roles. Doctorate degrees are also available for those wishing to pursue advanced research or teach at the university level.

No matter what type of school counseling degree program is chosen, there are numerous opportunities available after graduation from any one of these accredited colleges and universities offering this type of specialty training. With hands-on experience gained through internships during coursework and job placement assistance provided upon graduation, graduates can feel confident about entering the workforce with a competitive edge in their field.

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School Counseling Education in Illinois

School counselors are trained professionals who provide guidance and support to students in an educational setting. They work with students individually or in groups to assess their academic, social, and emotional development. School counselors also collaborate with parents, teachers, administrators, and other school personnel to create a supportive environment for all students. School counselors typically hold at least a master's degree in counseling or a related field, as well as state certification as required by the department of education.

In addition to providing direct counseling services, school counselors often advocate for their student’s rights and needs within the school system. This includes helping identify areas where additional resources or supports may be needed, such as remedial instruction or mental health services. It’s important for school counselors to maintain strong ethical standards when engaging in advocacy efforts that respect the individual rights of their students, while also recognizing institutional policies and procedures.

School counselors also play a role in career preparedness by helping students explore post-secondary options, such as college admissions or vocational training programs. They can help guide students through the decision-making process involved in selecting courses of study that align with their interests and abilities while balancing competing demands on time such as extracurricular activities or part-time jobs. In short, school counselors serve an important role in creating a holistic learning environment that promotes student success both inside and outside of the classroom.

Online Associate Degree in School Counseling (AS)

An associate degree in school counseling and related educational programs provide students with a foundational knowledge of the skills needed to become effective counselors. Students may learn about theories of counseling, communication techniques, and assessment strategies. They can also gain insight into the ethical standards of counseling and the legal aspects of providing counseling services. These programs tend to cover a range of topics such as human behavior, mental health issues, social justice, family dynamics, career development, education systems, addiction prevention, and intervention strategies. Upon completion of an associate degree in school counseling program, graduates will be prepared for further education if they choose to continue in the field. Unfortunately, even entry-level positions in various educational settings will require at least a master’s degree. Those who complete an associate degree from an accredited institution and wish to work in elementary schools, middle schools, or high schools will need to complete further education before they can begin.

Alternatively, they may work with private psychological practices or community organizations which provide services to children or adults who have specialized needs. Many states require school counselors to have at least a master’s degree; however, an associate degree provides a steppingstone to those who wish to pursue further studies in this field.

Online Bachelors Degree in School Counseling (BS)

Bachelor’s in counseling college and degree programs provide students with the opportunity to pursue a Bachelor of Science in School Counseling and/or education. This type of degree aims to prepare graduates for further education and work in a school setting, though you’ll need a master’s for full licensure. Coursework focuses on topics such as human growth and development, counseling theories, group dynamics, family counseling, ethical practices, research methods, assessment techniques, and legal/ethical issues. Students should learn how to evaluate individual needs and create action plans for students in need of mental health services or guidance. Additionally, these programs cover topics related to educational psychology, classroom management strategies, crisis intervention skills, and psychological educational interventions. Those in a school counseling program may also obtain a professional educator license before they go on to become a licensed professional counselor (LPC).

Bachelor's level coursework may also include supervised clinical experience within schools. This allows students to gain hands-on experience working with children and adolescents under the guidance of experienced professionals, which will come in handy when you go for licensure. Through this practical training component, they will develop advanced understanding of the education system while honing their therapeutic skillset when working with families from diverse backgrounds within a school environment. Graduates are then prepared to enter into graduate level programs where they can further specialize in areas such as college counseling or child development psychology.

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Online Masters Degree in School Counseling (MA or MC)

A master’s degree in school counseling and related educational programs prepare students for careers in the field of education as a licensed professional counselor. These programs focus specifically on providing a comprehensive overview of the role and responsibilities of a school counselor, with coursework exploring topics such as child development, individual and group counseling techniques, multicultural counseling, crisis intervention, and professional ethics. Students also gain hands-on experience through supervised practicums or internships in schools or other related settings. Upon successful completion of the program, graduates are prepared to pursue licensure or certification as counselors in their respective states.

In addition to completing coursework and field experiences, some programs may require students to participate in research projects or complete an original thesis project. This allows students to demonstrate their mastery over knowledge acquired during their studies while providing them with an opportunity to explore areas they find particularly interesting. Many schools also offer concentrations within the master’s degree program that specialize student learning experiences into specific areas of study – such as autism spectrum disorders, career counseling, or substance abuse prevention – allowing graduates to further tailor their knowledge and skills according to particular interests.

