School Counselor Job Description
Do you have a passion for working with kids and making a positive impact in their lives? If you want to work in a school setting but want a more involved role with individual students and the school as a whole, you may consider becoming a school counselor.
As a school counselor, you’re responsible for the academic, social, and emotional well-being of all of the kids in the school. That may sound daunting, but remember that you’re part of a team of teachers, administrators, and staff who are all working toward the same goal.
School counselors do work with kids who are struggling with some school in some way. They may help a child who is having trouble behaving in class or getting along with their friends. They may talk with a kid who’s having trouble at home.
Counselors in a high school setting help students with their future education and careers. They’ll meet with each student and look over their grades and extracurriculars. Counselors will then help the student decide which colleges to apply to or help them pursue a vocational degree.
School counselors also work with teachers and the administration. For example, they may help a teacher who’s having classroom management issues, or work with a principal to help a child who’s frequently getting in trouble. They may also assist in core curriculum writing.
To put it in a nutshell, a school counselor helps the students in a school to realize and achieve their goals while also developing the soft skills that will aid them in their adult lives.
Each state may have slightly different requirements to get a license as a school counselor but most require a similar educational path. You’ll need to start with a bachelor’s degree at an accredited institution. You can major in counseling, psychology, education, or another related major that prepares you to work with children in a counseling and educational capacity.
In most situations and states, you’ll need a master’s degree in school counseling or school psychology. While completing your master’s, you’ll also need to get experience in a school setting. Most programs offer a practicum or clinical that gives you some hands-on experience and lets you observe a school counselor in action.
Many states will require you to take an exam to get your school counselor license. Typically, you’ll take the Praxis II Professional School Counselor exam. This test is the culmination of your learning and experience during your bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Before working in a school, you’ll need to get a criminal background check.
After getting your license, you’re ready for your first job as a school counselor. You may want to apply for an internship that allows you to continue learning before jumping in or you may find a school with an opening so you can begin your career.
Even once you have a job, you’ll be required to continue your education. You’ll need CEUs (continuing education units) to renew your license every few years. You can get CEUs by attending professional development opportunities. You also have the option of getting a specialist or a doctorate if you want to further your career and earn CEUs.
School Counselor Skills
Since school counselors work with children, including those who are struggling, at-risk, or have special education needs, you’ll need a special set of skills to be a competent school counselor.
Communication skills are the most important skills you’ll need. You should be a great listener who can understand exactly what your students are trying to tell you. You should also be able to speak in a way that kids can understand and respond to. Getting through to kids, especially teens, requires a special set of communication techniques.
Empathy is another important trait. Kids of all ages need to feel like someone understands them and is on their side. Some kids are easy to empathize with, but others may be more of a challenge. You have to be able to look past the behavior and see the real issue that lies underneath.
You’ll also need to be able to work well with others. As a counselor, you won’t just be interacting with kids. You’ll also be working with teachers, administrators, family members, therapists, and more. While you may not share the same opinions, everyone has a common goal: helping the child. You’ll need to be able to cooperate and compromise to come up with viable solutions.
Problem-solving skills are a must. You’ll usually be working with kids who are facing some sort of challenge and you’ll need to help them come up with viable solutions. You may be confronted with situations that don’t have a clear-cut answer, so you’ll need to be able to get creative to help students find the best path for them.
As a high school counselor, you’ll need an in-depth knowledge of universities and the admissions process. You’ll need to be able to guide kids toward the schools and careers that are right for them both personally and academically. You’ll need to understand the requirements for various degrees and help students who are heading into a vocation instead of going to college.
School Counselor Duties and Responsibilities
A school counselor has a variety of duties and responsibilities within a school. You’ll work with students daily. You may meet with kids individually, in small groups, or a classroom setting. You’ll help students work through many challenges including:
- Problems with peers
- Family problems
- Academic struggles, including study skills
- Any other concerns that are hindering them academically, developmentally, or socially
As a counselor, you’ll be required to plan school-wide programs concerning mental health and social relationships, such as an anti-bullying campaign. You’ll need to work with teachers, administration, and possibly students to implement these programs.
You’ll work with teachers to identify students who may have an undiagnosed learning disability. You may be responsible for helping them contact parents and coordinate testing.
In the event of a school or local tragedy, a school counselor may be called on to counsel students who are struggling.
Challenges School Counselors Face
While being a school counselor is one of the most rewarding jobs you can do, it does come with some challenges. You’ll often meet with kids who are facing some difficult times in their lives and there won’t always be an easy answer to their problems.
You may work with students who are going through bullying or considering suicide. You may feel like there’s a lot of pressure on you to save every student and fix all of their problems, while that’s simply impossible.
There may also be students who have issues going on outside of school. You may not have much control over these events, unless the student is being abused, which can be frustrating.
What Makes This Job Meaningful?
As a school counselor, you have the power to make positive changes in the lives of the children you work with. You may encounter kids who are in rough places in their life and you can make an impact by helping them through it. You can also help students reach their full potential.
On a larger scale, you can have a positive effect within a school. You may implement programs that can help students change their mindsets, such as developing a positive body image or grow academically, such as through study skills. If you notice something wrong within your school’s culture, such as bullying, you have the power to change that.
School Counselor Job Interview Questions (And How to Answer Them)
Even after going through all of your schooling and preparation, you may still be nervous about your school counselor job interview. Below are a few questions you can expect and some possible answers.
What made you want to become a school counselor?
You can be honest here. Most people go into the education field because they have a passion for helping kids. You can talk about what led you into the field and the impact you hope to have at the school.
How can a school counselor support the mission of the school?
Before interviewing, it’s important to read up on the school and its mission. You can then talk about your plans and how working with the students can help them to meet the school’s mission.
How does a school counselor support students differently than other school staff?
This question is asking you to define your importance and what role you can fill that other staff can’t fill. You may want to talk about how a counselor is an advocate for an individual student. While a teacher may have to focus on 20+ students, you can work with a student individually to help them and can give them much more attention.
As a school counselor, you have the potential to help kids find their way in the world. You can help kids develop and realize their full potential. With your degree in school counseling, you can work at almost any school and have a positive impact.