January 10, 2021
Given the change of course that has happened in the world, we wanted to provide expert opinions on what aspiring graduates can do to start off their careers in an uncertain economic climate. We wanted to know what skills will be more important, where the economy is doing relatively well, and if there will be any lasting effects on the job market.
Companies are looking for candidates that can handle the new responsibilities of the job market. Recent graduates actually have an advantage because they are comfortable using newer technologies and have been communicating virtually their whole lives. They can take what they've learned and apply it immediately.
We spoke to professors and experts from several universities and companies to get their opinions on where the job market for recent graduates is heading, as well as how young graduates entering the industry can be adequately prepared. Here are their thoughts.
Peak to Peak Charter School
George Fox University
University of Colorado Colorado Springs
University of Bridgeport
Winona State University
Eastern Kentucky University
Boise State University
Lubbock Christian University
Amber Chenoweth Ph.D.: In the field of psychology, and particularly counseling, the pandemic has highlighted the need for those trained in telehealth. As with many issues of access that the pandemic has brought to light, I see telehealth as continuing as a way to serve populations that may not have ready access to counseling, such as those living in rural areas or even in urban areas if they have limited access to reliable transportation. I would not be surprised if graduate programs in counseling add this to their curriculum if they haven't already and if existing mental health providers increase their training and availability of telehealth services for mental health.
Also, there is likely to be an increased need for mental health services in general related to the pandemic. Loneliness, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, grief from loss of loved ones - one would be hard pressed to find someone not affected by these issues, either personally or through someone close to them. Practitioners I've spoken to in the last few months have all agreed that the need for more trained mental health workers is only going to increase.
Amber Chenoweth Ph.D.: For a graduate who is interested in working in mental health and is considering taking time between undergraduate and graduate school, I strongly recommend getting involved in some way with the field. Internships can be difficult with the pandemic restrictions, but this might be an opportunity to connect with an organization that does remote mental health work, for example, working with a suicide hotline.
Also, depending on the program requirements, they may want to take this time to prepare for the GRE. I know some programs are waiving the GRE due to the pandemic but may still consider those scores.
Regardless, any graduate program is going to want students who are strong communicators. If your writing wasn't strong as an undergrad, use this time to enhance those skills. Take free online courses that have a writing emphasis. If you do land an internship or an entry-level position with your B.A., ask for writing or presentation assignments and for your supervisor to provide you with constructive criticism for ways to improve.
Lastly, and this is advice I give all of my students, schedule some informational interviews with professionals in your field(s) of interest. Graduate school is an investment, both in time and money, so you need to be informed about the realities of the career outcome - can you really see yourself doing this? What are the challenges, in addition to the rewards, of that career path? What advice would that professional give if they had it to do all over again? And these kinds of interviews have great networking potential - my students who have done these kinds of interviews have found them valuable, both in gaining excellent insights and advice and some in landing internship and even job interview opportunities.
Amber Chenoweth Ph.D.: You don't have to have it all figured out right away. Heck, I've been employed in higher education for over a decade, and I'm still figuring things out! Take advantage of opportunities that will help you grow, both personally and professionally.
You are not your job, but it is possible to do meaningful work that allows you to engage with your calling, your sense of purpose.
Educational Counseling and Leadership
Kathleen Grant Ph.D.: During the pandemic, families are experiencing significant challenges, many of which impact youth in profound ways. Families are dealing with sickness and loss, economic hardship that can lead to hunger and housing insecurity, and high levels of stress and anxiety. Schools will need counselors who can utilize a trauma-informed approach to meet the needs of students and families. Additionally, school counselors can significantly impact the ability of students to grow and learn when they attend to the social and emotional functioning of all members of the school community. Targeted social and emotional interventions across all key stakeholders can dramatically impact a school's climate and increase academic outcomes.
Kathleen Grant Ph.D.: - Attendance in a CACREP-accredited program, experience developing and implementing a comprehensive school counseling program
- Understanding of multi-tiered systems of support and response-to-intervention
- Experience in college and career counseling
- Ability to use data to identify needs of community and to demonstrate effectiveness of programming
- Demonstrated ability to provide culturally-competent services
- An understanding of how schools have been impacted by the legacy of white supremacy and tools to dismantle racism within the school community
Kathleen Grant Ph.D.: School counseling positions are expected to rise across the U.S. in the coming years. States that will have a greater percentage of job openings include Arizona; Colorado; Washington, D.C.; Georgia; Nevada; New York; and Utah.
