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What is School Counseling?

There are many colleges and universities in Missouri that offer degrees in school counseling and other related subjects. This major is particularly suitable for individuals interested in helping young people achieve success, access, and equality. Additionally, these programs are not only engaging, but can lead to a wide variety of impactful and fulfilling career opportunities in the state. While most graduates strive to become school counselors, the knowledge and skills gained are easily transferrable to other occupations.

School counselors work in academic settings, often providing support and guidance to young people developing academic and social skills. While these professionals can provide services to students of every age, they are most frequently employed by secondary education facilities.

Responsibilities often vary depending on the demographic they work with, as do the services they offer. Elementary students tend to require more help developing personal and academic skills, especially pertaining to feelings and friendships. This often requires more hands-on instruction. Interactions with high school students, on the other hand, are often less direct. Instead, secondary school counselors focus their efforts on being available to help adolescents plan for life after graduation. These may entail recommending possible colleges and universities or providing employment resources. In both cases, these professionals must be available to provide advice and guidance.

Additionally, these professionals spend a lot of time maintaining accurate records. This includes student assessments, incidents, and progress. Thorough documentation is particularly important when it comes to cases of neglect and/or abuse. As school counselors are mandatory reporters, it is vital that they record relevant details correctly.

Analytical, interpersonal, listening, and speaking skills are essential for school counselors. They must also be able to collaborate with other professionals, as it is often necessary to coordinate efforts with educators and student family members.

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Online School Counseling Education in Missouri

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 Missouri. It accounts for $33.3 billion in revenue each year. As of May 2022 the state employed 8,100 educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors with an annual mean wage of $52,590. Notably, this is below the annual mean wage of $54,520 for all occupations in Missouri.

Not all graduates choose to pursue jobs in school counseling, however. Many qualify for and pursue employment in other related community and social service occupations. Opportunities include school social worker, family therapist, and rehabilitation counselor. As of May 2022, Missouri employed 40,750 individuals in these positions. Overall salary potential for these occupations is lower, however, with an annual mean wage of $46,880 reported for these jobs.

Those interested in this field should realize that few undergraduate programs focus exclusively on school counseling. While readily available at the graduate level, undergraduate students usually start by majoring in general counseling or other social science subjects.

Missouri is home to numerous colleges and universities offering relevant degree options that can lead to school counseling positions, as well as other related careers. Distance learning programs also make it possible to enroll with institutions throughout the nation. Notably, however, those who plan to seek employment in Missouri will be served better by schools located in the state. This is particularly true for individuals who expect to apply for school counseling certification. The process is cheaper and more streamlined for in-state graduates. You can earn your degree from one of many options within the state including Southeast Missouri State University, the University of Central Missouri, the University of Missouri, and more.

Many colleges and universities in Missouri offer degrees in school counseling and other related subjects. Prospective students can generally choose from programs available at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. It’s important to realize, however, that only graduates with master’s degrees and above will qualify for the Initial Student Services (ISS) credential through the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). This certificate is necessary to work as a school counselor in the Missouri public school system.

Employment outside of the state’s school system may still be available to graduates with associate and bachelor’s degrees in counseling-related subjects. Counseling, community, and social service opportunities exist at every level. In fact, some positions in this field require as little as a high school diploma or GED.

Online Associate Degree in School Counseling (AS)

Notably, few colleges and universities offer school counseling as a major at the associate level. There are, however, many other related majors available to students who want to pursue this type of degree. Some of the most common alternatives include counseling, education, human services, behavioral science, social science, or psychology. While these will not directly lead to careers as school counselors in Missouri, they can help prepare graduates for further education and/or similar entry-level employment opportunities.

Associate degrees generally consist of 60 credit hours of coursework that take full-time students approximately two years to complete. Most undergraduate programs in these subjects incorporate both general liberal arts and major-specific classes. As a result, students are likely to study many topics in basic communication, mathematics, and science, as well as their major. Ultimately, course curriculums will vary based on the area of study selected.

While insufficient for school counseling licensure in Missouri, associate degrees offer other benefits. They are often a particularly appealing option for prospective students seeking to spend less on their educations. Most of these programs are offered by community colleges, which tend to charge lower tuition and fee rates. Less tuition expense and shorter graduation timeframes can lead to less debt and faster professional employment.

