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School counselors help students develop academic and social skills and succeed in school. Career counselors assist people with the process of making career decisions by helping them develop skills or choose a career or educational program.Duties
School counselors typically do the following:
The specific duties of school counselors vary with the ages of their students.
Elementary school counselors focus on helping students develop certain skills, such as those used in decisionmaking and studying, that they need in order to be successful in their social and academic lives. They meet with parents or guardians to discuss their child’s strengths and weaknesses, and any possible special needs and behavioral issues. School counselors also work with teachers and administrators to ensure that the curriculum addresses both the developmental and academic needs of students.
Middle school counselors work with school staff, parents and the community to create a caring, supportive climate and atmosphere for students to achieve academic success. They help the students develop the skills and strategies necessary to succeed academically and socially.
High school counselors advise students in making academic and career plans. Many help students overcome personal issues that interfere with their academic development. They help students choose classes and plan for their lives after graduation. Counselors provide information about choosing and applying for colleges, training programs, financial aid, and internships and apprenticeships. They may present career workshops to help students search and apply for jobs, write résumés, and improve their interviewing skills.
Career counselors typically do the following:
Career counselors work with clients at various stages of their careers. Some work in colleges. They may help students choose a major or help students determine what jobs they are qualified for with their degrees.
Career counselors also work with people who have already entered the workforce. These counselors develop plans to improve their client’s current career. They also provide advice about entering a new profession.
Some career counselors work in outplacement firms and assist laid-off workers with transitioning into new jobs or careers. Others work in corporate career centers to assist employees in making decisions about their career path within the company.
Career counselors who work in private practice must spend time marketing their practice to prospective clients and working with clients to receive payments for their services.
Most school counselors must have a master’s degree in school counseling or a related field and have a state-issued credential. Some employers prefer that career counselors have a master’s degree. Career counselors who work in private practices may also need a license.Education
Most states require school counselors to have a master’s degree in school counseling or a related field. Programs in school counseling teach students about fostering academic development; conducting group and individual counseling; working with parents, school staff, and community organizations; and using data to develop, implement, and evaluate comprehensive school counseling programs for all students. These programs often require students to gain experience through an internship or practicum.
Some employers prefer that career counselors have a master’s degree in counseling with a focus on career development. Career counseling programs prepare students to assess clients’ skills and interests and to teach career development techniques. Many programs require students to have a period of supervised experience, such as an internship.Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Public school counselors must have a state-issued credential to practice. This credential can be called a certification, a license, or an endorsement, depending on the state. Licensure or certification typically requires a master’s degree in school counseling and an internship or practicum completed under the supervision of a licensed professional school counselor.
Some states require applicants to have 1 to 2 years of classroom teaching experience, or to hold a teaching license, prior to being certified. Most states require a criminal background check as part of the credentialing process. Information about requirements for each state is available from the American School Counselor Association.
Although some employers prefer to hire licensed career counselors, licensure is not required by all states. Contact information for state regulating boards is available from the National Board for Certified Counselors.Work Experience in a Related Occupation
Although most states do not require work experience in a related occupation, some states require school counselors to have 1 to 2 years of classroom teaching experience, or to hold a teaching license, prior to being certified. Please see the Similar Occupations tab for more information on teaching occupations.Important Qualities
Compassion. School and career counselors often work with people who are dealing with stressful and difficult situations, so they must be compassionate and empathize with their clients and students.
Interpersonal skills. School and career counselors must be able to work with different types of people. They spend most of their time working directly with clients, students, or other professionals and need to form and maintain good working relationships.
Listening skills. Good listening skills are essential for school and career counselors. They need to give their full attention to students and clients in order to understand their problems.
Speaking skills. School and career counselors must communicate effectively with clients and students. They should express ideas and information in a way that their clients and students understand easily.
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