Careers in school counseling are some of the most unique and rewarding in public education. School counselors work with all of the stakeholders in the educational ecosystem to help create a culture of success, safety, and learning for students, their families, and the educational professionals that serve them.
Some of the primary responsibilities of a school counselor include:
providing social/emotional support for students in both individual and group sessions
aiding students with issues related to study skills and time management
encouraging and fostering student strengths (both in and out of the classroom)
collaborating with families and other school faculty to address individual student needs
working as part of a child study team to develop and implement interventions for students with special needs and other at-risk students
coordinating support services between school, home, and/or outside agencies
offering professional input on school and district policies
This wide variety of responsibilities ensures that becoming a school counselor is a career choice with potential to make a positive difference every day.
School Counselor Careers
School counseling is a career that looks differently depending upon the population a counselor serves. Providing support to younger students and their stakeholders is very different from doing so for older, college- and career-bound students.
In some school districts, a counselor may be asked to serve a large span of ages; however, it is more common for counselors to focus on specific age groups.
Elementary School Counselors
Elementary school counselors are responsible for assisting younger students and their families through the beginnings of the educational journey. As such, elementary counselors help to bolster school readiness skills and provide support for the academic, social, and emotional development that will serve as the foundation for a child’s educational career.
Elementary counselors also play an important role in identifying both learning and behavioral issues so that early interventions can be developed and implemented. By working with teachers, students, families, and other relevant stakeholders, elementary counselors can help ensure a student is able to maximize his or her ability to learn and thrive.
Middle School Counselors
Middle school counselors support students through the often-challenging transition from childhood into the teenage years. The social and emotional trials of puberty can be difficult for both students and their families. A counselor can serve as a key ally for navigating the inevitable tensions, questions, pressures, and issues that arise as students mature.
The junior high years are also a significant academic transition. Middle school counselors are called upon by students, parents, and teachers to help foster the time-management and study skills that students will need to be successful in high school and beyond.
Similar to elementary counselors, there is also a need for counselors to weigh in on both the identification of and interventions for academic and behavioral issues so that they can be addressed prior to entering high school.
High School Counselors
High school counselors have their own set of unique responsibilities. In the secondary years, students are preparing for college admissions, careers, and adulthood; counselors help facilitate these transitions by helping with course selection, college and job applications, high-stakes test preparation, and interview skills.
Additionally, high school counselors are more likely than their elementary and middle school counterparts to be called upon to help students and families through serious struggles involving peer pressure, risk behaviors, drugs, alcohol, sex, and self-harm.
How Much do School Counselors Make?
Most public schools include school counselors as part of their certificated faculty contracts. As such, school counselor salaries and tenure eligibility (where applicable) typically follow the same salary guides and policies as teachers and other certificated staff.
One major exception is 12-month counseling positions. It is common practice for schools to retain some or all of their counseling staff through the summer to complete tasks like child study team evaluations, individualized education programs (IEPs), student matriculation, and scheduling. In these cases, counselors are typically compensated at a higher rate than similarly experienced 10-month employees are.