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A school counselor is a counselor and educator who works in schools, and have historically been referred to as "guidance counselors" or "educational counselors", although "Professional School Counselor" is now the preferred term.[1]

Most school counselor occupations or equivalent occupations (e.g. career counselor) are comparable to the U.S. high school counselor in terms of duties and services. Historically, the need for high school counselors has been emphasized more so than school counselors in lower grades(Schmidt[2], 2003). Many countries vary as to whether school counseling services are provided.


United States[]

Some elementary school counselors use books and other media to facilitate the counseling process.

In the United States, the school counseling profession began as a vocational guidance movement at the beginning of the 20th century. Jesse B. Davis is considered the first to provide a systematic school guidance program. In 1907, he became the principal of a high school and encouraged the school English teachers to use compositions and lessons to relate career interests, develop character, and avoid behavioral problems. Many others during this time did the same. For example, in 1908, Frank Parsons, "Father of Vocational Guidance" established the Bureau of Vocational Guidance to assist young people in making the transition from school to work.

From the 1920s to the 1930s, school counseling and guidance grew because of the rise of progressive education in schools. This movement emphasized personal, social, moral development. Many schools reacted to this movement as anti-educational, saying that schools should teach only the fundamentals of education. This, combined with the economic hardship of the Great Depression, led to a decline in school counseling and guidance. In the 1940s, the U.S. used psychologists and counselors to select, recruit, and train military personnel. This propelled the counseling movement in schools by providing ways to test students and meet their needs. Schools accepted these military tests openly. Also, Carl Rogers' emphasis on helping relationships during this time influenced the profession of school counseling. In the 1950s the government established the Guidance and Personnel Services Section in the Division of State and Local School Systems. In 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik I. Out of concern that the Russians were beating the U.S. in the space race, which had military implications, and that there were not enough scientists and mathematicians, the American government passed the National Defense Education Act, which spurred a huge growth in vocational guidance through large amounts of funding. Since the 1960s, the profession of school counseling has continued to grow as new legislation and new professional developments were established to refine and further the profession and improve education (Schmidt[2], 2003). On January 1, 2006, Congress officially declared February 6-10 as National School Counseling Week.

Theoretical framework and services[]

Professional School Counselors implement a comprehensive school counseling program that promotes and enhances student achievement through a guidance curriculum, individual planning strategies, responsive services and comprehensive school counseling program support/advocacy. A fully-implemented district-wide comprehensive school counseling program meets the needs of 100% of the students—just as the district's mathematics program is for 100% of the students. Professional School Counselors, in most states, have earned a Master's degree in guidance and counseling with an emphasis in school counseling. They are employed in elementary, middle/junior high and high schools and in district supervisory, counselor education and post-secondary settings. Their work is varied, with attention focused on developmental stages of student growth, including the needs, tasks, and student interests related to those stages(Schmidt[2], 2003).

Professional School Counselors meet the needs of student in three basic domains: academic development, career development, and personal/social development. Knowledge, understanding and skill in these domains are developed through classroom instruction, appraisal, consultation, counseling, coordination, and collaboration. For example, in appraisal, school counselors may use a variety of personality and vocational assessment methods to help students explore vocation needs and interests. Classroom guidance lessons are designed to be preventive in nature and include self-management and self-monitoring skills. The Responsive Services component of the Professional School Counselor's role provides individual and/or small group counseling for students. For example, if a student's behavior is interfering with his or her achievement, the Professional school counselor will observe that student in a class, provide consultation to teachers and other personnel to develop (with the student) a plan to address the behavioral issue(s), and then work together (collaboration) to implement the plan. They also help by providing consultation services to family members.

Additionally, professional school counselors may lead classroom guidance on a variety of topics within the three domains such as personal/social issues relative to student needs, or establish groups to address common issues among students, such as divorce or death. The topics of character education and diversity are usually infused into the guidance curricula. Often counselors will coordinate outside groups that wish to help with student needs such as academics, or coordinate a state program that teaches about child abuse or drugs, through on-stage drama (Schmidt[2], 2003)

Elementary/Primary school counseling[]

Elementary professional school counselors adapt counseling to meet the developmental needs of young children. To facilitate the counseling process, they use a variety of media such as crayons, paint, puppets, clay, children's books, and toys. The elementary school counseling career is an opportunity for Americans and Canadians who are interested in the field of play therapy versus community and private agencies. Elementary professional school counselors also spend 25-35% of their time in classroom guidance.[How to reference and link to summary or text] Though not ideal, they are sometimes on a rotating schedule with "special area" teachers such as music education teachers, art education teachers, or physical education teachers[How to reference and link to summary or text].

