How to Become a Guidance Counselor: Salary and Job Description

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Individuals interested in helping children and adolescents navigate challenges and develop plans for the future are likely to be drawn to the field of guidance counseling. Guidance counselors play an important role in students’ development. In addition to helping them with career planning, professionals who choose this career path also help students who need assistance with social problems, such as those who are being bullied by classmates, and emotional troubles, such as those dealing with the loss of a parent or loved one.

The first step toward becoming a guidance counselor involves getting the right education. Consequently, earning a degree, such as an online Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Maryville University, can put you on the path toward pursuing jobs in this field.

Guidance counselor job description

Although a guidance counselor’s job description can vary based on the age of the students they work with, common job duties include the following:

  • Analyzing student performance to identify problems
  • Facilitating communication between students, teachers, parents, and administrators to discuss academic and/or behavioral problems
  • Conducting group and one-on-one academic counseling sessions
  • Helping students apply to vocational or collegiate programs that align with their career interests
  • Working with students to learn more about their unique needs, such as the special accommodations needed by students with dyslexia, and working with students and teachers to offer individualized solutions, such as permitting dyslexic students to use a calculator for mathematics exams
  • Assessing students’ personal and academic development
  • Providing counseling and instruction to students and school stakeholders about bullying, drug use, and how to develop good study habits, among other topics
  • Providing counseling and referrals to parents of students with mental health concerns
  • Helping students and teachers cope with traumatic incidents, such as community-based violence or tragedies

A guidance counselor meets with a high school student to discuss the student’s plans for after graduation.

Skills needed to become a guidance counselor

Individuals interested in learning more about how to become a guidance counselor should know that several core skills and characteristics are crucial for success in the field. Examples of fundamental competencies for guidance counselors include social, data collection, interpretation, and observational skills.

  • Social Competency: Guidance counselors work with students of various ages, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Professionals with strong social competency skills, who understand how to reach and connect with students of all backgrounds, are likely to be most successful.
  • Data Collection: School guidance counselors collect and measure numerous data points including student enrollment and dropout rates, achievement test grades, and attendance records. As such, individuals in this field need strong analytical and data collection skills to determine the effectiveness of various counseling programs.
  • Interpretation: Professionals who choose this career path must understand how the information in students’ academic records and assessments applies to the students’ goals, both in school and beyond. Guidance counselors with strong interpretation skills can use their abilities to match students’ interests and aptitudes to potential career paths.
  • Observation: Students are not always forthcoming about their problems. Guidance counselors must be able to detect subtle signs of bullying, domestic or intimate partner abuse, and drug use in students, among other problems, so they can develop and recommend a course of action.

Education, certification, and guidance counselor salary

Students interested in becoming a guidance counselor must start by earning a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as a bachelor’s in sociology. Additionally, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that aspiring guidance counselors typically must hold a master’s degree in a related field to be considered for employment. Most employers prefer to hire candidates who have completed a master’s program that focuses on career development. Nearly all U.S. states and the District of Columbia share this requirement.

Certification requirements

Some employers require candidates to be certified by the National Board for Certified Counselors or the American School Counselor Association. Although licensure requirements vary from state to state, applicants must meet certain educational and training requirements, apply for certification, submit an application fee, and pass an examination to become licensed. Continuing education requirements, which are needed to maintain licensure, also vary by state.

Guidance counselor salary and job growth projections

PayScale.com reports that as of June 2021, the median annual guidance counselor salary was around $53,500 per year, although earners in the top 10th percentile had annual earnings of around $77,000. Salary ranges vary based on a variety of factors, including the geographical region in which the position is located, whether an individual works for a public or private institution, and experience level.

Additionally, BLS data indicates that employment of school counselors, including guidance counselors, is projected to grow by 8% between 2019 and 2029, which is much faster than the average growth projected for all occupations. Approximately 33,100 openings are projected to become available each year during that same reporting period. Job growth will largely be driven by rising student enrollments in elementary, middle, and high schools.

Become a guidance counselor and help students thrive

Individuals interested in how to become a guidance counselor can start by learning more about the skills and proficiencies they’ll need to be successful. Maryville University’s online bachelor’s in sociology provides students with a variety of career-relevant coursework and includes courses such as social analysis and thought, social class in society, and race and ethnicity in America. Upon graduation, students often find they’re well prepared to take the next brave step in their journey toward becoming a guidance counselor.

Are you ready to get started? Discover how Maryville’s online Bachelor of Arts in Sociology can prepare you for a rewarding career as a guidance counselor.

Recommended Reading

Juvenile Delinquency Statistics, Risk Factors, and Resources for Helping American Youth

Conquering Back-to-School Anxiety: Emotional Side of Learning

How to Be a Better Listener: Exploring 4 Types of Listening

Sources

American School Counselor Association, “ASCA-Certified School Counselor”

The Balance Careers, “What Does a School Guidance Counselor Do?”

BetterHelp, “What Is a Guidance Counselor?”

Chron.com, Qualities & Characteristics of Guidance Counselors

Confident Counselors, “What Do You Love About Being a School Counselor?”

Indeed.com, “Guidance Counselor Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications”

National Board for “Certified Counselors, State Licensure”

PayScale.com, “Average Guidance Counselor Salary”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “School and Career Counselors and Advisors”