Peak to Peak Charter School
College Counseling Department
Macaela Holmes Fuller: Those seeking temporary employment in the service industry are going to find it more difficult to secure positions. As restaurants and retail are not operating at full tilt, I imagine those employers will prioritize their more permanent employees. I expect enrollment at community colleges will increase although I'm not sure how distance learning will impact that trend. I also expect there to be changes in employment opportunities at colleges and universities; with many institutions facing slashed budgets, there may be faculty and staff layoffs unfortunately. For many institutions, both admissions and fundraising positions will be of higher importance. I anticipate many college students to be considering options that are closer to home to be able to more easily travel home if another shutdown happens or to be able to live at home for remote learning opportunities.
Macaela Holmes Fuller: While there are many reasons to consider a gap year, I highly encourage anyone considering one to have a set plan for what they'll do during that time away from academia. The more traditional options (e.g., traveling, serving their community, working to save money) are much harder to pursue during the pandemic. Having a plan with a set timeline will prevent the opportunity for procrastination because a year will certainly pass by quickly! Colleges also want students pursuing a gap year to have a set out plan so that the student doesn't spend the year sitting on their couch eating bon bons!
Some people should use a gap year to prepare themself for collegiate academics, which may include improving time management skills, working on reading speed and comprehension, and exploring their own passions and aptitudes. I encourage anyone to take advantage of the many free online courses but highly caution taking courses at a local college or university. If you take accredited classes, you may impact your admission status (first-year versus transfer) or even scholarships and financial aid. Others may want to use the gap year to figure out how to manage daily life without the constant presence of parents or guardians - perhaps that means learning how to cook or not relying on a parent to be their alarm clock. Other students may want to make sure they know how to do laundry, balance bills, and healthy eating habits. Those skills will better prepare for wherever their path after high school takes them.
Macaela Holmes Fuller: You aren't going to start your career at the top of your field - you need to try new things and learn new skills to get there. Sometimes that means taking the job in the far away place and doing work you didn't think you'd ever enjoy. Reach out to people who have a job you're interested in to request an informational interview and learn how they got there. Don't be afraid to ask questions. And always, always send a thank you note.
Chris Koch Ph.D.: I could answer this question several different ways depending on the type of "enduring impact" you are referring to. In some ways, things will not change. Jobs will still exist. Job projections have not drastically changed in their make-up. How those jobs are delivered, on the other hand, will likely have long-term effects from the pandemic. Examples of this are fairly easy to think of. Consider retail sales. Amazon grew during the pandemic.
Similarly, Best Buy recently experienced one of its best quarters ever due to online sales. While online sales may have been convenient before, the pandemic has made them essential now. In my sector, education, COVID-19 had an immediate and massive impact on how we taught and engaged students. Many companies have found that employees can work effectively from home and are, therefore, reducing their facility costs by having employees work from home. So, jobs remain, but how jobs are done has changed. Different sectors will likely experience different amounts of change. In some cases, the change may be temporary and in others permanent.
Another way I thought about this question is more on a societal level. The pandemic has been particularly difficult on lower-income individuals. Unfortunately, this may widen the education gap and limit the job opportunities available for a segment of our population. Considering an education already existed before the pandemic, any widening due to the pandemic will take some time to narrow.
Chris Koch Ph.D.: Due to how jobs are changing, it is going to be important for graduates to be flexible and adaptable. Change will require training for new procedures. Consequently, understanding and using learning strategies will be very important. Change is based on ideas. Creativity and innovation may be valuable skills in this climate of change. One thing that can fuel change is data. Data literacy and critical thinking will help graduates use data properly.
One change from the pandemic that probably everyone has experienced is the use of Zoom or some other online conferencing tool. Although it has been extremely helpful, this type of communication is different for a variety of reasons. Having good communication skills, especially online, will be valuable. Likewise, emotional intelligence and being able to work effectively in groups will continue to be important skills.
Two other skills are time management and proactivity. If you are working from home, you do not have the typical office structure and environment, so it is important to be able to minimize distractions, monitor your time, and maintain priorities. Proactivity refers to your ability to work independently and to anticipate needs. This is especially important when working with a lesser degree of supervision, which is the case when you, your co-workers, and your boss are all working remotely.