Middle school counseling[]

In middle school counseling, the professional school counselor typically is less engaged in classroom instruction than in Individual Planning (for high school and beyond). Individual and small group responsive services (e.g. counseling) continue. Middle School counselors must address the social/emotional issues that arise among this age group, especially peer pressure, bullying, depression and academic challenges. Also, the counselor usually spends time on vocational exploration and assessment with seventh and eighth grade students as they prepare for high school. [How to reference and link to summary or text]

High school/Secondary school counseling[]

In high school, the American professional school counselor continues to provide Responsive Services and provides fewer classroom guidance strategies. The high school counselor provides large group guidance units and lessons on post-secondary options. For example, the high school counselor helps students prepare for post-secondary education and/or training options (e.g. college, trade school) by engaging students in finding accurate and meaningful information on entrance requirements, financial aid, recommendation letters, test-preparation and so forth. Professional School Counselors at the high school level spend much of their time helping students monitor their progress toward graduation and being adequately prepared for post-secondary options. [How to reference and link to summary or text] While some high school counselors spend time developing the school's class schedule, this is considered a non-guidance task and takes valuable time away from direct work with students. Some students now turn to private guidance counselors specialized in college admissions. The fees for these guidance counselors can be as high as $30,000. [3]

The framework for Professional School Counselor responsibilities and roles is outlined in the ASCA (American School Counselor Association) National Model (2005). ASCA is the national organization for Professional School Counselors.

Education and training[]

The Professional School Counselor is a certified/licensed educator trained in school counseling with unique qualifications and skills to address all students’ academic, personal/social and career development needs.

According to the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), a school counseling program should meet several standards such as the professional identity of school counseling (history, organizations, so on), cultural diversity courses, human development and growth, and career development. Additionally, it has to have core components for helping relationships (consultation, counseling, so on), group work, assessment, research and program evaluation, knowledge and requirements for school counselors, contextual dimensions of school counseling, and foundations of school counseling. In programs that are CACREP accredited, a school counseling student must have 600 hours of internship under a highly qualified school counselor (master's degree or higher, and appropriate licenses and certifications) (CACREP[4], 2001).

Lastly, according to CACREP, a school counseling program must be a master level (or higher) graduate program. Each state has its own certification or licensure requirements, and at least one state, California, merely requires a bachelor's degree, causing concern about competence of school counselors in that state (National Clearinghouse[5]. However, California does have a Pupil Personnel Services credential (PPS) that requires completion of 48 semester hours in a Commission approved program specializing in school counseling (California Commission on Teacher Credentialing [6] , 2004).

School Counselors may opt for national (American) certification through two different boards. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) requires a two-to-three year process of performance based assessment, and demonstrate (in writing) content knowledge in human growth/development, diverse populations, school counseling programs, theories, data, and change and collaboration. As of February, 2005, 30 states offer financial incentives for this certification.

The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) requires passing the National Certified School Counselor Examination (NCSC), which includes 40 multiple choice questions and seven simulated cases which assess school counselors abilities to make critical decisions on the spot. Additionally, a master's degree and three years of supervised experience are required. NBPTS also requires three years of experience, however a master's degree is not required, but only state certification (41 of 50 require a master's degree). At least four states offer financial incentives for the NCSC certification (McLeod[7], 2005). Both certifications have benefits and costs that a school counselor would want to consider for national certification. For more information, see external links.

Job growth and earnings[]

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook[8] (OOH) the median salary for school counselors in the United States in May 2004 was $45,570. The middle 50 percent earned between $34,530 and $58,400. Also, school counselors could earn additional money working summer jobs as counselors for schools or community agencies, and among all counseling fields, are currently (2004) paid the highest salary. Overall employment for counselors is faster than average, and school counselors should find a favorable job market because demand is higher than the graduation rates of school counseling programs.

School counseling in other countries[]

The degree to which school counseling services are included in the range of services provided as a part of educational services varies internationally. In some countries, counseling, or more frequently career guidance, is provided by specialists (for example- Botswana, Finland, Israel, Malta, Romania, Turkey, United States). In other cases, school counseling is provided by classroom teachers who either have such duties added to their typical teaching load or teach only a limited load to allow for counseling activities (for example- Japan, Mexico, South Korea, Zambia).

Types of problems addressed[]

School counsellors address these specific issues amongst others:

See also[]


  1. American School Counselor Association. (2005). The ASCA national model: A framework for school counseling programs. Alexandria, VA: Author.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Schmidt, J.J. (2003) Counseling in schools: Essential services and comprehensive programs. 4th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
  3. Jeffrey Gangemi,J. (October 3, 2006). "How to buy your way into college".Business Week.'s+top+stories
  4. Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). (2001) The 2001 Standards. Retrieved on November 25, 2003, from cacrep/2001standards700.htm
  5. National Clearinghouse, [school counselor] n.d. National Clearinghouse for professions in Special Education. (n.d.) School counselor. Retrieved on February 26, 2005 from
  6. California Commission on Teacher Credentials. (August 2004). Pupil Personal Services Credential. California Leaflet 606. retrieved on June 27, 2006 from
  7. Mcleod, K. (March/April 2005). Certification by the books. ASCA School Counselor. Alexandria, VA: American School Counseling Association
  8. United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook

Further reading[]

  • Studer, J.R. (2005) The Professional School Counselor: An Advocate for Students. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth
  • American School Counselor Association (2005). The ASCA National Model: A framework for school counseling programs. Alexandria, VA: Author.
  • Winslade, J.M. & Monk G.D. (2007). Narrative counseling in schools: Powerful and brief (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

External links[]

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