Do I Need a Master’s Degree to be a School Counselor?

Do I Need a Master’s Degree to be a School Counselor? Becoming a school counselor sets up a person for work in a private or public school. To achieve this goal, it is necessary to earn the minimum required level of education, certification, and licensure. Knowing the educational requirements to be a school counselor helps a person plan their educational goals and career timeline.

Degree Requirements for School Counselors

People who want to work as a school counselor in an elementary or secondary school need to have a master’s degree in school counseling. This program may be in a university’s education department or its counseling department. In this master’s degree program, students learn about how to help others reach their potential, the signs and symptoms of learning disabilities, and how to foster academic development. They also learn about communicating with different populations, including teachers, school administrators, parents, and students of all ages. Most master’s degree programs in school counseling also include required courses in data analysis, program evaluation, and implementing individualized and group counseling services. Most employers also require a master’s degree for school counselors. This includes vocational schools, community colleges, four-year colleges, and universities in the public and private sectors. In college and vocational settings, employers typically look for a master’s degree focusing on career development.

Supervised Experience

As a part of the master’s degree program in school counseling, most universities require a period of supervised work with students. This is typically in the form of an unpaid internship. It may be done at a school of the student’s choice or through the assignment as part of a cooperative agreement between the university and a nearby public school district or private school. The supervised hours would include documentation of services provided and a practicum or report of what the student learned during the experience.

State Certification, License or Endorsement

Educational counselors who work in the public school system must also hold a state-issued license, certification, or endorsement for the counseling position. To get that certification or endorsement, the person must have a master’s degree in education or counseling. They must also complete an internship or practicum under the supervision of a certified school counselor. Most states also require that a candidate pass a certification exam, which typically has a fee involved. Re-certification is usually required on a two to five-year interval. Candidates must also pass a criminal background check to get the license or certification.

Teaching Experience or Certification

Most states require a minimum of one to two years of teaching experience to be a school counselor, explains the Bureau of Labor Statistics. An educational counselor may also be required to hold a teaching license that is current and in good standing. These requirements may be waived in vocational centers or community colleges, and they are most common in public elementary and secondary schools.

To maintain licensure as a school counselor, a person may need to take continuing education units. These classes help a person stay current with new knowledge that applies to counseling students of different ages and providing a full range of educational counseling services. Knowing the answer to whether a master’s degree is required for a school counselor helps people know the expectations for entering this type of career.

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