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What is School Counseling?

Earning a degree in school counseling or other related subjects can lead to very impactful and fulfilling careers in Kentucky. While not all professionals in this field work in academic settings, most pursue this major in order to gain the knowledge and skills needed to help young people achieve success, access, and equality.

Notably, most colleges and universities offer degrees in general counseling instead of school counseling. This is especially true at the undergraduate levels. While there are exceptions to this, it’s often necessary for students to initially major in other similar areas of study. Advanced degrees in school counseling tend to be more prevalent, however, with options typically available at the master’s and doctoral levels.

School counselors work in academic settings, providing support and guidance to young people as they develop the academic and social skills needed to be successful in the future. They are capable of helping students of varying ages, but often meet with those planning for life after graduation. In many cases, these professionals recommend colleges, provide support through the application process, or offer professional employment resources to young people who do not plan to continue their education. Additionally, school counselors regularly coordinate efforts with other educators.

It's important to realize that these professionals can take on many different roles, and responsibilities generally depend on the needs of their students. As a result, these professionals spend a lot of time assessing student abilities and interests. They also provide advice and may even teach specific topics when necessary. Young people in school are particularly encouraged to utilize counselors when developing skills that support learning, such as effective time management and study habits. Additionally, professionals in this field have the expertise necessary to help students understand and overcome various social and/or behavioral challenges.

The most successful individuals in the field possess great analytical, interpersonal, listening, and speaking skills. Collaboration is also an integral part of the job. School counselors often coordinate efforts with teachers and family members. The ability to maintain accurate records and document student progress is also imperative. This is particularly important when reporting cases of possible neglect and/or abuse to authorities, which is another common responsibility.

Notably, the daily tasks performed by these counselors will largely depend on student age. Those working in primary schools are more likely to visit classrooms and provide assistance in developing various social and academic skills.

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Online School Counseling Education in Kentucky

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 third largest in Kentucky and accounts for $20 billion in revenue each year. As of May 2022, the state employed 4,520 educational, guidance, career counselors, and advisors with an annual mean wage of $58,890. This is above the annual mean wage of $51,490 for all occupations in Kentucky.

Graduates with backgrounds in counseling are also likely to qualify for many other related community and social service occupations. Opportunities include school social worker, family therapist, and rehabilitation counselor. As of May 2022, Kentucky employed 30,670 individuals in these positions. Overall salary potential for these occupations is lower, however, with an annual mean wage of $48,230 reported.

Colleges and universities in Kentucky and throughout the nation offer degree options in school counseling and related subjects. Those planning to pursue employment in the state, however, may want to give preference to local institutions. These schools provide a more geographically relevant curriculum and are likely to make the certification process easier.

Many colleges and universities in Kentucky offer degrees in school counseling and related subjects. Prospective students can generally choose from relevant programs at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels.

However, those pursuing careers as school-focused counselors in the state will require graduate degrees as this is the minimum standard for certification. Those with less education could still qualify for related employment opportunities, and those with undergraduate degrees can apply for entry-level counseling, community, and social service occupations. Some positions of this type may require as little as a high school diploma or GED. Notably, the best-paying positions are typically reserved for individuals with more education, training, and experience.

Online Associate Degree in School Counseling (AS)

Associate degrees generally consist of 60 credit hours of coursework that take full-time students approximately two years to complete. As undergraduate programs, they are typically comprised of both liberal arts and major-specific classes. Notably, relatively few colleges and universities offer associate programs in school counseling specifically. As a result, it’s often necessary to pursue related educational programs such as counseling, education, human services, behavioral science, social science, or psychology at this level.

This type of degree is most appropriate for those seeking entry-level employment in community and social service occupations. However, as mentioned before, an associate degree does not meet the minimum education requirement for school counselor certification in Kentucky.

Graduates possess basic knowledge and skills in the field, making them prime candidates for further education. Enrolling in bachelor’s programs can be a smart decision, especially because most colleges and universities accept up to 60 or 90 credit hours in transfer. As a result, those entering with associate degrees often start of juniors rather than freshmen, and require only two additional years of instruction before earning a more advanced degree.

Online Bachelor’s Degree in School Counseling (BS)

Bachelor’s 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. As with associate-level programs, there are relatively few colleges and universities that offer bachelor’s degrees in school counseling specifically. As a result, those interested in the profession typically pursue other related educational programs such as counseling, human services, behavioral science, social science, or psychology majors.

This type of degree is most appropriate for those seeking entry-level employment in community and social service occupations. Graduates often possess a more expansive understanding of the counseling field as a whole, with knowledge of behavioral health and various counseling theories. However, a bachelor’s degree does not meet the minimum education requirement for school counselor certification in Kentucky.

Graduates can also choose to enroll in graduate school programs, the completion of which is necessary to become certified as a school counselor in the state. 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 or MC)

A master’s degree in school counseling program generally ranges from 30 to 60 credit hours of coursework that take full-time students approximately two to three years to complete, though, in some cases, accelerated programs may also be available. Curriculums vary by institution, but students can expect to study various school counseling techniques, clinical mental health counseling, multicultural counseling, lifespan development, academic and career counseling, and professional issues and ethics. Those enrolled are likely to complete supervised clinical hours in real school settings prior to graduation.

This type of degree is ideal for individuals seeking employment as a professional school counselor in Kentucky or a licensed professional clinical counselor. For one thing, it meets the minimum requirements to qualify for the state’s five-year Provisional Certificate for School Counselor, P-12. Notably, a five year Standard Certification for School Counselor, P-12 is only available to those who also complete an additional three to six credit hours from an approved graduate level counseling or school counseling program. Graduates may also qualify for jobs as career counselors, community service managers, social workers, substance abuse counselors, mental health counselors, and juvenile justice counselors.