Online PhD in School Counseling (PhD)

A PhD in school counseling is an advanced degree program that prepares graduates for advanced careers in counseling in a variety of settings, consultants for policy making in the field, as purveyors of counselor education, and more. In these programs, students learn about key topics such as research methodology, group counseling, mental health and wellness promotion, legal and ethical issues in counseling, and career development. Depending on the institution offering the degree program, coursework may include additional topics related to educational theory and practice or school psychology. In addition to completing coursework requirements for their PhDs in school counseling, students may participate in practicum experiences that involve supervised clinical experience with actual counseling clients under the supervision of a faculty member or other qualified professional.

This hands-on training allows students to develop their skills in areas such as assessment, diagnosis of mental health problems, crisis intervention strategies, and more. Upon completion of the doctoral program requirements, including classroom instruction and practicum experience components, graduates may enhance their licensure, strike out on their own to start their own practice, or move into academia and teach. For graduation, many institutions also require applicants to submit a dissertation project that examines some aspect of school counseling before conferring a full doctoral degree. Working with faculty advisors throughout the dissertation process can help ensure successful completion of this important step toward earning a PhD in this field.

Online School Counseling Certifications

School counseling certifications are an important step to becoming a professional school counselor. Most states require that school counselors have a certification in order to practice, and some offer additional certifications for those who want to specialize in certain areas such as trauma or substance abuse. It’s important for potential students of school counseling programs to understand the different types of certification available in their state so that they can plan their schooling accordingly.

The two most common forms of certifications are the National Board Certification (NBC) and State-Approved Certifications (SAC). The NBC is available from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and it requires applicants to complete coursework, pass an exam, and submit an application package demonstrating their knowledge and skills related to counseling. The SAC varies by state, but usually requires completion of approved courses, experience working with students in a school setting, passing an exam, and submitting proof of all requirements. Both types of certification require ongoing professional development activities as well as renewal fees every few years.

In addition to these, there are other specialized credentials such as the Certified School Counselor (CSC), which is offered by some universities and organizations; these credentials focus on specific areas, such as college guidance or career counseling. Regardless of type or area specialization chosen, all counselors must adhere to ethical standards set forth by their state's professional licensing board in order to maintain their certification status.

Become a School Counselor in Illinois

School counseling is a rewarding and fulfilling career choice for those who are passionate about helping children and providing professional guidance to support their academic success. Becoming a school counselor isn't easy but, with the right education, work experience, and licensing, it's possible. Here's an overview of the steps you need to take to become a school counselor.

  • Step 1: Get a Bachelor's Degree

    The first step in becoming a school counselor is obtaining a bachelor's degree from an accredited university in either psychology or sociology. You must also take courses specific to education, such as teaching methods and intervention strategies. This will give you a good foundation in the field and access to a master’s, which is required for licensure.

  • Step 2: Earn A Master’s Degree in Counseling

    In order to become a certified school counselor, you'll need to earn your master’s degree in counseling or another related field, such as psychology or social work. These programs can typically be completed in two years and involve supervised clinical experiences, which provide hands-on experience working with children under the supervision of experienced counselors.

  • Step 3: Gain Work Experience

    It’s important that you gain relevant work experience before applying for licensure as a school counselor. Many states will require that you have between 1 and 3 years of paid work experience prior to becoming fully licensed as a counselor to work without licensed supervision.

  • Step 4: Become Licensed

    Once you've got your bachelor’s degree, your graduate degree, and acquired suitable work experience, it's time to complete license requirements by taking and passing applicable licensing exams administered by your state board. Typically, aspiring counselors must pass both oral exams (such as general knowledge tests) as well as written certification exams that focus on counseling resources available within schools (such as conflict resolution techniques). After completing testing requirements, and possibly other regional protocols, officials will grant you your license.

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What Can I Do with a Bachelor's in School Counseling?

A bachelor's in school counseling provides a great foundation for professionals interested in helping students, families, and teachers within the school system, though it will not give you access to school counselor licensure. For that, you’ll need a master’s. However, with a bachelor’s, you might find your way into a teaching position, or you could move into another field where knowledge of human behavior is a boon to your career, such as marketing or human resources. Those who wish to provide support, guidance, and counseling services to children and teenagers enrolled in K-12 schools must continue their education.

Overall, a bachelor's degree in this field prepares graduates for further education and to begin gaining some hands-on learning experiences that will eventually help them make positive differences in the lives of students. Those who pursue this path benefit from engaging with young people every day while working towards building healthy relationships between teachers and parents too.