Graduates are likely to qualify for a wide variety of entry-level employment opportunities in the community and social service field. Alternatively, they will also be more prepared to pursue further education. Those who choose to enroll in bachelor’s degree programs will also benefit from having associate degrees, as course credits may be transferred. Most colleges and universities accept up to 60 credit hours, which is roughly half of a four-year degree program.

Online Bachelor’s Degree in School Counseling (BS)

Again, few colleges and universities offer school counseling as a major at the bachelor’s level. There are, however, many other related majors available to students who want to pursue this type of degree. Some of the most common alternatives include counseling, education, human services, behavioral science, social science, or psychology. Graduates will not qualify for school counseling jobs in Missouri, but may be able to pursue similar entry-level employment in various community and social service occupations. They will be well prepared for the further study necessary to become school counselors and they may be able to earn certification to work as substance abuse counselors with a bachelor’s degree.

Bachelor’s degrees generally consist of 120 credit hours of coursework that take full-time students approximately four years to complete. These are undergraduate programs, with a mix of both general liberal arts and major-specific classes. In addition to basic communication, mathematics, and science subjects, students majoring in these subjects often learn about behavioral health and various counseling theories. Curriculums will vary, however, depending on the area of study selected from the list above.

Those planning to become school counselors in Missouri will need to attend graduate school. A master’s degree is the minimum education requirement for certification in the state. Prospective students must be prepared to meet various admittance standards, including 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)

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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. It’s worth noting that some colleges and universities do offer accelerated program. These often compress instruction into shorter, more intensive, periods that can lead to faster graduation times.

Unlike associate and bachelor’s degrees, these programs no longer incorporate general liberal arts classes into the curriculums. In some cases, students may be required to have taken certain undergraduate prerequisite courses prior to enrollment. This is to ensure all students possess the same base-level foundation for further learning.

Curriculums vary, but often incorporate instruction in a variety of school counseling techniques. Topics commonly include multicultural counseling, lifespan development, academic and career counseling, and professional issues and ethics. In addition to coursework, students may be expected to participate in supervised residencies. Similar to internships, these placements provide context for concepts learned in classrooms and help participants gain real-world experience in the field. In most cases, students will need to complete a specific number of clinical hours in school settings prior to graduation.

All school counselors in Missouri must obtain master’s degrees in order to meet the state’s minimum licensure requirements. Not all graduates pursue this occupation, however. Graduates can also qualify for employment as counselors, community service managers, social workers, substance abuse counselors, mental health counselors, and juvenile justice counselors. You can also specialize your learning in clinical mental health counseling, elementary school counseling or secondary school counseling, rehabilitation counseling, family counseling, etc.

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. Students generally study advanced counseling concepts. Opportunities to enroll in specialized classes are also common. These often provide greater insight into grief therapy and/or curriculum coaching.

Academic plans vary, but students typically spend the first few years of enrollment receiving traditional instruction and completing assigned coursework. At some point in the program, however, the focus often shifts more toward independent study, research, and writing. The degree eventually culminates in the presentation of a dissertation before a board of professors prior to graduation.

In most cases, these degrees are best-suited for current professionals who want to further develop their knowledge and skills in the field. They are particularly helpful to individuals interested in expanding their clinical skills. While graduates will exceed the minimum education requirement to become certified school counselors in Missouri, many seek employment in research and higher education instead.

Become a School Counselor in Missouri

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is dedicated to ensuring every school in the state has a fully implemented and comprehensive school counseling program. The goal is for these professionals to be available to support the academic, career, and social/emotional development of all students through the delivery of counseling, individual student planning sessions, and responsive services.

In order to become a school counselor in Missouri, you will need to obtain endorsement via the Initial Students Services (ISS) Certificate. This credential is valid for four years and required for all professionals seeking positions in student services areas such as school counselor, school psychological examiner, and school psychologist.

There are several requirements which must be met before this credential is awarded. First, you will need to earn a master’s degree or higher from an accredited college or university that offers a student services program that has already been approved by the Missouri DESE. You will also need to pre-register online for fingerprinting through the Missouri Automated Criminal History Site (MACHS) in order to initiate the criminal background check process. There is a fee associated with this payable through the online system.