Chris Koch Ph.D.: A simple answer to this question is anything that allows you to demonstrate or, preferably, quantify any of the skills mentioned above.
Ben Denkinger Ph.D.: I believe that the most enduring impact on new graduates is in navigating careers that are rapidly evolving to meet the changing times. Humans are so infinitely adaptable, and the pandemic has forced us to alter our behavior in such profound ways that it is likely to have an indelible influence on all areas of life. I think there's reason to see hope and opportunity in the field of psychology as we use the tools of the discipline to find answers and aid others. So while the "traditional" post-graduation experience has been elusive this year, psychology students are entering a world that needs their insights and experiences more so than ever before.
Ben Denkinger Ph.D.: The skills required of young graduates are the same as ever, but the context in which we live requires us to demonstrate the skills more so than ever before. For example, an effective graduate is able to communicate clearly, concisely, and confidently. These critical skills are hard enough to demonstrate in a typical work setting, but with much of the working world restructuring around virtual meetings and communication, these skills are challenged and updated in whole new ways. Critical thinking, independence, goal-setting, time management, and self-care are all fundamental skills that will not only aid graduates in overcoming short-term challenges, but will serve them well throughout their lifespan.
Ben Denkinger Ph.D.: From my experience with graduates who have applied for jobs, internships, and graduate studies, the most valuable skill is self-efficacy. Those who have demonstrated that they can work independently towards a larger goal are of great value to any organization, now more so than ever. My students who have completed an independent research project, who have done an internship, or who have real-world experience with completing goals in the face of challenges are consistently successful in taking their careers to the next level. Being motivated, resilient, and confident are all critical predictors of career success, and these are skills that don't come easy. Employers put much emphasis on experiences that demonstrate one's ability to put in the effort in developing these traits in professional settings.
Dr. Diane Stutey LPC, RPT-S, NCC: School counselors are trained mental health professionals who are able to implement a comprehensive school counseling program in K-12 schools. Comprehensive school counseling programs include individual counseling, small group counseling, and classroom guidance lessons that focus on students' academic, career, and social-emotional well-being and success. With the pandemic, we are seeing trends in K-12 students needing even more support in all of these areas. In addition, school counselors are learning how to respond to students' mental health needs in-person, remotely, and in hybrid formats. The demand for well-trained school counselors in the areas of crises and trauma is particularly important during the pandemic.
Dr. Diane Stutey LPC, RPT-S, NCC: I believe there are many skills that stand out on resumes for school counselors who are seeking employment. First, experience at all three grade levels (elementary, middle, and high school) is something that we encourage of our students in their practicum and internship experiences. No matter what grade level you end up at as a school counselor, having knowledge and experience at the other levels helps you to better serve your students, teachers, and families. In addition, we encourage our students to gain experience in a variety of different districts and with diverse youth. School counselors applying for jobs will be more marketable if they have worked in a variety of settings (rural, suburban, urban). Also, we stress the importance of learning to become a social justice advocate for all students by choosing practicum and internship sites where you can work with students from diverse backgrounds.
Dr. Diane Stutey LPC, RPT-S, NCC: I believe that the field of school counseling continues to grow across the United States. In Colorado, we are currently experiencing a shortage of licensed school counselors. Therefore, many of our school counseling interns have been employed during their internship by school districts. In the past three years that I have been a school counselor educator in Colorado, all of our graduates who seek positions as school counselors have secured positions. Prior to my work here, I was in South Carolina and Oklahoma. I saw similar trends with graduates from school counseling programs being able to find employment as school counselors after graduation.
University of Bridgeport
College of Arts and Sciences
Tracey Ryan Ph.D.: Sadly, the global pandemic has created some degree of stress and a feeling of isolation for most Americans. For those living with mental illness, struggling with substance abuse, or providing care for a family member who has a cognitive or physical disability, these issues are exacerbated. Parents are struggling with home schooling as teachers are struggling with engaging students through internet learning platforms. Parents who have children of all ages are looking for advice and guidance to help their children through this time and to maintain their own sanity.
