How to Become a

School Guidance Counselor

The complete career guide to be a School Guidance Counselor: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $56,490
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • 8.2%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook
  • Dependable Daily Workload
    Career Attribute

School guidance counselors work with parents and students at public and private elementary, middle, and high schools. They meet individually with parents and students to assist students with developing necessary academic and life skills and overcoming hurdles that impact learning.

Recommended Schools

What is a School Guidance Counselor?

The following job responsibilities are common for individuals in school guidance counselor roles:

  • Work with parents, students, and teachers to identify students that are struggling to meet academic standards or having behavioral or attendance issues
  • Counsel students individually to determine the cause of issues and to work towards solutions
  • Conduct seminars and group sessions to educate students on common issues that impact their age group, such as bullying, drug use, and sex education
  • Identify and report suspected abuse or neglect to outside authorities
  • Counsel students on class choices, career options, and post-secondary education opportunities

A Day in the Life

Working as a school guidance counselor is a rewarding position that allows individuals to work with children, adolescents, and teenagers at a time in their lives when they’re not prepared to cope with their own issues and find solutions. School guidance counselors work in elementary, middle, and high schools, and meet individually with students, parents, and teachers to help identify and resolve issues that impact learning, attendance, social interactions, and behaviors.

In some cases, school guidance counselors are the first line of response in cases of student neglect and abuse. In these situations, counselors are accountable for reporting their suspicions or knowledge to authorities like Child Protective Services that can investigate these suspicions further. Additionally, school guidance counselors work with parents of struggling students to refer the family to outside services that may be able to provide additional help in resolving issues.

School counselors are also members of the school’s leadership team and may have a role in aiding students and administrators in class assignments and testing and assigning students to advanced or remedial programs. In high schools, school counselors may provide career and advancement guidance as well if a separate career counselor is not in place at their institution. They may help students choose and apply to colleges and make recommendations for appropriate careers, programs, and scholarships.

Typical Work Schedule

School guidance counselors mostly work in educational institutions and therefore often have a working schedule that coincides with the school day. They usually work for 5 days with a total of around 40 hours per week. They also get the summer vacation off and work only 9 months per year. This makes this job the perfect choice for those who are mainly concerned with life-work balance or want to have free time each year for other tasks. However, school guidance counselors have to be occasionally flexible enough to consider different needs of the students. This is particularly important when there are serious and challenging problems facing the students which includes devastating events, child abuse or domestic violence. School counselors may also organize events or deliver speeches concerning problems that are common to the students.

School Guidance Counselor Specializations

  • Elementary School Guidance Counselors work with both parents and student regularly and focus on getting students prepared for secondary education through the development of academic and social skills. They may also work with students to identify impediments to learning and refer parents to applicable remediation services.
  • Middle School Guidance Counselors work with students both individually and in groups. They may counsel individual students and set up sessions for groups of students to learn about drug abuse or sex education, depending on the requirements of the school system. Additionally, they may help students choose an appropriate high school when multiple options are available.
  • High School Guidance Counselors work with students to resolve academic, attendance, and personal issues that impede progress, and they also assist students in planning for the future. They provide guidance on what classes students should take, what colleges and programs students should pursue, and what scholarships students may qualify for.

Projected job growth

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for school guidance counselors is expected to increase by 8% from 2019 to 2029 which is faster than the average for other jobs. This is related to the continuing changes in the economy which emphasizes the role of counselors to guide the students on how to develop necessary skills and prepare them for the workplace. Social changes can also affect students significantly and requires more close guidance and counseling.  Having proper counseling degrees as well as other certifications will give you a clear edge over any competition in the job market in the coming years.

Typical Employers

This job is mainly available in schools supporting the students during the various stages of development. It is sometimes possible to work for several schools in a certain district or city. This should be more financially rewarding but it is also more demanding physically and mentally. You can also be employed by other institutes offering educational services including working for the government and many of its educational programs and training courses. Some may try being self-employed where they can be contracted by multiple institutions and monitor more cases with more flexibility. Recently, there are some apps that became available for online counseling which is expected to get more attention after the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recommended Schools

How To Become a School Guidance Counselor

For the most part, school guidance counselors are required to have a master’s degree in school counseling. However, each state has its own requirements for school guidance counselor credentials, and working as a counselor at a private school may have less stringent requirements. Additionally, some states require counselors to hold teaching licenses and have some years of experience as a teacher prior to becoming a school guidance counselor.

One potential path for becoming a school guidance counselor is to first earn a bachelor’s degree that qualifies you to teach at an elementary, middle, or high school—the degree you choose will depend on the age group you’re interested in counseling. The bachelor’s degree will allow you to become licensed as a teacher, providing you with the needed credentials if you discover later that experience as a teacher is a prerequisite for securing a job as a school guidance counselor.

After earning a bachelor’s degree and necessary teaching credentials, you can then pursue a master’s degree in school counseling. Some states also require individuals to become licensed as school counselors, and licensure is generally available as part of master’s degree programs. Licensure may require a number of hours of education and an internship with an existing licensed school counselor. Check your state’s requirements to determine exactly what credentials and education are required.

School Guidance Counselor Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

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High Range


National Hourly Wage

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High Range


How do School Guidance Counselor salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, School Guidance Counselor's can make an average annual salary of $56,490, or $27 per hour. This makes it an Above Average Salary. On the lower end, they can make $41,120 or $20 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #308 Nationally for All Careers

Programs and Degrees

Here are the most common degrees for becoming a School Guidance Counselor. a is usually recommended and specifically a degree or coursework that prepares you for the particular field, see below.

Highest Education Among School Guidance Counselors

  • 5.4%   Doctorate
  • 48%   Masters
  • 25.1%   Bachelors
  • 5.4%   Associates
  • 10.1%   College
  • 5%   High School
  • 1%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs


2024 Est. Jobs


Job Growth Rate


Est. New Jobs


How does School Guidance Counselor job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 22,500 jobs for a total of 295,900 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 8.2% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Below Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #270 Nationally for All Careers

What Companies Employ The Most School Guidance Counselors

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Elementary and secondary schools; local 109,600 6,400 6%
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; private 36,600 7,000 7%
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state 30,800 2,800 3%

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