Historically, the term “guidance counselor" was used to refer to counselors working in schools. The term has evolved to “school counselor” as the scope of duties has changed and advanced. While some schools still use the outdated term “guidance counselor," the American School Counselor Association encourages the use of “school counselor” to more accurately reflect the role.
A school counselor is an education professional who guides students in developing valuable academic and social skills necessary for their success. They can work with many school ages, from kindergarten to high school. Their main responsibility is to identify individual students’ strengths and encourage them to pursue opportunities that challenge and interest them.
Important characteristics to have are great communications skills, empathy, friendliness, an understanding of diversity, and knowing when to act.
School counselors assess students’ skills, interests, and characteristics through personality and aptitude tests. They advise students on personal issues related to their classmates, school experiences, and family life to ensure students are comfortable and focused.
They promote mental and emotional wellness through educational materials, guest speaker events, and other activities on relevant topics like peer pressure, bullying, and maturation. They work alongside teachers, administrative staff, and parents to address behavioral or situational issues to ensure student success. They also help students select coursework and other educational activities that align with their passion and goals.
School counselors pursue bachelor’s degrees in education, psychology, liberal arts, or business before they progress to their master’s. These professionals are required to hold a master’s degree in school counseling or a relevant field, such as psychology or education. Like many other education professionals, school counselors must be licensed by the state in which they work.
Requirements vary from state to state, but all states require school counselors to hold a master’s degree and most require candidates to complete a practicum under the supervision of a licensed school counselor. Some states may require students to pass a state-specific exam besides having classroom experience or a teaching license.