How to Become a School Counselor

CHOOSE A PROGRAM is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

4 Steps to Becoming Licensed as a School Counselor

Step 1 Earn a bachelor’s degree

The minimum requirement to become a school counselor is to have a bachelor’s degree. Many school counselors have a bachelor’s degree in counseling, psychology or education.

Step 2 Earn a master’s degree in school counseling

While not every state requires counselors to have a master’s degree, the vast majority of school counselors have earned their master’s in school counseling. Students who have not yet earned their bachelor’s degree may want to look for programs designed specifically for future school counselors. Accelerated programs may be offered, saving time and money.

Step 3 Gain experience as a counselor

You’ll likely gain some or all of the experience you need as a school counselor while earning your master’s degree. Because states have different requirements, you may be required to gain additional experience as a counselor. Expect to spend about 300 hours on the clock, or have experience teaching in a professional setting. Check here to learn each state’s specific requirements.

Step 4 Become certified to be a school counselor in your state

To become certified in your state, you’ll have to meet the minimum requirements and pass any required exams. Also, you’ll have to apply for your counselor’s license which is legally required to work as a school counselor. After that, you’re ready to find a position as a school counselor.

FAQ on Earning Your School Counseling Degree

  • While the majority of school counselors work in schools, not all do. Some school counselors are employed by public or private education services, and others are self-employed.

  • Yes, so are other education professionals. There are continuing education options available online, saving you the trouble of having to travel.

  • It depends on the school, county and state you work in. When applying to work in schools, be sure to find out what their expectations are.

  • Yes. Some states even require that school counselors have 1-2 years of professional teaching experience before they can become certified.

  • Yes. School counselors provide short-term assistance with particular issues that may be getting in the way of a child’s education. Therapists treat mental health issues on a regularly scheduled basis. If a child is having problems in school or has questions about their educational path, a school counselor can help. If an issue is more serious or involves mental health, a therapist might be more appropriate.

School Counselor Salary & Job Growth

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median wage for school counselors in 2017 was $55,410. Employment for school counselors is expected to grow faster than most positions. Total enrollment in schools is expected to increase, so the demand for school counselors should increase as well. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that approximately 36,700 more school counselor jobs will be created between 2016 and 2026.

Salaries can increase depending on state and level. For example, elementary and secondary school school counselors made a median salary of $62,990. Also, the more experience you have as a school counselor, the more you can earn each year. School counselors with a lot of experience earned 30% more than new school counselors, according to Payscale.

Alabama Mean wage annual: $52,830
Currently Employed: 3,540
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 10.70%
Alaska Mean wage annual: $69,820
Currently Employed: 640
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 2%
Arizona Mean wage annual: $53,160
Currently Employed: 7,760
Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A
Arkansas Mean wage annual: $53,340
Currently Employed: 2,060
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 13%
California Mean wage annual: $68,000
Currently Employed: 30,050
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 15%
Colorado Mean wage annual: $52,100
Currently Employed: 4,340
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 23%
Connecticut Mean wage annual: $64,910
Currently Employed: 4,780
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 8%
Delaware Mean wage annual: $62,910
Currently Employed: 1,030
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 10%
Florida Mean wage annual: $49,300
Currently Employed: 14,820
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 18%
Georgia Mean wage annual: $55,450
Currently Employed: 10,770
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 19%
view more

Finding a School Counselor Program

There are many things students should consider when looking for a school counselor program. Students should always make sure their program is accredited, as well as consider cost, delivery method, and program length. Also, programs in specific states may offer the prerequisites required to get certified but might not satisfy requirements in another state. Search tools like the one below can help students narrow down their options and find a program that meets their needs.

Professional Counselor Associations & Groups

School and school counselors never stop learning, and they need to continue their education regularly to retain certification. To keep up with any changes in requirements, many school counselors join organizations or groups to network, learn new skills and specialize. Here are some of the top groups for school counselors:

  • American School Counselor Association

    The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) is a network of school counselors at all academic levels. With over 33,000 members, it is an excellent resource to network and connect with other professionals.

  • American Counseling Association

    The world’s largest organization for counselors, the ACA appeals to all counselors, including school counselors.

  • National Education Association

    With over 3 million members, the NEA is by far the largest organization for educators at all levels. This is an excellent organization for networking and meeting other education professionals.

  • Association of Child and Adolescent Counseling

    School counselors who plan on working at the elementary level will be interested in the Association of Child and Adolescent Counseling (ACAC). They provide professional development and education for child counselors.

  • International School Counselor Association

    Any school counselors that are considering an international career will want to look at the ISCA. They provide any resources you would need to begin a career in an international school.

  • National Association for College Admission Counseling

    School counselors at the secondary education level would find the NACAC useful. The NACAC is designed for counselors who help students find the right options for postsecondary education.

Resources for School Counselors

Current and future school counselors have plenty of professional organizations and networks to access. Here are some of the top resources for school counselors:

  • Elementary School Counseling

    Elementary School Counseling is an organization that has a variety of tools for elementary school counselors. This is a great place to find ideas on counseling groups and entire classrooms.

  • Teachers Pay Teachers

    An open marketplace for all educators, Teachers Pay Teachers connects educators across the nation. Tools and resources found here are created by other school counselors, and many of them are free.

  • School Counselor Resources

    Looking for new ways to engage with students? School Counselor Resources has a collection of tools that can help with any situation.


    SCOPE was created to introduce school counselors to new technology. The site is free, and it’s an excellent way to keep up-to-date with tech trends.

  • Stop Bullying

    A government organization dedicated specifically to preventing all forms of bullying, Stop Bullying has resources and training that can help school counselors.

Take the next step towards your future with online learning.

Discover schools with the programs and courses you’re interested in, and start learning today.

Man working at desk