School counselors in Missouri must also meet state examination requirements. To obtain licensure, you must earn a passing score of 220 or higher on the Missouri Content Assessment for School Counselor examination. This is a computer-based test consisting on 100 multiple-choice questions. Examinees receive their unofficial results when taking the test at centers in-person but must wait for the answers to be reviewed by a proctor if taking it online.

Credentialing requirements vary slightly depending on whether the school counseling degree was earned from a Missouri college or university. Application fees are waived for state graduates, while non-Missouri graduate applications are more expensive and slightly more complicated to complete. As a result, the Missouri DESE recommends these individuals obtain licensure from the state in which they graduated first, even if there is no intent to live or work there.

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Missouri graduates, on the other hand, simply need to organize their various application materials. This includes a completed profile and application, which can be found on the Missouri Department of Education website. Additionally, you will need official transcripts sent directly from your college or university, including any transfer credits. Applications are processed in a timely manner, but finalization largely depends on how long it takes to receive background clearance, institution program verification, and receipt of official documentation.

It's important to realize that not all school counseling graduates decide to pursue licensure. There are many related professions available in Missouri that do not necessitate working in the state’s school system. Taking time to consider the various options available may be worthwhile, especially if you prefer a different work setting. If this applies to you, ensure you review occupational standards and expectations carefully.

Potential Careers for School Counseling Graduates

  • Academic Advisor
    Academic advisors work with secondary and post-secondary students. While they offer a wide variety of services, their primary objectives are typically to provide young people with assistance and support. They may help with academic-related issues, such as switching classes or planning for the future, as well as offering guidance when selecting appropriate courses or even assist in the actual registration process itself. In some situations, they may provide educational counseling, assist with departmental transfers, and keep detailed academic records of meetings with students. According to PayScale, academic advisors make an average base salary of $43,976 per year.
  • College/University Admissions Counselor
    College and university admissions counselors work for higher education institutions reviewing incoming student applications. They spend a lot of time verifying that the information submitted by prospective students is correct and checking that all materials meet minimum admission requirements. They may contact listed references and, when issues arise, applicants. Other common duties 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.
  • Employee Assistance Program (EAP) Counselor
    EAP counselors provide support and assistance for employees experiencing issues with personal well-being and/or job-related performance. They perform a variety of duties, but are regularly tasked with providing counseling to workers, performing evaluations, and conducting surveys. In some cases, they may also recommend medications, answer questions regarding program parameters, make referrals to other professionals, and coordinate care details with health insurance providers. According to PayScale, employee assistance program counselors make an average base salary of $60,311 per year.
  • High School Special Education Teacher
    High school special education teachers provide secondary education students diagnosed with learning, mental, emotional, and/or physical disabilities requiring extra attention and support. They often start by performing assessments to determine student knowledge and skill levels. They then develop adaptive lesson plans based on the results in order to ensure any unique learning needs are adequately met. Other duties include providing mentorship and delivering progress reports to parents and other professionals. Additionally, they are commonly actively involved in the process of creating Individualized Education Programs for students. In some cases, it may also be necessary for them to design educationally appropriate activities. According to PayScale, these teachers make an average base salary of $53,463 per year.
  • Mental Health Counselor
    Mental health counselors diagnose and treat various mental health conditions and illnesses using one-on-one and group counseling techniques. While they generally lack the authority to prescribe medications, they are proficient in many curative counseling methods that can be utilized to assist individuals struggling with various psychological difficulties. In most cases, their primary responsibilities are to provide regular support and guidance to their patients while also encouraging new and more productive ways of thinking. According to PayScale, mental health counselors make an average base salary of $45,695 per year.
  • School Psychologist
    School psychologists work in educational facilities and are primarily responsible for helping children diagnosed with learning, emotional, and/or behavioral issues succeed at school and home. They spend a lot of time screening students for various conditions, providing diagnoses, and working with teachers and family members to create Independent Education Plans (IEPs). In order to provide children with the greatest opportunities for success and to ensure all appropriate measures are taken, they often work in conjunction with counselors, social workers, and other general psychologists. In some cases, making referrals to other professionals may be necessary. According to PayScale, school psychologists make an average base salary of $66,151 per year.
  • Social Services Manager
    Social services managers oversee various public well-being programs and organizations meant to provide helpful services to community members. Responsibilities vary, but they are typically expected to manage a number of administrative duties. In addition to supervising other workers in the field, they are often tasked with analyzing data to determine overall program 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.
  • Psychologist

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