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What Is a Guidance Counselor?

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Guidance counselors provide support for students and parents.

What is a guidance counselor? Guidance counselors help, guide, and support students.

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Guidance Counselor Responsibilities:

Guidance counselors wear many hats. Their responsibilities can range from helping students sign up for their classes to helping them deal with personal issues. Following is a list of the major responsibilities that school counselors will have on a regular basis:
  • Helping students set up their class schedules each school year.
  • Helping students chart their educational or vocational path after high school.
  • Assisting students as they fill out college applications.
  • Arranging college visits and fairs for students and parents.
  • Advising students and parents on college selection and entry requirements.
  • Delivering character education or other guidance related educational programs.
  • Helping the student body deal with school-wide tragedies like deaths or acts of violence.
  • Providing students with counseling support for personal issues on a limited basis.
  • Informing the authorities of dangerous situations for students as required by law.
  • Ensuring that students meet the necessary requirements for graduation.
  • Helping with and sometimes leading the delivery of standardized tests to students.

Education Required:

Generally, guidance counselors are required to hold Masters or higher degrees in counseling along with specific hours dedicated to supervised counseling hours. If the counseling degree is not specifically focused on education, then additional classes with an education focus might be required. Following are three examples of state requirements for Guidance Counselor certification:

Florida

There are two paths to certification as an educational guidance counselor.

  • Plan One. Individuals are required to hold a master's or higher degree with a graduate major in guidance and counseling or counselor education. They must also have three semester hours in a supervised counseling practicum at an elementary or secondary school.
  • Plan Two. Individuals must have a master's or higher degree with thirty semester hours of graduate credit in guidance and counseling including specific requirements in education such as administration and interpretation of standardized tests and legal and ethical concerns of school counselors. Three of those semester hours must be completed participating in a supervised counseling practicum at an elementary or secondary school.

California In California, counselors must meet the following requirements:

  • They must have completed a post baccalaureate degree study which includes a minimum of forty-eight semester hours in an accredited program that specializes in school counseling. This must include a practicum in an elementary or secondary school.
  • Individuals must also pass the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST) with a score of at least 123.

Texas Texas adds an additional requirement of requiring individuals to have taught for two years before becoming a counselor. Here are the requirements:

  • Individuals must hold a master's degree from an accredited university.
  • They must have completed an approved educator preparation program for counseling.
  • They must have a minimum score of 240 on School Counselor Exam (TExES #152).
  • They must have taught for two years in a public or accredited private school.

Characteristics of Guidance Counselors:

Successful guidance counselors typically exhibit some or all of the following characteristics:
  • Detail oriented.
  • Discreet and trustworthy.
  • Problem solver.
  • Compassionate.
  • Great manager of time.
  • Great communication skills in order to talk to students, parents, and administrators.
  • Tolerant and understanding of student situations.
  • Motivational and enthusiastic for student success.
  • Belief in the ability of all students to succeed.

Sample Salary:

According to the US Department of Labor, the median pay for elementary and secondary schools counselors was $60,000 per year. However, this amount varies by state. Following are a few examples of average school counselor pay:
  • In Florida, the average pay was $52,000.
  • South Dakota: $43,000.
  • Texas: $52,000.
  • California: $61,000.
  • New York: $64,000.
  • North Carolina: $54,000.
  • Missouri: $55,000.
  • Alaska: $46,000.
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