What Does a Career in School Counseling Entail?
School counselor educators are a particular type of professor or adjunct. Ideally, this person has significant experience within a clinical psychology setting working with kids and teens. You should know that if your goal is to become a school counseling educator, there’s not necessarily a specific degree. Instead, we recommend looking into first earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology, social work, or counseling, then going on to earn a master’s degree.
Also, earning a position as a tenured professor is not easy, and there are relatively few psychology and counseling positions available. As such, you may want to consider working as a school counselor or as an independent therapist as you look for work within an academic setting.Read More
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of counselors in an educational setting is expected to rise by 8% between 2014 and 2024. However, it may be hard to secure a job in a public-school system, as budget cuts have also continued to rise. Still, if you have a background in educational psychology, you have a versatile education that can be applied to other opportunities; think therapist, counselor, professor, and more.
Education Degrees & Career Paths
Components of a Successful Career as a School Counselor Instructor
In this role, you’re in an unusual position, as you’ll need to have a firm grasp on both student affairs and the educational environment, as well as significant knowledge of the counseling profession. School counselors are considered part of both the education system staff and the psychology department. However, counseling professors typically have a background in social work, marriage and family therapy, or child psychology.
How to Become a School Counselor
If you’re interested in pursuing this path, be aware that it’s a long journey from this point to working in a university setting. Ideally, you’ll earn a degree in psychology or a similar field. From there, you’ll want to attend graduate school. To become a professor, you’ll need to have a master’s degree minimum. However, many institutions prefer that their faculty have PhDs. The latter is a greater competitive advantage and might be worth going that route rather than the master’s program.
You should understand that without a master’s degree your options are much more limited. For one, teaching any form of counseling at the college level requires a master’s degree at a minimum to qualify. Second, becoming a counselor in any capacity also requires a master’s degree. Therefore, it might be a good idea to start in the Psychology arena and progress towards teaching after you’ve gained your master’s degree and gotten several years of experience under your belt.
Eventually, you’ll be teaching at the post-secondary level in either a two-year junior college or at a four-year college or university. Ideally, after attaining your degree(s), you’ll build up some experience working as a counselor. You might gain experience as an early childhood counselor or working with teens as a high school guidance counselor. Then you can earn a teaching certificate and start searching for a position with a college.
Typical School Counselor Education Courses Needed
There are very few bachelor’s degree programs that specifically focus on school counseling. Instead, your undergraduate years should be spent focusing on counseling, psychology, and sociology. There are a few different pathways you might consider to get you where you need to go; some students choose to pursue education, others social work, and others, still, psychology.
Academic Standards for a Counseling Degree
To gain admission to a bachelor’s program, you’ll need to provide transcripts, test scores (ACT/SAT), and possibly even an application essay and a couple letters of recommendation. More competitive schools may require a certain GPA to gain admission.
As you pursue your studies, keep in mind that you’ll need to apply for graduate school after earning your bachelor’s degree. As such, you will need to maintain around a 3.0 GPA, sit for the GRE, and you may need to present a paper or research project to gain admission into a reputable program.
If you plan to gain experience by working as a counselor, you’ll need to earn your counseling certification to begin practicing. Requirements vary by state, though in most cases, you’ll work as an intern, counseling under supervision for a set number of hours. From there, you’ll sit for your licensing exam and can practice on your own. If you plan on working in the school system, you may also need to have a teaching credential—through again, this varies by state and school system.
After completing graduate school and gaining some experience, you can start working as a college professor. To become a tenured teacher, you will need to work as an associate professor for a few years. You’ll need to demonstrate that you’re a competent instructor skilled in developing curriculum, publishing in scholarly journals, and teaching advanced courses.
After several years, you may be eligible for employment as a tenured professor, though slots are limited, and this is a competitive space.
Important Questions to Ask
How long does it take to earn a School Counseling Education bachelor's degree online?
