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What is a School Counselor?

Many colleges and universities in Kansas offer degree programs in school counseling and other related topics. Pursuing this major can lead to a wide variety of employment opportunities, both inside and outside the school system. While the knowledge and skills gained can be utilized in many different professions, graduates are best prepared for engaging and impactful careers helping students of all ages achieve success, access, and equality.

School counselors work with students of varying ages in academic settings. They often coordinate their efforts with other educators, helping young people develop the academic and social skills they need to be successful. In many cases, these professional provide assistance when planning for life after graduation. This may include recommending colleges, providing support through the application process, or offering professional employment resources to those who do not plan to continue their education.

Notably, however, school counselors can take on many different roles depending on the needs of the young people they work with. These professionals commonly spend time assessing student abilities and interests, providing advice, and teaching specific topics. This sometimes means helping to develop certain skills meant to support learning, like effective time management and study habits. They may also assist with understanding and overcoming various social and/or behavioral challenges, as well as providing advice and guidance. School counselors generally have the ability to meet with individuals and/or small groups as needed.

The most successful individuals in the field possess great analytical, interpersonal, listening, and speaking skills. Collaboration is an integral part of this job as professionals must be able to coordinate efforts with teachers and family members. It’s also imperative that they can maintain accurate records, as well as tracking student progress. This is particularly important when reporting cases of possible neglect and/or abuse to authorities, which is another common responsibility.

Additionally, the daily tasks performed typically depend on student age. Those working in primary schools are likely to visit classrooms and provide assistance in developing various social and academic skills, while those in high schools spend more time advising students one-on-one.

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Online School Counseling Education in Kansas

It's important to note that most colleges and universities offer degrees in general counseling. While school counseling programs do exist, they are much less prevalent. This is especially true at the undergraduate levels. As a result, those interested in pursuing education of this kind may need to initially enroll in related subject areas. Notably, advanced degrees in school counseling tend to be more readily available.

Many prospective students may also be interested in pursuing online degree programs in this field. While virtual learning is becoming increasingly popular, counseling subjects do not always pair well with remote instruction. In addition to traditional study and coursework, these programs often require practicums and/or internships that must be completed in person. Those determined to study online may have more success enrolling in hybrid programs, which allow most work to be completed remotely but necessitate participation in periodic pre-scheduled residencies on campus.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of school and career counselors and advisors is expected to increase by 10% from 2021 to 2031. This is faster than the average for all occupations and will result in an additional 32,000 new job openings throughout the nation.

The educational services, healthcare, and social assistance industry is the fourth largest in Kansas. It accounts for $13.7 billion in revenue each year. As of May 2021, the state employed 2,650 educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors, with an annual mean wage of $56,670. This is above the annual mean wage of $49,680 for all occupations in Kansas.

Graduates with backgrounds in counseling are also likely to qualify for many other related community and social service occupations. Opportunities include, but are not limited to, school social worker, family therapist, and rehabilitation counselor. As of May 2021, Kansas employed 19,990 individuals in these positions. Overall salary potential for these occupations is lower, however, with an annual mean wage of $46,550 reported for these jobs.

While colleges and universities throughout the nation offer degree options in school counseling and related subjects, individuals planning to seek employment in Kansas should give preference to local institutions. Not only will these schools provide a more geographically relevant curriculum, but they also make the licensure process easier. The Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) provides a list of pre-approved colleges and universities, many of which employ school Licensure Officers to offer guidance and support to applicants.

Most colleges and universities offer degrees relevant counseling at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. Notably, higher education is essential for those planning to become school counselors in Kansas. While some other entry-level counseling, community, and social service occupations may be available to those with only high school diplomas, the vast majority of professions in this field require candidates to possess academic degrees.

Prospective students should realize that education standards can vary drastically depending on the profession sought. For example, the minimum education necessary to obtain a specialist license as a school counselor in Kansas is a master’s degree. Other opportunities, however, are available to graduates with associate and bachelor’s degrees. The best-paying positions are typically reserved for individuals with more education, training, and experience.

