Being a Guidance Counselor- Also known as school counselors, elementary- through college-level guidance counselors work with students to promote and support their academic, personal and social development. Guidance counselors help students at all stages of their educations to assess their abilities, interests, and personalities in order to develop healthy academic goals and emotional development.
Although being a guidance counselor is extremely rewarding, it can potentially become emotionally taxing. For that reason, potential counselors should have high emotional energy to handle the problems and stresses they may come across. An effective school counselor should want to help others and be able to inspire respect, trust, and confidence. Additionally, guidance counselors must follow a stringent code of ethics and privacy in accordance to their licenses and certifications.
Responsibilities and Duties- School guidance counselors emphasize preventive and developmental counseling to provide students with life skills and enhance students personal, social, and academic growth. They use dialogue, therapy sessions, tests and other methods to help students individually, in small groups, or in entire classes. They often conduct special services like alcohol and drug prevention classes, teen pregnancy seminars or domestic abuse investigations. School counselors can build special relationships with students who have academic and social development problems or other special needs.
In addition to working with students, school counselors work closely with parents, teachers, school administrators, school psychologists, medical professionals, and social workers in order to develop and implement comprehensive strategies that can help students be successful in the education system.
Work Conditions and Environment- Because privacy is vital to confidential discussions with students, school counselors usually have private offices. Some school counselors work only during the traditional school year with a few-month summer vacation. Increasing numbers, however, are employed on full-year contracts, especially those working in high schools and secondary schools. Guidance counselors usually work the same hours as teachers, but their jobs often involve more traveling, in order to attend special conferences and conventions.
Career Opportunities- Elementary school counselors interact with children during classroom and play activities and talk with their teachers and parents to evaluate the children’s strengths, troubles, or special needs. They help to make sure that the children’s curriculum addresses both academic and emotional development needs. Elementary school counselors do more social and developmental and less academic counseling than counselors in higher-level institutions do.
Along with the developmental and emotional counseling practiced at all stages, high school guidance counselors focus on college planning and decisions regarding the student’s next step. They help direct students in areas like college options, choosing a major, admission requirements, standardized tests, financial aid and internships. They help students develop job search skills, such as resume writing and interviewing techniques.
College and other secondary school counselors focus on helping students make a smooth transition into the working world. By advising students on which courses they need to graduate, helping with resumes and career searches or referring students to specialists, counselors at this stage are a valuable asset in faring well academically. However, especially at larger schools, college students are less likely to confide in counselors with personal problems unrelated to their education.
Industry Growth Expectations- According to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, 248,000 school guidance counselors were employed in 2004. They expect employment in this field to grow faster than average over the next decade.
School counselors can advance their careers in many different ways. For example, they could be promoted to a larger school, become a counseling director or supervisor, become a counselor educator, counseling psychologist, or school administrator. An advanced degree can help a school guidance counselor with career promotion. See below for more education information.
Salary Range- The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics cites the median annual earnings of school counselors as $53,380 in May 2010. A breakdown within the industry lists average salaries for:
Counselors in elementary and secondary schools: $62,310
Counselors in Junior Colleges: $ 56,160
Counselors in Colleges and Universities: $48,770
Education Requirements- Once someone decides to become a school guidance counselor, it is important to determine what the requirements are locally, because training and certification varies depending on location. Some states, for example, require public school counselors to have both counseling and teaching certificates and to have had some teaching experience before becoming a guidance counselor. Good resources for prospective counselors to check include state and local governments, public and private schools, and national certification organizations. Any of these should be able to provide information on which requirements apply.
Some requirements, however, are nationwide. All states require school counselors to hold a state school counseling certification and to have completed at least some graduate course work. Being a school guidance counselor typically requires completion of a master’s degree, but a bachelor’s degree can qualify a person to be a counseling aide. Colleges and universities usually offer counselor education programs within the departments of education or psychology.
Good luck in pursuit of this rewarding career!
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