An online bachelor’s degree should take roughly four years to complete, just like your average on-campus education. Whether you choose to major in education, psychology, or a related field, a bachelor’s degree is roughly 125-135 credit hours. Some online programs offer an accelerated degree, but these can prove very difficult to complete with the necessary GPA to allow you entry to the best graduate programs.
How much does a School Counseling Education bachelor’s degree cost?
A school counseling bachelor’s degree ranges from $30,000 to $79,000, for all four years. You’ll likely earn your degree in either education or psychology, though costs vary more by the school than they do by area of study. If you pursue education and decide to earn a teaching credential, you’ll be paying for an additional year of school and you’ll need to complete an internship.
Does the school have the major(s) you’re considering?
When selecting a school, whether or not they have the major you’re looking for is a big deal. Most schools will have bachelor’s degree programs in psychology or education, both of which are an ideal starting point for students who want to become educational counseling professors. If there’s an area of specialty you’re considering, you may want to spend some extra time researching your options.
How many students graduate “on time,” in four years?
Good graduation rates are sometimes of an indication that a program is high-quality. A school that is invested in student success will work to ensure students have access to campus resources and mentorship opportunities. Low graduation rates, by contrast, suggest that the school is falling short of expectations.
It’s important to remember that students drop out of school for a variety of reasons, so whether most graduate within four years isn’t the only measure of quality.
What kind of accreditation does the program hold? How is it regarded in the field?
Students should seek out a college or university with regional accreditation. This designation means that a program fulfills an agreed upon set of academic standards. Because this career path ideally ends in academia, a school’s reputation may come into play more than you might think. Also, if you attend a school without accreditation, you may not be able to gain admission to a graduate program and you won’t be able to use any federal student aid to help pay for your degrees.
Software, Technology & Skills Needed
Good communication skills
If you’re looking into a career as a counselor, you need to be a good communicator. In this role, you’ll do well if you can effectively persuade, negotiate, and solve problems—and of course, actively listen and engage students and patients alike.
Able to Switch Between Working with Kids and Teaching Adults
As a school counselor, you’ll need to work with kids and teens—helping them navigate the mental, behavioral, and emotional problems that may arise as they work through the school year. As an instructor, you’ll also need to communicate with adults—relaying the key concepts that a school counselor needs to understand to effectively help students succeed.
Strong Grasp on Counseling
The goal of a school counselor is to help students cope with the challenges and stresses of daily life, so they can go on to become productive members of society as adults. A school counselor needs to be able to function as both a traditional counselor (helping students deal with issues like bullying or problems at home or in the classroom) and as a career counselor, particularly in a high school setting. School counselors must be able to evaluate student needs, skills, strengths, goals, and interests in order to help them select classes and activities that will prepare them for graduation and beyond.
In a college setting, you may focus on psychology and education, early childhood psychology, or something similar. Your goal will be to prepare future counselors with the tools needed to help students at all levels and, as such, you should have experience with a wide range of methods aimed at helping different types of students with their own unique challenges.
- Technology Skills Needed
In most cases, a school counselor educator doesn’t need to be the most tech-savvy person in the room. However, you will be expected to have a firm grasp on digital testing methods, spreadsheets, and database software; basic office tools that allow you to track students’ grades and understand how to interpret test results.
Counseling Associate’s Degree
You won’t be able to work as a counselor or a teacher with an associate’s degree. However, if you are looking to start gaining experience and a job to help you pay for your future education, then you can start working as a teacher’s assistant with an associate degree in teaching.
- Lesson Planning
- Social Psychology
- Technology for Teachers
Counseling Bachelor’s Degree
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to work as a counselor or a college instructor with only a bachelor’s degree. However, with the correct degree, you will be able to work in a school setting. You can double-major in psychology and education, or major in education and take enough courses to earn a minor in psychology with a focus on counseling. You’ll need to gain teacher certification after graduating. A good idea might be to find a degree specifically meant to teach you how to be a school counselor. That way, you know you have all your bases covered.
