School and Career Counseling

Quick Facts: School and Career Counselors
2017 Median Pay $55,410 per year 
$26.64 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Master's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2016 291,700
Job Outlook, 2016-26 13% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 36,700

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School and Career Counseling Career Salary and Education Information

What School and Career Counselors Do

School counselors help students develop the academic and social skills that lead to success in school. Career counselors help people develop skills, explore a career, or choose an educational program that will lead to a career.


school and career counseling

Duties of School and Career Counselors

School counselors typically do the following:

  • Evaluate students’ abilities and interests through aptitude assessments, interviews, and individual planning

  • Identify issues that affect school performance, such as poor classroom attendance rates

  • Help students understand and overcome social or behavioral problems through classroom guidance lessons and counseling

  • Counsel individuals and small groups on the basis of student and school needs

  • Work with students to develop skills, such as organizational and time management abilities and effective study habits

  • Help students create a plan to achieve academic and career goals

  • Collaborate with teachers, administrators, and parents to help students succeed

  • Teach students and school staff about specific topics, such as bullying, drug abuse, and planning for college or careers after graduation

  • Maintain records as required

  • Report possible cases of neglect or abuse and refer students and parents to resources outside the school for additional support

lementary school counselors focus on helping students develop certain skills, such as those used in decisionmaking and studying, that they need in order to be successful in their social and academic lives. School counselors meet with parents or guardians to discuss their child’s strengths and weaknesses, and any special needs and behavioral issues that the child might have. School counselors also work with teachers and administrators to ensure that the curriculum addresses both the developmental and academic needs of students.

Middle school counselors work with school staff, parents, and the community to create a caring, supportive environment for students to achieve academic success. They help the students develop the skills and strategies necessary to succeed academically and socially.

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 workshops to help students search and apply for jobs, write résumés, and improve their interviewing skills.

Career counselors typically do the following:

  • Use aptitude and achievement assessments to help clients evaluate their interests, skills, and abilities

  • Evaluate clients’ background, education, and training, to help them develop realistic goals

  • Guide clients through making decisions about their careers, such as choosing a new profession and the type of degree to pursue

  • Help clients learn job search skills, such as interviewing and networking

Work Environment for School and Career Counselors

School and career counselors held about 291,700 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of school and career counselors were as follows:

Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private: 44%

Junior colleges, colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private: 34%

Healthcare and social assistance: 10%

Other educational services; state, local, and private: 4%

Self-employed workers: 3%

Work Schedules

Most school and career counselors work full time. Some school counselors do not work during the summer when school is not in session.

How to Become a School and Career Counselor

Most school counselors 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.


Nearly all states and the District of Columbia require school counselors to have a master’s degree in school counseling or a related field. Degree programs teach counselors the essential skills of the job, such as how to foster academic development; conduct group and individual counseling; work with parents, school staff, and community organizations; and use data to develop, implement, and evaluate comprehensive school counseling programs for all students. 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.

Many master’s degree programs in counseling 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. This credential can be called a certification, a license, or an endorsement, depending on the state. Licensure or certification 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 states require applicants 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.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Some states require school counselors to have 1 to 2 years of experience as a teacher, or to hold a teaching license, prior to being certified.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. School and career counselors interpret assessments to match interests and abilities with potential careers. 

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

Interpersonal skills. School and career counselors must be able to work with people of all backgrounds and personalities. They spend most of their time working directly with clients, students, or other professionals and need to form and maintain good working relationships with them.

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

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

salaries for School and Career Counselors

The median annual wage for school and career counselors was $55,410 in May 2017. 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 $32,660, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $91,960.


In May 2017, the median annual wages for school and career counselors in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private: $62,990

Other educational services; state, local, and private: $49,570

Junior colleges, colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private: $49,150

Healthcare and social assistance: $37,300

Most school and career counselors work full time. Some school counselors do not work during the summer when school is not in session.

Job Outlook for School and Career Counselors

Rising student enrollments in elementary, middle, and high schools is expected to increase demand for school counselors. As enrollments grow, schools will require more counselors to respond to the developmental and academic needs of their students. Colleges will need to hire additional counselors to meet the demand for career counseling services from their students.

Demand for career counseling is projected to increase in universities as an increasing number of campuses open onsite career centers to help students develop skills and prepare for transition to the workforce.

Job Prospects 

Job prospects are expected to be good for those with counseling degrees, especially in schools and colleges, because of the need to replace the workers who leave the occupation each year.

Employment projections data for School and Career Counselors, 2016-26

Employment, 2016: 291,700

Projected Employment, 2026: 328,400

Change, 2016-2026: +13%, +36,700

Careers Related to School and Career Counselors

High School Teachers

High school teachers help prepare students for life after graduation. They teach academic lessons and various skills that students will need to attend college and to enter the job market.

Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers instruct young students in basic subjects, such as math and reading, in order to prepare them for future schooling.

Marriage and Family Therapists

Marriage and family therapists help people manage and overcome problems with family and other relationships.

Middle School Teachers

Middle school teachers educate students, typically in sixth through eighth grades. They help students build on the fundamentals they learned in elementary school and prepare them for the more difficult curriculum they will face in high school.


Psychologists study cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavior by observing, interpreting, and recording how individuals relate to one another and to their environments. They use their findings to help improve processes and behaviors.

Rehabilitation Counselors

Rehabilitation counselors help people with physical, mental, developmental, or emotional disabilities live independently. They work with clients to overcome or manage the personal, social, or psychological effects of disabilities on employment or independent living.

Social and Community Service Managers

Social and community service managers coordinate and supervise social service programs and community organizations. They manage workers who provide social services to the public.

Social and Human Service Assistants

Social and human service assistants provide client services, including support for families, in a wide variety of fields, such as psychology, rehabilitation, and social work. They assist other workers, such as social workers, and they help clients find benefits or community services.

Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors advise people who suffer from alcoholism, drug addiction, eating disorders, mental health issues, or other mental or behavioral problems. They provide treatment and support to help clients recover from addiction or modify problem behaviors.

Training and Development Specialists

Training and development specialists help plan, conduct, and administer programs that train employees and improve their skills and knowledge.

High School TeachersBachelor's degree$59,170
Kindergarten and Elementary School TeachersBachelor's degree$56,900
Marriage and Family TherapistsMaster's degree$48,790
Middle School TeachersBachelor's degree$57,720
Rehabilitation CounselorsMaster's degree$34,860
Social and Community Service ManagersBachelor's degree$64,100
Social and Human Service AssistantsHigh school diploma or equivalent$33,120
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors$43,300
Training and Development SpecialistsBachelor's degree$60,360


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, School and Career Counselors,
on the Internet at