Potential Careers for School Counseling Graduates

  • Career Counselor:

    A career counselor provides tailored advice specific to each individual’s requirements, assessing their current qualifications and potential options available. The main objective of a career counselor is to enable clients to identify the most suitable career path for them from entry-level jobs through to executive roles. They may even help in developing existing knowledge and skills so that more advanced positions are achievable in the future.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • Bachelor’s degree in counseling, psychology or a related field
    • Prior experience as a counselor or mentor preferred
    • Knowledge of career assessment tools and resources
    • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills
    • Ability to handle sensitive information with discretion and confidentiality

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for school and career counselors and advisors in the US in 2021 was $60,510
    • The mean annual wage for educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors in Illinois is $57,880
  • Social Worker:

    Social workers help people cope with difficult life experiences and provide support during times of crisis. They may be focused on children and families, or they may spend their time ensuring that those who need medical help in their community have knowledge of all programs available to them.

    Necessary Requirements:

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for social workers in the US in 2021 was $50,390
    • The mean annual wage for mental health and substance abuse social workers in Illinois is $52,560 and healthcare social workers earn $59,090
  • Mental Health Counselor:

    A licensed clinical professional counselor will help individuals, families, and groups understand their challenges, assess their mental well-being, and cope more effectively with their emotions. They serve as an essential part of any mental health care team and provide support to clients with issues ranging from depression to anxiety to addiction. Clinical mental health counseling specialists play an important role in providing insight into an individual's emotional state so that appropriate treatment can be sought out.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • Master’s degree in mental health counseling, psychology or a related field
    • Current state licensure or certification as a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor or Mental Health Counselor
    • Experience providing counseling services

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors in the US in 2021 was $48,520
    • The mean annual wage for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors in Illinois is $52,480
  • Community Service Coordinator:

    Being a community service coordinator can be both a rewarding and challenging profession. These professionals are responsible for leading initiatives in local communities, managing projects, and overseeing volunteers to promote the betterment of their respective communities. They develop community projects, train volunteers, and build relationships with key stakeholders.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • Bachelor's degree in social work or a related field
    • 2+ years of experience in program management or community service coordination
    • Proficiency in Microsoft Office Suite, social media platforms, and web-based programs

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for social and community service managers in the US in 2021 was $74,000
    • The mean annual wage for social and community service managers in Illinois is $72,840
  • Mental Health Technician:

    Mental health technicians provide direct care and treatment to people diagnosed with mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. They play a vital role in the treatment of individuals with these diagnoses, providing them with support and helping them learn positive behaviors. They must have a specific set of skills and knowledge, as well as an understanding of how to be compassionate and understanding throughout the job.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • High School Diploma or equivalent
    • Certification/Licensure in Mental Health or related field preferred
    • Ability to maintain composure under stressful circumstances
    • Clinical knowledge of mental health

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for psychiatric technicians and aides in the US in 2021 was $36,230
    • The mean annual wage for psychiatric technicians in Illinois is $40,270
  • Postsecondary Psychology Teacher:

    Postsecondary psychology teachers provide instruction to college students in the study of human behavior. They may create and teach curriculum, but they may also be included in research.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • Bachelor’s degree in psychology or related field
    • Teaching experience at the postsecondary level preferred
    • Ability to communicate effectively with students, faculty, and staff
    • Knowledge of current trends and developments in the field of psychology
    • Working knowledge of educational software programs

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for psychology teachers, postsecondary in the US in 2021 was $88,390
    • The mean annual wage for psychology teachers, postsecondary in Illinois is $85,420
  • School Counselor:

    School counselors are professionals who provide support and guidance to students. They typically offer counseling services, manage student records, advise teachers and administrators on educational matters, and collaborate with other school personnel to ensure that all students have an opportunity to fulfill their academic potential.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • Master’s degree in counseling or related field
    • Possess a valid state license in counseling
    • Possess a valid state license in counseling
    • Understanding of psychological principles and best practices in counseling

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for school and career counselors and advisors in the US in 2021 was $60,510
    • The mean annual wage for educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors in Illinois is $57,880 and school psychologists earn $75,240
  • Caseworker (social work):

    Caseworkers provide services to individuals and families who are in need of assistance. As a caseworker, you’ll be expected to assess the needs of clients and help them mitigate difficult situations as quickly and efficiently as possible.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • Bachelor’s degree in social work or a related field
    • Ability to maintain professional boundaries with clients while providing compassionate care
    • Knowledge of relevant laws, regulations, and community resources

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for social workers in the US in 2021 was $50,390
    • The mean annual wage for child, family, and school social workers in Illinois is $55,930 and social workers (all others) earn $66,490

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