- Diversity (K-12 inclusion)
- Instructional Approaches in the Classroom
- Abnormal Psychology
- Theories of Learning
- Childhood Development
Counseling Master’s Degree
You’ll need to earn at least a master’s degree to become both a counselor and a college professor. If your focus falls more into the academic realm, you might want to pursue instead a doctoral program, which will focus more on research and prepare you to become a licensed counselor and a tenure-track professor. Still, you may be qualified to teach as an assistant professor with the master’s degree or in an undergraduate program.
One key consideration here is, you’ll want to find a program that prepares you to meet your state’s licensing requirements. Check out faculty credentials, along with the program’s curriculum to make sure that this is the case.
- Curriculum Design & Development
- Classroom Assessment
- Education Across Cultures
- Analysis of Teaching Behavior
- eLearning Design
- Introduction to Counseling
- Lifespan Development
- Crisis, Trauma, and Disaster Response
- Ethics and Legal Issues in Counseling
There are many concentrations you can pursue with a master’s degree, but the one you should be looking for is the School Counseling concentration, which, though not particularly common, does exist.
While a master’s degree may be the minimum requirement to enter the field, a doctoral degree may well be a better bet. There are a few options, and you’ll want to consider them carefully, as each of these choices will apply to a specific career. That said, if you plan on teaching at the college level, any doctoral degree will make that position more attainable.
Counseling Career and Counselor Salary Info
Within the realm of becoming a certified counselor and a counseling professor, there’s not much you can do without an advanced degree. Students with an associate degree won’t be able to work in the field, outside of support positions. Bachelor’s degree holders may become a teacher if they earn their credential after graduation or they can work toward becoming a school guidance counselor.
Those who wish to work in higher education will need to have a master’s degree, at minimum, though those pursuing the tenure track should earn a doctoral degree to boost their chances of landing a job.
School counseling educators may choose to earn a doctorate or master’s and work in a school setting before breaking into higher education, while others may opt to work as an associate professor and researcher full-time. In any case, this area requires a significant time commitment; four years for a bachelor’s degree and an additional 2-7 years of advanced coursework for a master’s or doctorate.
Earning potential varies considerably based on where you choose to work. Tenured professors earn a median salary of $77k per year. But a child psychologist can make more if they open a private practice. Ultimately, earning potential has a lot to do with where you end up working; public school systems likely have smaller budgets and universities don’t always offer the most impressive salaries either.
School Counseling Education Fields of Study Median Salaries
A bachelor’s degree in education is also a great place to start. While counseling will be the more significant focus long term, school counselors must have a firm grasp on the educational system as a whole.
A master’s degree in social work is an excellent choice for those who wish to work with at-risk youth. However, if you’d like to work specifically as a school counselor or as an educator, it’s not the most straightforward path. School counselors often have experience both as a counselor and knowledge of what it means to be part of an education team.
As such, you may need to get teacher training and certification to work as a school counselor.
A bachelor’s in psychology takes you through a program that looks at psychological theories and methods. This program is more focused on providing students with the fundamental knowledge of the space and involves a lot of research and writing. Students may choose to minor in counseling or education as a way to get a more well-rounded education.
If you choose to obtain a master’s in psychology, you may have the option to specialize in a particular area. Child psychology or marriage and family therapy might be good choices. A master’s degree program is your best bet if you want to find employment in the field of psychology; many professional psychology jobs tend to go to those with a doctoral degree.
Counseling isn’t an undergraduate major at every school, but many schools do offer this option, often with an emphasis in areas like addiction counseling or education.
A master’s degree in counseling psychology allows students to obtain a limited license, which will enable them to practice psychology. This degree enables you to become a substance abuse counselor, a school or academic counselor, or a marriage and family counselor. Within this degree program, you can specialize in education or school counseling, which can help you find work within a school setting. If you wish to teach college-level coursework, you may need to consider furthering your education by enrolling in a Ph.D. program.