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 students have professional experience in the field but feel compelled to further develop the knowledge and skills needed to help young people be more successful in school. Curriculums vary, but often place emphasis on various management concepts. In some cases, it may be possible to take specialized classes in grief therapy and/or curriculum coaching.

Those enrolled can expect a combination of traditional instruction and coursework, as well as a significant amount of independent study, research, and writing made for a licensed professional clinical counselor. The majority of academic institutions require doctoral candidates to prepare and present dissertations prior to graduation.

This type of degree is ideal for individuals interested in expanding their clinical skills. Notably, this degree exceeds the minimum education requirements needed to become a certified school counselor in Kentucky. Graduates more commonly seek employment in research and higher education.

Become a School Counselor in Kentucky

School counseling graduates can be prepared for a wide variety of related occupations in Kentucky. As such, you should generally start by considering which profession or professions are most interesting. Researching your options early ensures you are adequately familiar with the standards and expectations you will need to meet in order to obtain employment. Identifying your ultimate career goals is also beneficial because it effectively narrows your focus, which can be particularly helpful when selecting appropriate academic programs, minor areas of study, elective courses, concentrations, and/or internships.

If a school counselor is your primary career of choice, it’s imperative that you familiarize yourself with the professional certification and licensure requirements in Kentucky. This process is overseen by the Education Professional Standard Board (EPSB) of Kentucky. This board is responsible for establishing standards of performance both for preparation programs and practitioners. In addition to teacher certifications, the EPSB administers credentials for several administrative positions, including school counselors.

The Kentucky EPSB issues two applicable certifications. The first is a five-year Provisional Certificate for School Counselor, P-12. This is appropriate for applicants who have completed an approved master’s level program in school counseling but lack the additional credit hours and professional experience in the field. A Standard Certificate for School Counselor, P-12 is available for candidates who meet one of the state’s two education and experience options.

Option one requires candidates to complete an approved master’s level program in school counseling, as well as an additional three to six credit hours from approved graduate level counseling programs. Applicants also need to have worked full-time as a provisionally certified school counselor in an accredited public or private school for a year. Additionally, a valid Kentucky Professional Teaching Certificate and a minimum of one year of full-time classroom teaching experience are required.

Option two requires the successful completion of an approved master’s level program in school counseling, as well as three to six credit hours from an approved graduate level counseling or school counseling program. Candidates must also have a minimum of two years of successful employment as a Professional Certified School Counselor working full-time.

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Applications for certification can be submitted electronically using the Kentucky Educator Credentialing System (KECS) Web Portal. Simply “Start an Application” on the dashboard and follow the prompts. Candidates must submit all the required documentation, in addition to a $85 certification fee. Notably, official bachelor’s and master’s degree transcripts must be submitted with the application. These documents are only considered official if received directly from institutional third-party transcript providers or in unopened, stamped envelopes on official transcript paper.

It's also important to note that both of the school counselor certifications last five years. Every five years, professionals are required to meet renewal standards. For the Provisional School Counselor Certification, these include completing an online CA-2 application via KECS, submitting an official transcript showing at least nine semester hours of additional graduate credit in relevant areas, and a fee payment. For Standard School Counselor Certificate renewal, applicants must complete the online CA-2 application via KECS, as well as the Effective Instructional Leadership Act (EILA) hours as specified by the Kentucky Department of Education. Documentation of this training must be provided to the district superintendent who recommends renewal.

Potential Careers for School Counseling Graduates

  • College/University Admissions Counselor
    College and university admissions counselors work for higher education institutions. They are primarily responsible for reviewing incoming student applications and verifying application information is correct. This frequently entails checking submitted materials and ensuring that the items received meet minimum admissions requirements. They may also be expected to follow up with students regarding application issues, as well as contacting the references supplied. Other common expectations include creating profiles for applicants, meeting with prospective students, and maintaining recruitment guidelines. According to PayScale, admissions counselors make an average base salary of $41,868 per year.
  • Guidance Counselor
    Guidance counselors work in educational settings helping students identify personal goals, strengths, weaknesses, and interests. They spend a lot of time performing various student assessments, as well as teaching useful skills, providing basic counseling, and collaborating with teachers. They typically have the knowledge and skills necessary to provide 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 are employed by secondary education facilities to provide extra support to students diagnosed with learning, mental, emotional, and/or physical disabilities. They assess the knowledge and skill levels of those they work with to better develop appropriate Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). They also regularly coordinate adaptive lesson plans with other educators to ensure the unique learning needs of students are met. They may also plan appropriate activities, provide mentorship, and deliver 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 Technician
    Mental health technicians are hired by hospitals, private institutions, and/or individual patients. Working alongside clinical mental health counseling professionals and doctors, they provide assistance and support by observing patient behaviors, reporting all relevant updates, ensuring patients remain comfortable between treatments and assisting with bathing, dressing, and meal times. According to PayScale, mental health technicians make an average base salary of $34,643 per year.
  • School Psychologist
    School psychologists work in educational settings alongside counselors, social workers, and other general psychologists. They specialize in helping children diagnosed with learning, emotional, and/or behavioral issues succeed in school and at home and spend time screening students for various conditions. Once a diagnosis is made, they coordinate with teachers and family members to create Independent Education Plans (IEPs) and continuing working with all parties involved to ensure appropriate measures are taken to provide the child with the greatest opportunity for success. In some cases, it may be necessary to refer students to other professionals for assistance. According to PayScale, school psychologists make an average base salary of $66,151 per year.
  • Social Services Manager
    Social work managers are hired to coordinate and oversee public well-being programs and organizations. This generally entails supervising other workers as they provide various services to members of their communities. In most cases, they are expected to manage many administrative aspects as well and are frequently tasked with 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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