Education and Other Requirements
Salaries and Benefits
Job Description and Duties
assist people with personal, family, educational, mental health, and career
decisions and problems” (“Counselors” 1). “While helping students plan
for college and careers is part of their job, a guidance counselor’s overall
function is to talk to students, give advice, listen to problems, help students
develop coping skills and learn to become good problem-solvers and
decision-makers on their own” (“Guidance Counselors”).
Specifically, school counselors play a major role in the social,
emotional, and academic development of their students.
profession interests me for two reasons. First
of all, I like to talk with people of all types.
Second of all, I am always concerned with the feelings of others.
The combination of these two qualities of mine is what makes becoming a
guidance counselor my goal.
in the 1920’s, some school systems in such major cities as Boston and New York
offered their students vocational guidance.
These programs ended during the Depression when money was scarce.
It was not until after World War II that guidance departments were formed
in schools. This was a result of
many reasons. “Students lost
their individual identity in the crowds of fellow students” (“Guidance
Counselors”) in big city schools. New
jobs were created with advances in technology.
More students planned to attend college.
Parents were unable to help their children in these areas.
These and other services had to be provided by trained individuals, the
and Other Requirements
To be a counselor in a school in the state of Pennsylvania, an individual needs to have a Masters Degree and a state certification in their particular level of counseling. For example, one possibility is to have a Masters of Science Degree in Counseling and Human Relations with a certification in School Counseling. The certification may be dual, meaning one certificate for two areas of school counseling–Elementary School and Secondary School. This covers kindergarten through twelfth grade.
A person may be able to get a Masters Degree in Counseling without a related undergraduate (Bachelors) degree. However, extra courses may need to be taken. It is most beneficial if a school counselor has teaching experience which means the Bachelors degree would be in some kind of education.
Following is a list of courses, which may be required for a future school counselor:
· Guidance Services
· Group Dynamics
· Theories of Counseling
· Methods of Research
· Counseling for Human Differences
· Assessment Methods in Guidance
· Counseling and Consultative Techniques in the School
· Group Procedures in the School
· Practicum in Elementary or Secondary Guidance
· Advanced Practicum (Practicum is when the counselor in training goes into a school and practices what was learned at college, and learns from the employed counselor.) (Handbook 13-16).
The future outlook for employment of school counselors is good. The field is expected to grow because of increasing enrollments, mostly in secondary and post-secondary schools. Counselors are becoming more involved in crises and helping students deal with issues ranging from drug and alcohol abuse to death and suicide. The job growth among counselors may depend on budgetary constraints. If funding is tight, schools prefer to hire new teachers before new counselors because they want to keep the classroom size at an acceptable level.
A counselor is paid according to the teachers’ professional contract. This is negotiated every two to five years. A typical public school counselor will earn from $25,000 to $80,000 per year. The salary schedule reflects a person’s experience and the level of education attained. The steps are unique to the particular district. Education levels may include a Bachelors Degree, a Bachelors Degree plus fifteen credits, a Masters Degree or a Masters Equivalency, a Masters Degree plus fifteen credits, a Masters Degree plus thirty credits, a Masters Degree plus forty-five credits, a Masters Degree plus sixty credits, or a Doctorate. The earnings are printed out on a chart and increase for each year of experience in the district. This may be from a first year teacher to a maximum amount after sixteen years. Again, the number of years to get to the maximum level is different from district to district. There is a salary schedule figured for each year of the contract. A negotiated cost of living increase is the basic difference from year to year.
Typically, an average of three personal days and ten sick days are given to the employee each year. There is often a monthly fee for health and dental benefits. Workman’s compensation may be offered as a choice.
A counselor will get a paycheck every two weeks. Most school districts offer an option to get the annual salary divided over either ten months (22 checks) or twelve months (26 checks). Besides the usual deductions, money is taken out for the state retirement fund. The amount of money received during retirement has just increased.
Counseling in schools includes a wide variety of activities and services. The following list will describe the services of a school-counseling program.
· Individual Counseling- School counselors provide individual sessions for students to help with educational and personal concerns.