Online Associate Degree in Counseling (AS)

While few colleges and universities offer associate degrees in counseling specifically, programs are usually readily available in related subjects such as counseling, education, human services, behavioral science, social science, or psychology. These degrees generally consist of 60 credit hours of coursework that take full-time students approximately two years to complete. At this undergraduate level, curriculums consist of both general liberal arts and major-specific classes.

This type of degree is most appropriate for those seeking to gain basic knowledge and skills in the field. Graduates often qualify to pursue entry-level employment in community and social service occupations, as well as continuing their education by enrolling in bachelor’s degree programs. However, an associate degree does not meet the minimum education requirement to obtain a specialist license as a school counselor in Kansas.

It's fairly common for graduates to pursue bachelor’s degrees rather than begin applying for professional employment right away. This can be especially beneficial, as undergraduate credits can be transferred and applied toward new academic programs. Many colleges and universities will accept most, if not all, prior coursework.

Online Bachelor’s Degree in School Counseling (BS)

Again, there are relatively few school counseling degree programs offered at the undergraduate level. As a result, those interested in the profession should select a related major. Acceptable options include counseling, human services, behavioral science, social science, or psychology. These degrees generally consist of 120 credit hours of coursework that take full-time students approximately four years to complete. Curriculums vary, but students can still expect to take both general liberal arts and major-specific classes. Those enrolled can expect a more expansive overview of the field, with instruction in behavioral health and various counseling theories.

Graduates typically qualify for some entry-level community and social service occupations.

Those planning to pursue the specialist license for school counselors in Kansas will need to obtain this type of degree prior to enrolling in graduate programs. Those who choose to pursue further education should be prepared to meet various graduate school admittance standards. While these vary, most colleges and universities expect applicants to have minimum grade point averages (GPAs) and Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) scores.

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Online Master’s Degree in School Counseling (MS)

Master’s degrees in school counseling generally range from 30 to 60 credit hours of coursework that take full-time students approximately two to three years to complete. Some colleges and universities may offer accelerated programs that can be completed faster, however. Curriculums vary by institution, but students can expect to study various school counseling techniques, as well as multicultural counseling, lifespan development, academic and career counseling, and professional issues and ethics. It’s also common for those enrolled to complete supervised clinical hours in real school settings prior to graduation.

This type of degree meets the minimum education requirement needed for the specialist license for school counselors in Kansas. Graduates may also qualify for jobs as career counselors, community service managers, social workers, substance abuse counselors, mental health counselors, and juvenile justice counselors. Completing graduate school often leads to more job opportunities and higher salary potential.

Online PhD Degree in School Counseling (PhD)

A PhD or doctorate in school counseling can consist of between 60 and 120 credit hours that may take full-time students two to four years to complete. Most programs are meant to help current professionals further develop the knowledge and skills needed to help young people be more successful in school. It’s also common for curriculums to emphasize various management concepts. Depending on the institution, it may be possible to enroll in specialized classes in grief therapy and/or curriculum coaching.

In addition to traditional in-class learning and coursework, students at this level often perform a significant amount of research and writing. This is particularly true when preparing dissertations prior to graduation.

This type of degree typically exceeds the minimum education requirements needed to obtain a specialist license for school counseling in Kansas. Doctorate degrees are generally best-suited for individuals interested in expanding their clinical skills. As a result, graduates often qualify for employment in research and higher education.

Become a School Counselor in Kansas

Before becoming a school counselor, it’s generally a good idea to consider all your career options. There are many different employment opportunities available to graduates, each with distinct qualifications. Taking some time to research occupations in the field will make it easier to identify your ultimate goals, as well as determine the associated hiring standards and expectations. Knowing your preferred profession will also be useful when picking a college program, elective courses, minor areas of study, concentrations, and/or internship opportunities.

If school counselor is your primary career of choice, it’s imperative that you familiarize yourself with the professional certification and licensure requirements in Kansas. This process is overseen by the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE).

Specialist licenses are available in the following areas:

  • School Counselor
  • School Psychologist
  • Reading Specialist
  • Library Media Specialist

Interested parties must complete an approved graduate degree school counselor program to qualify for a School Counselor license in Kansas. Many colleges and universities in the state provide acceptable degrees and students are encouraged to contact the Licensure Officer at their chosen institution for assistance with entry requirements. While a background in teaching is not necessary to complete a school counselor program, those enrolled will need to participate in some additional field experiences. A 3.25 cumulative grade point average must be maintained in order to qualify for the school counselor license after graduation.

