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School and Guidance Counselor


Under the pressure of high school life, students may at times find themselves overwhelmed with school or personal issues or a teacher may need information regarding careers for their students. This is the perfect opportunity to talk to the guidance counselor. Called upon to fill many roles, school and guidance counselors hold a unique position in the educational system by acting as a reference for students, parents and other teachers. They advise students on everything from educational issues, career planning to personal development and help coordinate the provision of counseling services.

One of the main tasks of a guidance counselor is to act as a resource for the students regarding everything from career questions and postsecondary education to personal issues such as problems in school or with family. This means counselors must keep current regarding educational and community resources that are available to assist students as well as teachers.

Another responsibility of the guidance counselor is to administer standardized intelligence, aptitude and interest tests. Counselors are sources of information, so part of their job is to keep learning. Many counselors take professional development courses throughout the year. They must also keep up with current curriculum as occasionally they are called upon to teach as part of their duties.
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  Average Earnings  
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  Interests and Skills  
Guidance counselors have a genuine interest in helping people resolve their problems. They have excellent organizational skills and verbal, written and interpersonal communication skills. They must have strong analytical skills and a knowledge of computers. As counselors they must enjoy coordinating information and creative problem-solving and they must be adaptable to change as their work environment dictates.

It is imperative counselors have an ongoing interest in education as it relates to students, expanding technologies and the job market. They also must be self-directed and organized. Prospective counselors must also demonstrate patience, empathy and the ability to inspire trust with the students whom they are counseling. This job can be very busy and emotional at times and counselors must be able to handle stress when caseloads are high.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Counsel students regarding educational issues such as course selection, school adjustment, truancy, study habits and career planning
  • Counsel students regarding personal and social issues such as substance abuse, depression, sexuality, self-esteem and family problems
  • Consult with teachers and parents regarding various issues and concerns and with administrators and community agencies regarding programs and referrals
  • Coordinate the provision of counseling and information services to students, parents and teachers, such as career information and professional development sessions
  • Administer and interpret standardized intelligence, aptitude and interest tests
  • May teach regular classes
  • A day in the life of a counselor is full of many different activities. Most work is done in regular school hours within the school but they may spend additional hours supervising extra-curricular activities or attending meetings. Counselors may be called upon to help deal with a student's personal issues, teach a class and deal with a truancy issue all in one day. They may also be called upon to interact with outside agencies such as mental health agencies, law enforcement, social workers and religious counselors as needed.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Guidance counselors are employed by elementary schools, secondary schools and school boards. A day in the life of a counselor is full of many different activities. At times they will work alone doing administrative tasks but they are often interacting with students, teachers, parents and outside sources throughout the day. Most work is done in regular school hours within the school but they may spend additional hours supervising extra-curricular activities or attending meetings. Guidance counselors generally work the conventional 10-month school year with two months off during the summer and two weeks off during the holiday season.

  Long Term Career Potential  
There are various options available for guidance counselors depending on their background. Guidance counselors can move to larger institutions, become directors or supervisors of counseling, or wok in guidance personnel services. With further graduate education, they can become counseling psychologists, counselor educators or school administrators.

  Educational Paths  
In order to become a guidance counselor a bachelor's degree followed by a master's degree in counseling psychology, psychology or social work is the minimum educational requirement. Specific requirements may vary among school districts. Graduate courses in counseling are usually required in this field. Before going down this career path you may want to speak to the counselor at your school regarding their daily activities or sit in with them for a few hours to see what a day in the life of a guidance counselor is like.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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