PsyD in Counseling Psychology
This degree takes roughly four to five years to complete and typically has an internship requirement. Earning a PsyD in counseling will prepare you to become a counselor through hands-on training via supervised clinical settings.
Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology
The Ph.D. route is similar to the PsyD. Both take about 4-5 years to complete and have a 2000-hour internship requirement. The main difference is, the Ph.D. focuses more on research and teaching, making this likely the most attractive option for the aspiring school counselor educator. This program will prepare students to work with the community and help them gain an understanding of career development, counseling, and the psychology of social identities.
EdD in Counseling Psychology
This option looks closely at the research side of the field, while also preparing students to work in an educational setting with kids or teens. Students must complete an internship and will study research methods and proposal writing, cultural and racial factors in counseling, classroom behavior management, and various counseling and psychology theories and practices.
Field of Study Average Salary by Degree Level
|Field of Study||Bachelor’s Salary||Masters Salary||Doctorate Salary|
School Counseling Education Salaries by Occupation
School counseling education is a very specific field but gaining the education and the job experience required to work as an educator will prepare you for a number of occupations within this intersection of psychology and education. Here are a few options:
A doctorate in educational psychology will allow you to practice in this area. Educational consultants/psychologists primarily work with families, kids, and groups—independently or as part of an organization. This role differs from a traditional school psychologist, as your primary role is in developing and implementing classroom curriculum that helps students learn more easily.
You might also work to train teachers and students to learn different teaching styles that can work with a range of learning styles and abilities. Within the classroom, you might work to make things easier for students with learning disabilities, special needs, or behavioral issues.
Because this role requires a doctoral degree, you will also be able to teach at the college level—and may split your time between working in a school setting and teaching, or you can teach full-time.
If you earn a doctoral degree, you can teach college courses. Ideally, you’ll have a doctorate in educational psychology—as this will be most relevant if you plan on teaching future school counselors. In most cases, you’ll teach psychology courses to undergraduate and graduate students, as well as conducting research. Some professors work in the university system full-time, while others teach classes here and there while also working as a practicing counselor. It’s worth pointing out that early in your career, it may be difficult to earn a full-time living as an assistant professor—and earning tenure is a long, competitive road.
Guidance counselors typically work in a high school setting helping students make choices about college, career paths, or coursework for the coming academic year. This role requires keeping up to date on the latest workforce trends and education requirements, so you can provide informed advice to students. Guidance counselors focus more on career and academic advising rather than emotional health and well-being, so it may be worth focusing more on getting a degree in education or administration rather than psychology.
High School Teacher
Teachers with a background in psychology may be able to work as a psychology teacher in a high school setting. While this role isn’t exactly preparing a group of future guidance counselors to embark on their career path, your background in psychology and education may serve you well as a school teacher.
Child psychologists work directly with children, either in a school setting or in an independent practice or healthcare facility. This role requires the ability to communicate well with young children and be able to convey empathy with their young patients.
School psychologists work with students to help them overcome learning challenges, bullying, drug abuse, or deal with challenges as a special needs or disabled student. You might work in a public or private school, as well as facilities like treatment centers or juvenile detention facilities.
Annual Salary by Occupation (Range)
|Occupations||Entry Level Salary Range||Mid-Career Salary Range/Average||Late Career Salary Range|
|High School Teacher||$41,600||$47,700||$60,600|
School Counseling Education Scholarships
Division 53 Student Achievement Award
Deadline: May 30
Division 53 is the clinical child and adolescent psychology classification of the APA. Each year, the student achievement award is given to one undergraduate student and two graduate students. The association looks for students who have made a contribution to the field in the form of teaching, mentoring, community engagement, or research. Each student must be a member of Div.53
AP-LS Award for Best Undergraduate Paper
Applicants must submit a research paper written on any subject in psychology and law, along with a recommendation from a faculty supervisor. Recipients are invited to present their paper at the annual AP-LS conference.