While these events are tragic, they also create opportunities for those who have specific skills, experience and credentials in human services related fields. Student who are currently enrolled in master's or doctoral programs in Psychology, Counseling or Social Work will be in extremely high demand, as counselors, therapists or coaches, particularly in remote (internet-based) formats. Most not-for-profit, public, and private agencies that formerly provided in-person social, recreational, vocational, educational, or mental health support to people are now operating almost exclusively in remote format. I see both young adults and more seasoned professionals adapting to the new video technologies in a therapeutic setting with relative ease, particularly if they are seeing clients on a one-to-one basis. As the pandemic subsides, professionals will likely continue with practices at least partially online. Most third party insurance companies are also considering a continuation of covering therapeutic services online as therapists and insurers have discovered that this is an easy way to reduce costs.
Students graduating with only a bachelor's or associate's degree are also in high demand as online tutors, teaching assistants, or specialized educators. One creative young adult that I know began working on weekends as a religious educator in her local synagogue during her junior year. As a psychology major, she planned to go to graduate school in psychology and to continue teaching young children as a "side gig" because she enjoyed it, and it helped with expenses. When the pandemic began, she adapted to using Zoom to teach her classes, creating fun, interesting activities and games that became the envy of the most experienced teachers in the synagogue. The school quickly began paying her as a coach to help other educators, including the Rabbi, adapt to the Zoom technology to teach teens, middle aged adults and even seniors. She was recently offered a position in the synagogue as the Assistant Director of Education, even before graduation, and has decided to defer graduate school for this opportunity. I know other young adults who have been hired as online educators in prevention programs that target substance abuse, domestic violence, or sexually transmitted diseases among middle and high school-aged students or young adults. These types of specialized teaching positions are in extremely high demand at this time. However, I believe that even when the pandemic subsides, many of these programs will likely continue at least partially in an online format, as students and teachers alike have discovered some of the benefits of online learning.
If you are willing to brave an "in-person" working format those with a bachelor's or associate's degree are still getting hired as behavioral therapists, direct care counselors, and supervisors in organizations that support people who have cognitive disabilities and live in group homes or semi-independent settings. Students with bachelor's degrees in Psychology or related fields continue to be hired in large numbers in child protection settings as entry-level social workers and in the criminal justice system as entry-level juvenile justice workers and parole officers. Undergraduates and recent graduates also continue to be hired in inpatient mental health and substance abuse settings as entry-level direct support staff. Finally, long-term care facilities that serve seniors are hiring recent graduates as social workers and social/recreational counselors. I see all of these hiring trends continuing and most expanding as the pandemic subsides. The biggest expansion that I see in the near term and over the next five to ten years is the need for substance abuse counselors. Overall, there will be fewer jobs working with children and more jobs working with seniors as the population ages.
Tracey Ryan Ph.D.: That very much depends on the student and their goals.
If you are eventually planning on graduate school, I recommend that you develop the areas that would make you most attractive to graduate programs. If you seek a graduate degree in psychology, for example, and you have never had any type of research experience, I recommend that you volunteer or seek a part-time position as a research assistant. If you are having trouble finding a position, I recommend that you email former psychology (or other social sciences) professors and make it known that you are willing to work hard for an opportunity to help with some type of research being done on the campus. Most professors who have active grants would be delighted to hire a former student part time, and most professors can direct you to the people who have grants. If a professor is doing research that is unfunded, they are often looking for volunteers.
If you are a psychology major, you have research skills that are in demand. You know how to do a literature review and understand how to write in APA format. Even if you are not a good writer, you can use excel and enter data in spreadsheets. One of the biggest benefits of conducting research with a faculty member is that almost all participants on the project become an author on the research. Even if you are listed as an author in the number ten position, you are still an author. This is experience that enhances a resume or C.V.
If you are looking to become more marketable for a job, with or without a graduate degree, I recommend that you utilize the career development resources in your own college or university. I have found that career services are often one of the most under-utilized resources on college campuses. Most university and college career development centers will help students to develop their online presence, including familiarizing students with all of the new platforms. They can help students refine their interests and goals through a variety of inventories and surveys. They can help create and refine your resume, and take your professional photos. Career development centers offer much more assistance, too. Almost all career centers are open to alumni as well as current students.
Finally, you should not forgot about volunteer opportunities. The pandemic has created an unlimited demand for volunteers at shelters, food banks, crisis centers, online tutoring programs and more. Volunteering not only builds your resume but also expands your social network. It provides a new group of people who can write letters of recommendation and speak directly about your level of empathy or work ethic. Most of the undergraduate students that I know were offered their first job as the result of volunteer or internship experience.