Candidates may apply for a provisional license if they complete 50% of their academic program and obtain a verified counseling position under the direct supervision of a school counselor holding a professional level school counselor license. Applicants should contact the school licensure officer to coordinate submission of required materials.

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Once the academic program is completed and the degree earned, it’s possible to apply for an Initial license. Candidates must, however, first pass the PRAXIS II Exam administered by Education Testing Services (ETS). The current required assessment for school counselors can be found on the ETS website.

A professional license is only available to those who complete a year-long approved mentor program during their first year of employment as a school counselor. At this point, the initial license can be upgraded.

It’s important to note that, as of September 2014, any person submitting an application for first or renewal Kanas certificates or licensures are required to submit a complete set of fingerprints at the time of application. There is a $50 fee associated with this submission. A license will not be granted until the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and Federal Bureau of Investigation complete background clearances.

Careers for School Counseling Graduates

  • Academic Advisor
    Academic advisors provide assistance and support as students progress through school. They are often responsible for providing assigned students with guidance and feedback, as well as keeping detailed academic records of meetings. In order to help ensure successful and timely program completion, these professionals may also provide assistance with course registration, counseling, transfer documentation between departments, and/or institutional standards for graduation. According to PayScale, academic advisors make an average base salary of $43,976 per year.
  • College/University Admissions Counselor
    College and university admissions counselors review incoming student applications and verify that information is correct. They frequently check submitted materials, ensuring that the items received meet minimum requirements. These professionals may also provide assistance during the approvals process. Additionally, college and university admissions counselors may be responsible for following up with students regarding application issues and contacting references supplied. In some cases, they are even tasked with creating profiles for applicants, meeting with prospective students, and/or maintaining recruitment guidelines. According to PayScale, admissions counselors make an average base salary of $41,868 per year.
  • Guidance Counselor
    Guidance counselors often have many responsibilities related to helping students identify personal goals, strengths, weaknesses, and interests. This typically entails performing various student assessments, teaching useful skills, providing basic counseling, and collaborating with teachers. In most cases, these professionals are capable of providing assistance with various aspects of academic, personal, and social development. According to PayScale, guidance counselors make an average base salary of $53,599 per year.
  • High School Special Education Teacher
    High school special education teachers work with secondary education students diagnosed with learning, mental, emotional, and/or physical disabilities. They are often responsible for coordinating adaptive lesson plans with educators to ensure the unique learning needs of their assigned students are met. These professionals also assess student knowledge and skill levels in order to better develop Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). Other common duties include planning appropriate activities, providing mentorship, and delivering progress reports to parents and other professionals. According to PayScale, high school special education teachers make an average base salary of $53,463 per year.
  • Mental Health Counselor / Technician
    Mental health technicians work in hospitals, private institutions, and/or patient residences, providing assistance and support to mental healthcare professionals. They observe patient behaviors and report all relevant updates to doctors, as well as ensuring patients remain comfortable between treatments. Common duties assigned include assisting with bathing, dressing, and mealtimes. According to PayScale, mental health technicians make an average base salary of $34,643 per year.
  • School Psychologist
    School psychologists help children diagnosed with learning, emotional, and/or behavioral issues succeed in school and at home. They are often responsible for screening students for various conditions and then creating Independent Education Plans (IEPs) once diagnoses are made. They must then coordinate the appropriate responses with teachers and family. In some cases, it may be necessary to refer students to other professionals for assistance. They commonly work with counselors, social workers, and psychologists. According to PayScale, school psychologists make an average base salary of $66,151 per year.
  • Social Services Manager
    Social services managers coordinate and supervise public well-being programs and organizations. They are typically responsible for directing other workers as they offer services to community members and may oversee many administrative aspects of programs such as analyzing data to determine overall effectiveness, suggesting improvements, and writing proposals for social services funding. According to PayScale, social services managers make an average base salary of $58,081 per year.

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