School Counselor Salary and Career Outlook

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 and emotional support for students in 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.
  • Helping students and families respond to crises.
  • Identifying students’ social, behavioral or learning issues.
  • 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 outside agencies.
  • Offering professional input on school and district policies.

This wide variety of responsibilities shows that becoming a school counselor is a career choice with the potential to make a positive difference every day.

What Can You Do With a School Counselor Degree?

Becoming a school counselor requires earning a master’s degree in school counseling. School counseling is a career that varies 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 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 their ability to learn and thrive.

National Mean Salary for Elementary School Counselors, 2019: $67,6701

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 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 the identification of and interventions for academic and behavioral issues so they can be addressed prior to entering high school.

National Mean Salary for Middle School Counselors, 2019: $67,6701

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.

National Mean Salary for High School Counselors, 2019: $67,6701

College Admissions Counselors

College admission counselors help incoming students transition and adjust to their new settings. Their role involves recruiting prospective students, helping students with admission and enrollment, facilitating the selection of courses, guiding students in discerning career paths, and helping students transition to the workforce.

Many colleges and universities also provide counseling and psychological services to support students with their emotional and mental health.

National Mean Salary for College Counselors, 2019: $54,0301

Other Guidance Counselors

Career and vocational counselors or career coaches can help you explore career options at any point in your life, whether you are starting or changing your career. Career counselors can advise you in assessing your skills, interests and values to help you seek a career that fits your life. They can also help you with the job search, which could include crafting your resume and sharpening your interview skills.

National Mean Salary for Career and Vocational Counselors, 2019: $44,9601

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.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual school counselor salary in May 2019 was $64,060. It should be noted that this figure is a combination of both 10- and 12-month school counselor salaries.

Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors and Advisors, by IndustryMean Annual Salary1
Elementary and Secondary Schools
Colleges, Universities and Professional Schools
Junior Colleges
Vocational Rehabilitation Services
Educational Support Services

School Counselor Career Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job outlook for school counselors includes an expected 8% growth in the employment of counselors over the 10-year span from 2018–2028. This is 3% higher than the projected growth rate of all U.S. careers. As the number of student enrollment continues to rise, the demand for school counselors will continue to increase.

10 Top-Paying Cities for School Counselors

Keeping in mind the economy, cost of living, and lifestyle of different cities the following are the top-paying metro areas for careers in school counseling according to the BLS:

Metropolitan AreaMean Annual Salary
El Centro, Calif.
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif.
Fresno, Calif.
Salinas, Calif.
Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, Calif.
East Stroudsburg, Pa.
Bakersfield, Calif.
Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, Calif.
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, Calif.
Ocean City, N.J.

5 Highest-Paying States for School Counseling Careers

Depending on various factors such as population and economy, some states have a higher demand for school counselors than others. In regards to salary, the following states are the top paying states for school counseling careers according to BLS:

StateMean Annual Salary
New Jersey
New York
District of Columbia

State Median Salary Data for School and Career Counselors

StateMedian Annual Salary
District of Columbia
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Puerto Rico
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Virgin Islands
West Virginia

1 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2019). Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019: 21-1012 Educational, Guidance, and Career Counselors and Advisors. Washington, DC: Author.

Last Updated June 2020