There is one specialized area that I recommend to almost all of my students right now. The global pandemic has exacerbated substance abuse related issues. If you are doing a gap year and have an interest in counseling or education, consider volunteer or paid work in some type of substance abuse setting. The pharmaceutical industry has recently started making amends for over-marketing opiate medications and contributing to a huge national, addiction crisis. Many companies have legally settled suits with state governments for millions of dollars, specifically allocated to substance abuse education and treatment. These dollars will quickly flow to local governments and not-for-profits. If you gain experience, reasonable competency, and ethical behavior in this industry, I predict you will easily find a good job, even with only an undergraduate degree.
Tracey Ryan Ph.D.: General Career Advice:
Develop your presence, including a photo, on major employment websites. A business photo is extremely important, but you don't need a professional photographer, just a smart phone and a serious, professional look.
Continue to expand your social and professional network. Make it known to others that you are looking for employment.
Be patient and flexible. One of the biggest mistakes that I see undergraduate students make is to wait for their "dream job". They often seek a fantasy job that has good pay and a high degree of professional autonomy in very specific settings. Your "dream job" will likely not appear in your first few years of employment, so be prepared to make compromises.
Be open to the possibility of high demand positions. Be open to other populations and settings that you may not have considered in the past, for example, working with seniors instead of young children. Even so, there are likely some work settings that completely turn you off, and you should avoid those.
Talk with the professors and professionals. Get points of view about your options from people you most respect.
Make sure that you have utilized career services at your university to maximum benefit. The professional staff in career services are paid to help people in your exact position.
Consider job benefits along with salary. Don't forget about one of the biggest job benefits of all - working with solid, stable professionals that you can learn from. Associating yourself with ethical, qualified professionals and building professionals relationships is key to launch a successful career.
Winona State University
Counselor Education Department
Dr. Dawnette Cigrand Ph.D.: The pandemic has underscored the need for mental health support for children and adolescents of all ages and for adults who care for them. I believe parents have a revitalized respect for educators now and appreciate again the work of teachers, school counselors, other student support personnel, and administrators. Although some families prefer online-learning options, the pandemic has taught us that many students need the opportunity for academic and social-emotional development that comes with in-person learning and the structure of the school setting.
This realization lends itself to increased trends in all mental health professions, technology applications to reach students (and parents/guardians) in a variety of ways, and educators who can flex and adapt to environmental changes beyond our control.
Dr. Dawnette Cigrand Ph.D.: -Creative problem solving
-Ability to engage students who are overwhelmed or disengaged
-Resilience and perseverance
Dr. Dawnette Cigrand Ph.D.: One hundred percent of our students are finding jobs in our region and across the country. We expect many retirements in school counseling in the Midwest, and schools continue to add school counselors at all levels. However, current effects of the pandemic may limit budgets in the near future.
Barbara Faye Streets Ph.D., L.P., CAC/BP: (1) What's your self-care plan? 2020 has been brutal for many reasons. I've assigned my students to create self-care videos which serve the purpose of documenting, reinforcing and habituating to a positive mental health self- care practice. Students have delivered, creating 3 - 4 minute works of art reflecting their unique takes at wellness. Whether it is an audio or videotapes of affirmations, the creation of a miniature home gym or setting regular zoom dates with loved ones, a self-care plan will carry you to other side of the pandemic and fortify hard days of the present. To address deep seated mental health issues that might impact their professional careers, I guide students through a H.A.L.T. assignment, which is a respectful nod to early Alcoholics Anonymous publications and worldview. Upon reflection of what they might be Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired of or about, they must articulate what conscious decision they will take next to address whatever they found out about themselves. So, school counseling career neonate, what's your self-care plan?
(2) Make sure the work you seek reflects your values, not just a quick buck ... unless that's your value. If you are going to be on the front lines during a pandemic, whether it is COVID19 now or some unforeseen malady in the future, it's going to take more than the reward of monetary reimbursement for many of us to endeavor; to go to work, resolutely, because of an unshakeable belief in the importance of the work you do. With over 64 million confirmed COVID19 cases worldwide, and repeated exposure that front line and essential workers face, your work has to be more than just decent. Don't get it twisted. We are well aware that many don't have the privilege of choice regarding the work we do, as basic survival needs must be met and family members are depending on the sustenance your paycheck brings. Yet, you just articulated your values; supporting a family over type of work undertaken. During hard times and in-between strife times, your values about why you do the work you do will sustain you, and we will appreciate you for it.