Franklin D. Boyce Scholarship
Deadline: June 30
This scholarship is offered to students pursuing professional health occupations, which includes psychology and related fields. Students must have a minimum 3.0 GPA and demonstrate financial need. Previous recipients are eligible to reapply, as the scholarship is renewable for up to three consecutive years.
Routh Research and Dissertation Grant
Deadline: December 1, April 1
This grant serves to promote innovative research in Division 53 of the APA. Up to four students are eligible to receive this award on an annual basis, and candidates are selected based on the quality of their research in the child and adolescent psychology field.
Ford Foundation Predoctoral Diversity Scholarship
The Ford Foundation offers a scholarship to minority students pursuing a career in teaching and research at the university level. The three-year award is worth $24,000, and students from a range of disciplines are eligible to apply—including those pursuing psychology degrees. You must submit transcripts along with GRE scores to complete the application.
Professional School Counseling Education Organizations
Association of Child and Adolescent Counseling
The ACAC is an organization specifically for counseling professionals that work with kids and teens in any setting, 0from schools to private practice. Members must also be members of the ACAC. Membership will give you access to professional development activities and serves as a place to discuss new ideas with peers.
American School Counselor Association
The American School Counselor Association or ASCA is an organization for school counselors, program directors, and supervisors. ASCA provides resources to over 30,000 professionals across the globe, such as networking, professional development and access to events and publications.
American Counseling Association
The American Counseling Association, or ACA, is a non-profit organization that represents a wide range of counseling professionals across various specialties. Members will have access to resources like webinars, publications, networking opportunities, and more.
National Education Association
The NEA dates back to 1857 and is the largest professional organization in the US. Members span all manner of educational professions and have access to online literature, professional development, and networking opportunities.
Choosing an Accredited College
Selecting an accredited college is essential for any area of study requiring a bachelor’s degree and potentially additional education. However, if you’re considering any career path that involves working in an academic setting, this matters more than ever. Becoming a school counseling educator means you must complete a master’s degree to teach at the college level. Most institutions give tenure to those with a doctoral degree, and it should go without saying, credentials are a big deal in this competitive space.
As such, you’ll want to kick off your educational career by enrolling in an accredited psychology program at a four-year school. Look for programs that have regional accreditation. This means that the school meets specific criteria set forth by the US Department of Education. Most schools—from the Ivy League to state colleges and universities have this designation. In contrast, for-profit schools or faith-based schools might not have this accreditation, as they tend to create their curriculum internally.
Online vs. On-Campus vs. Hybrid
Online courses can help you earn a degree while you work or tend to other responsibilities. However, you may want to consider taking at least some sessions in-person, so you can get to know your faculty and take advantage of opportunities like working in a research setting or taking on an internship. Part of this career path is obtaining a counseling license, too, so there will be a heavy in-person component to earning your bachelor’s degree, more so when you get into an advanced degree program.
Does the College Have Post-Graduate Job Placement Help & Assistance?
As you look at colleges, it’s smart to spend some time researching factors like student outcomes; where are graduates working now? Have they gained entrance into elite programs? Are they working in the field?
Additionally, find out if there are networking opportunities or internships available, as well as help with grad school applications and a mentorship culture. Whether you choose to pursue an online program or an on-campus education, these resources make a difference in your job prospects, and your ability to secure a spot in a competitive grad program. It’s also worth pointing out that if you plan on pursuing a career in academia, the connections you make in your undergraduate and beyond may help you down the road.
Why You Need to Consider the Overall National Rankings of the College and The Effects on Your Career or Salary
Elite colleges can help you get a leg up, to be sure, but the most critical factor in a program is whether a regional organization accredits it or not. A quality program may better prepare you for the academic rigors ahead and may help you land a spot in a doctoral program. More important than the college itself is the program; is it known for providing top-tier education for educators, psychology and counseling majors? Or, is the school best known for an unrelated field? Top programs may open up more opportunities to work with accomplished faculty members and will offer access to better resources like research labs and partnerships with renowned organizations.