· Group Counseling- Students help each other by working in small groups with leadership from the counselor. Students share ideas about issues such as problem solving, educational planning, and peer relationships.
· Group Guidance- Counselors meet with groups to help students learn information about themselves. Groups can be small or large and are instructional. The topics might focus on self-concept, study skills, friendship, or good citizenship.
· Student Appraisal- Counselors help students, parents, and teachers by collecting information about student abilities, behaviors, and achievement so decisions can be made about educational placement and instructions.
· Referral- Counselors are referral agents who help students and their families receive assistance from other programs and services in the school system and from agencies outside the school.
· Consultation- Counselors consult with teachers and parents to plan appropriate services for every child. Consultations focus on the individual needs of the child.
· Coordination- Counselors coordinate services and activities for smooth administration. An example would be the coordination of school standardized testing schedules (Schmidt 26-27).
In order to fully understand these services it is necessary to understand what counseling is about. Counseling is a process involving a relationship between two people who are meeting so that one person can help the other to resolve a problem. In group counseling the roles of helpers can be shared and interchanged among the group members. The group counselor would then be called a facilitator (Thompson 13).
It is necessary to listen for three pieces of information children bring to counseling sessions: 1) their problem or concern, 2) their feelings about the problem, and 3) their expectations for what they want the counselor to do. Most problems may be classified in one or more of five categories: 1) conflict with others, 2) conflict with self, 3) lack of information about self, 4) lack of information about the environment, and 5) lack of skill. An important part of the counseling process for children involves training in communication, assertion, and effective study habits (Thompson 14).
The counselor’s attitudes and skills are very important to the quality of the counseling relationship. The qualities and behaviors present in very effective counselors are as follows:
· Intellectual Competence- counseling requires a person to have adequate knowledge of many different areas. This involves searching for data to make informed decisions about choice of plan and progress of student.
· Energy- Counseling is emotionally demanding. When dealing with problems counselors are likely to feel emotionally drained and physically fatigued. Being dynamic produces student confidence and a willingness to work.
· Flexibility- Effective counselors are not tied to a single method of work. The question they ask is “Which technique will work best for this particular student?”
· Support- The student experiences the fact that here is someone who respects him as he is.
· Good Will- The counselor’s motives and intentions are positive and constructive rather than negative and destructive.
· Self-awareness- All our feelings and thoughts influence the way we handle certain things in the counseling relationship (Cormier 12-13).
In school counseling there are both advantages and disadvantages of the job. The main advantage is that you get to touch the life of a child. You are able to reach out and help someone solve a problem or feel good about him or herself. This is very important because it helps the student grow emotionally and be ready for more challenging life events.
Another advantage would be that you have the opportunity to work with a variety of professionals who all are concerned about the welfare of the child. Psychologists, social workers and various therapists would be examples.
An unusual advantage is that you get most of the summer as well as holiday weeks off. The pay and benefits are also thought to be excellent.
The main disadvantage of school counseling is that it is both emotionally and physically draining. Counseling itself can become very difficult because you are listening to the problems of others everyday and many times there can be no solution. “Dealing daily with these problems can cause stress” (“Counselors” 1).
Another disadvantage is that you work for many people. The principal, vice principals, teachers, parents, and students all demand time and attention from you.
Secondary school counseling is an occupation with many responsibilities. He or she must respond to the most mundane problems of a child to crisis situations. A solid college and graduate school education, along with training and experience, are the requirements. Then, counselors can help students to understand and learn to deal with the intellectual, emotional, social, and physical changes that occur in the student’s transition from childhood to adolescence, and finally to a young adult.
Personally, I feel that I would be an excellent guidance counselor. Firstly, I am a good listener, which is a necessary quality. Secondly, I empathize with the problems of others, and genuinely care about their feelings. Very often, students need to understand why things happen the way that they do. I would explain clearly based on their backgrounds and experiences. Finally, the field of education has been part of my entire life. Both of my parents are teachers, and conversations often reflect situations that occur in their schools. I have always been interested and involved in these family discussions.
For more information, go to http://stats.bls.gov/ocohome.htm