(3) Up-game your virtual interview presentational skills. While I'm not suggesting you spend extra on a camera or ring lights, we can all work on reducing extraneous noise in our environments, clearing clutter from our background, being mindful of unnecessary nonverbal hand movements, improving visual hygiene, and practicing speaking in an assertive manner. When not speaking, watch your nonverbal communication, resist the urge to multitask and don't forget to remain on mute, unless you are speaking. Just YouTube 'how to look and sound your best on video calls,' and binge on the free information available at the end of a keystroke.
(4) Be clear of your rights and when you start to get a 'moral flu'. At what degree will you set your integrity compass gauge? If you've been analyzing the news recently, then you are well aware that the power of a camera has escalated awareness of long standing abuses to the forefront of the collective American consciousness. But these systemic racial, socio-economic, health, wealth and educational disparities and injustices have always existed; and there have always been witnesses and bystanders to oppression and injustice. So if you see said realities on the job, where will you stand? Should you witness impropriety, maleficence, corruption, abuse of power, racism, sexism ... have you thought about how you will deal with it? I'm not talking about the blatant, flamboyant and outrageous foolery, I'm talking about the micro-aggressive subtleties that can erode the character of an organization, or a child, if left unchecked.While the multi-layered nuisances of these issues are beyond the scope of this article, just pay attention to physical, mental and intuitive signs that you are catching a moral fever because of the injustices you see. And if you are strong enough to be a whistleblower, do you know how to go about it in such a way that will leave you with a piece of yourself that you recognize? Three books for school counselors I recommend include: (1) White Fragility: Why it's so hard for white people to talk about racism by Robin Diangelo (2018); (2) Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools by Monique W. Morris (2016); and (3) Racism in the United States: Implications for the Helping Professions, by Joshua Miller and Ann Marie Garran (2017).
Barbara Faye Streets Ph.D., L.P., CAC/BP: Location independence to offer, conduct, and deliver mental health and school counseling services will be important in the next three to five years. Other technologies that will become more important and prevalent shortly include: virtual and augmented reality to supplement clinical interventions, virtual assistants, touchless services, wearable technology that supports the reduction of anxiety or the buffering of mood disorders, the use of robotics to assist wellness, advancements in digital health technologies, increased use of behavioral data to influence pro-social mental health activity, distance learning gadgets that promote greater efficiency in work, a technology that improves health while in front of a screen, and devices that monitor and analyze physiological states.
Barbara Faye Streets Ph.D., L.P., CAC/BP: The OOH (Occupational Outlook Handbook) provides median salary estimates for hundreds of occupations. Licensure, advanced training, continuing education, and years in the field typically correspond with a salary increase. It is advisable to negotiate, in the interview process, for a salary increase upon completion of credentialing, at each level in your prospective field. For a sample of median salaries in the field, see https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-socialservice/home.htm.
Susan Scully-Hill Ph.D.: Yes, there will be, but I feel the long term impact will be positive. Our 2020 graduates and our, soon to be, 2021 graduates have had to be even more flexible, adaptable, innovative, creative, and sensitive than a pre-COVID school counselor in training. Graduates are prepared to handle crises and challenges because they had no choice but to address challenges during their field experience and subsequent employment. School counseling graduates have become adept at using technology and web-based applications to help their students reach important academic, behavioral, social, and emotional goals. The pandemic has changed how school counselors interact with students but have not changed the goals and outcomes that students must achieve. The pandemic has impacted all of us, and the impact has implications for how we live our lives now and in the future.
Susan Scully-Hill Ph.D.: Our graduates must possess many gifts to support students who have experienced significant issues related to the pandemic. Our graduates will need to have technological expertise and a strong understanding of school youth and their families, needs that have intensified as a result of the pandemic. School counselors will need to have well-developed communication skills and work as a team to support students and families. As mentioned above, school counselors will need to be flexible, adaptable, creative, and innovative with school-based interventions. School counselors will encounter increased academic performance issues amongst students, and student mental health issues will be pervasive. School counselors will need to possess self-care skills. The number of students experiencing anxiety, poor academic performance, and social-emotional deficits has increased, and the school counselors' role continues to expand and intensify. Self-care will enable school counselors to continue to be effective and available for their students.
