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Educational, Vocational, or School Counselor

Job Outlook: 8% (Faster than average)

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What School and Career Counselors and Advisors Do About this section

School and career counselors
Career counselors assist people with the process of making career decisions.

School counselors help students develop academic and social skills and plans for after graduation. Career counselors and advisors help students and other clients develop skills, explore an occupation, or choose an educational program that will lead to a career.

Duties

School counselors typically do the following:

  • Help students understand and overcome social or behavioral challenges
  • Analyze data to identify factors, such as poor attendance, that negatively affect academic performance
  • Advise individuals and small groups based on their needs
  • Work with students to develop skills that support learning, such as effective time management and study habits
  • Evaluate students’ abilities and interests through aptitude assessments and interviews
  • Collaborate with teachers and families to help students plan academic, career, and social goals
  • Teach students and school staff about specific topics such as bullying and drug use
  • Present options to students for educational or vocational plans after graduation
  • Maintain records as required
  • Report cases of possible neglect or abuse and refer students and parents to resources for additional support

The specific duties of school counselors vary with their students' ages.

Elementary school counselors visit classrooms or meet with students individually or in groups to help them develop their social and academic skills. They also meet with parents or guardians to discuss the child’s strengths and weaknesses, challenges, or special needs. School counselors work with teachers and administrators to ensure that the curriculum addresses students’ developmental and academic needs.

Middle school counselors work with school staff and families to help students improve their decision-making, study, and social skills. These counselors support students going through challenges in school or at home and offer one-on-one meetings to discuss these challenges. Middle school counselors also assist students in their transition to high school, preparing them for the next level of academic and social development.

High school counselors advise students in making academic and career plans. Many help students overcome personal issues that interfere with their academic development. They help students choose classes and plan for their lives after graduation. Counselors provide information about choosing and applying for colleges, training programs, financial aid, and internships and apprenticeships. They may present career lessons to help students learn how to search and apply for jobs.

Career counselors and advisors typically do the following:

  • Use aptitude and achievement assessments to help students or clients evaluate their interests, skills, and abilities
  • Evaluate students’ or clients’ background, education, and training, to help them develop realistic goals
  • Guide students in making decisions about careers, such as choosing an occupation and the type of degree to pursue
  • Help students select and apply for educational programs to obtain the necessary degrees, credentials, and skills
  • Teach students or clients job-search skills, such as interviewing and networking
  • Assist clients in locating and applying for jobs, by teaching them strategies that will be helpful in finding openings and writing a résumé

The specific duties of career counselors and advisors vary by student or client.

Career coaches work with people who have already entered the workforce. These counselors develop plans with customized objectives and activities to improve their clients’ careers. They motivate their clients and support them to achieve the goals they set together. Career coaches also provide advice about entering a new occupation or helping to resolve workplace issues.

College advisors help students choose a major or determine the jobs they are qualified for with their degrees. These advisors also help people find and get jobs by teaching them job search, résumé writing, and interviewing techniques. College advisors often specialize in counseling students in one area of the college experience, such as admissions or financial aid.

Some career counselors work in outplacement firms and assist laid-off workers with transitioning into new jobs or careers.

Work Environment About this section

School and career counselors
School counselors work in private and public schools where they have private offices.

School and career counselors and advisors held about 336,000 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of school and career counselors and advisors were as follows:

Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private 45%
Junior colleges, colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 38
Healthcare and social assistance 6
Other educational services; state, local, and private 4
Self-employed workers 2

Work Schedules

Both types of counselors and advisors usually work full time. Most counselors and advisors who work in schools and colleges may not work when school is not in session, such as during the summer.

How to Become a School or Career Counselor or Advisor About this section

School and career counselors
Career counselors who work in private practices may also need a license.

School counselors typically must have a master’s degree in school counseling or a related field and have a state-issued credential. Some states require licensure for career counselors and advisors.

Education

Nearly all states and the District of Columbia require school counselors to have a master's degree, which is typically in a field such as counseling or psychology. Degree programs teach counselors the essential skills of the job, such as how to foster development; conduct group and individual counseling; work with support systems, such as parents, school staff, and community organizations; and use data to develop, implement, and evaluate comprehensive counseling programs. These programs often require counselors to complete an internship.

Some employers prefer that career counselors have a master’s degree in counseling with a focus on career development. Career counseling programs prepare students to assess clients’ skills and interests and to teach career development techniques. For career or academic advisors, employers may prefer candidates who have a bachelor’s degree and work experience.

Master’s degree programs in counseling usually require students to have a period of supervised experience, such as an internship.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Public school counselors must have a state-issued credential to practice. Depending on the state, this credential may be called a certification, a license, or an endorsement. Obtaining this credential typically requires a master’s degree in school counseling, an internship or practicum completed under the supervision of a licensed professional school counselor, and successful completion of a test.

Some employers prefer or require candidates to have classroom teaching experience, or to hold a teaching license, prior to being certified. Most states require a criminal background check as part of the credentialing process. Information about requirements for each state is available from the American School Counselor Association.

Some states require licensure for career counselors; check with your state for more information. Contact information for state regulating boards is available from the National Board for Certified Counselors.

Optional certifications for career and academic advisors are available from some professional associations.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. School and career counselors and advisors interpret student records, schoolwide data, and assessments to match interests and abilities with potential careers. 

Compassion. School and career counselors and advisors often work with people who are dealing with stressful and difficult situations, so they must be able to empathize with their clients and students.

Interpersonal skills. School and career counselors and advisors must be able to work with people of all backgrounds and personalities. They need to form and maintain collaborative relationships with clients, students, or other professionals.

Listening skills. School and career counselors and advisors need to give full attention to students and clients in order to understand their problems.

Speaking skills. School and career counselors and advisors must communicate effectively with clients and students. They should express ideas and information in a way that their clients and students understand.

Pay About this section

School and Career Counselors and Advisors

Median annual wages, May 2021

Educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors

$60,510

Counselors, social workers, and other community and social service specialists

$48,400

Total, all occupations

$45,760

 

The median annual wage for school and career counselors and advisors was $60,510 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $37,550, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $98,190.

In May 2021, the median annual wages for school and career counselors and advisors in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private $63,460
Junior colleges, colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 49,430
Other educational services; state, local, and private 49,340
Healthcare and social assistance 40,010

Both types of counselors and advisors usually work full time. Most counselors and advisors who work in schools and colleges may not work when school is not in session, such as during the summer.

Job Outlook About this section

School and Career Counselors and Advisors

Percent change in employment, projected 2021-31

Counselors, social workers, and other community and social service specialists

12%

Educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors

10%

Total, all occupations

5%

 

Employment of school and career counselors and advisors is projected to grow 10 percent from 2021 to 2031, faster than the average for all occupations.

About 32,000 openings for school and career counselors and advisors are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

Schools are expected to hire more counselors and advisors to respond to the developmental, academic, and career-planning needs of their students. Demand for career counselors is projected to increase as a growing number of colleges and universities open career centers that focus on helping students prepare to enter the workforce.

Career counselors and advisors also will be needed to assist jobseekers, such as those changing careers, laid-off workers looking for jobs, and military veterans transitioning into the civilian labor market.

Employment projections data for school and career counselors and advisors, 2021-31
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2021 Projected Employment, 2031 Change, 2021-31 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors

21-1012 336,000 368,400 10 32,400 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about counseling and information about counseling specialties, visit

American Counseling Association

For more information about school counselors, visit

American School Counselor Association

For more information about career counselors and advisors, visit

National Career Development Association

For more information about state credentialing, visit

National Board for Certified Counselors

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Educational, Vocational, and School Counselors

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Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors and Advisors

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