Susan Scully-Hill Ph.D.: Our 2020 school counseling graduates have been very successful in obtaining positions in Massachusetts schools. Our graduates created thoughtful, detailed outlines emphasizing their field experience during the pandemic. Experience with virtual intervention strategies is very appealing to school districts hiring school counselors. Further, emphasizing culturally responsive counseling and interventions is viewed positively by school districts looking to hire school counselors who can work effectively with students and families representing the variety of religions, ethnicities, races, gender identities, sexual orientations, and abilities present in the schools.
Michael A. Taylor: In addition to the basic attending skills all counselors need, graduates will need to exemplify several soft skills, such as flexibility, collaboration, problem-solving skills, teamwork, strong work ethic, and ability to communicate (both orally and in written form). Most of all, patience and perseverance are desperately required. Since the national education reform in the early 90s, administrators have placed many tasks at the feet of school counselors that were never meant to be parts of a school counselor's job, such as testing and scheduling.
Sometimes, school counselors are even expected to handle discipline. Therefore, school counselors wear many hats, for which they were never fitted in their Master's program. It can sometimes become frustrating not having enough time to get to do all the things you were actually trained to do. Additionally, the ability to effectively communicate and counsel across all cultures is vital. The student population in schools is becoming increasingly diverse and will come with their own unique needs and requests. School counselors will be called upon to help those students navigate the challenges these students face and connect them to culturally appropriate resources.
Michael A. Taylor: Teachers who shift into school counseling positions tend to remain in those positions until retirement. Therefore, they can become difficult to obtain. However, there are many schools, particularly in the more urban areas, with underserved populations who would love to benefit from a school counselor's desire to help those students most in need. Those with school counseling degrees may also be able to obtain employment in higher education as a career counselor in a career services office.
Michael A. Taylor: Technology is already impacting every field you can think of! However, due to COVID-19, the use of technology has become paramount for school counselors. Platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams will become a mainstay for school counselors as they strive to communicate with parents and other community stakeholders who may not be able to travel to the school for meetings. They are also a great way to provide virtual office hours for parents and students to advise on academic, career, and college options. Since March, all of our career counseling appointments at EKU have been conducted via Zoom, and I see this being a popular option for students in the future.
School counselors would also be remiss if they didn't take advantage of students' addiction to social media. The use of dedicated hashtags could be an easy way for students to interact with their counselors. Of course, school counselors should remember not to use their personal social media accounts for this. Additionally, apps such as Stop, Breathe & Think or Calm have seen increasing popularity among counselors as students tend to look to their phones for guidance more than people.
Boise State University
Laura L. Gallo Ph.D.: For school counselors, experiences that highlight work with children; this could include volunteering, teaching, etc., and of course, internship experiences, in a few different types of schools, are helpful as well. For example, having some experience in alternative school settings shows administrators you have worked with diverse populations.
Laura L. Gallo Ph.D.: If a student takes a gap year- I think looking for opportunities to work with children/adolescents, especially in diverse settings, would be most beneficial, or even working abroad would be great. School counselors who can bring diverse views into the school setting will benefit everyone (staff, students, and families). As far as how they go about doing it, networking is helpful, or working with organizations who organize these types of experiences for counselors and educators (use the skills you've been trained in!).
Laura L. Gallo Ph.D.: I think there could be a shift for more schools to go online, even after the pandemic is over, as more students/families find they prefer it. So, school counselors who are tech-savvy with doing online counseling and using the platforms available would be helpful. Other technology that connects people in different ways could be beneficial. I think another piece of this is for school counselors to be creative with how to use technology to benefit their students. How can we increase interaction and keep students engaged.
Chris Hennington Ph.D.: School counselors will be tasked with the usual school counseling responsibilities while also encountering trauma that students experience outside of school and in school. Being well versed in trauma response is going to be a vital aspect of being a school counselor. Kids are experiencing more trauma, but we are getting better at recognizing and treating trauma as well.
Chris Hennington Ph.D.: Small, rural areas have a high need but, sometimes, lower pay, while large metroplexes pay more, but have more competition for school counseling positions.
Chris Hennington Ph.D.: The possible move to a more hybrid form of teaching will pull the school counselor into a more telehealth model of guidance and counseling. This is a significant shift from just a few months ago, where telehealth was virtually non-existent.