The Impactful Role of a School Counselor

Working as a school counselor is a worthy and fulfilling career. Its prime aim is to support students in achieving academic and personal goals, and seeing them develop into balanced and well-adjusted adults offers a priceless experience for those who choose this career path.

So, it’s no wonder many professionals who love empowering young people to reach their potential are considering a career in school counseling.

If you would like to know how to break into this highly rewarding profession, keep reading. In this article, we’re going to describe what a career in school counseling involves and explore the benefits it can bring to students and school communities.

Once you’ve reached the end, you’ll have an understanding of what a career as a school counselor could look like for you.

In the article, we’ll also explain how you could become a school counselor through online study, whether you are already working in the field or in a completely different sector, meaning your career within counseling could become a reality sooner than you think.

What is a school counselor?

School counselors are highly educated and licensed professionals who support students with various aspects of their development, these include academic, social, and psychological development.

The work of school counselors empowers students to not only hit their academic goals but also function as active, engaged, and positive members of the school community and of society in general.

The role of a school counselor is generally associated with students’ emotional and mental well-being. Their work enables young people to reach a positive place in their educational journey meaning they are more likely to hit their academic goals and enter the adult world with more confidence and positivity.

What are the duties of a school counselor?

The role of school counselor is a broad and varied one, making it a highly satisfying career for anyone who enjoys seeing young people thrive and reach their full potential.

Their duties include:

  • Identifying student needs and planning and delivering school counseling programs
  • Shaping policies on topics such as bullying and student well-being
  • Supporting individual students with academic goal setting and career planning (note that in some establishments, career counselors will perform this role)
  • Providing short-term counseling services to students
  • Supporting individual students with specific issues affecting their welfare at school, for example, bullying
  • Utilizing conflict resolution methods to bring closure to negative situations among students or between students and teachers or other staff
  • Teaching students about social skills and emotional development
  • Delivering lessons on any other topics relating to personal or academic development
  • Raising awareness in other ways of mental well-being, for example, by supporting national awareness days
  • Referring students to other services as appropriate
  • Liaising with students’ families and caregivers as required
  • Fostering a positive and inclusive atmosphere in the school community

How the work of a school counselor impact students and communities positively

A school counselor will focus on a variety of different areas, using a multitude of techniques to positively impact individual students’ lives and the school community in general.

Let’s take a look at some of these areas of focus:

Conflict resolution

Conflict is an inevitable part of life, especially among students who are developing autonomy and independence. A school counselor will help students recognize conflict and can implement a range of techniques to reduce this. They can provide counseling to deal with its effects, teach techniques such as mindfulness to help them process conflict, and encourage them to seek resolutions. In addition to this, they can act as a mediator between the parties in conflict.

Mental health programs

School counselors design and deliver mental health programs to help foster a supportive learning environment that promotes emotional well-being. These programs act as a strategy and guide to achieving positive mental health in school and a means to set out the different actions required to reach this place. These actions include writing policies on key areas like bullying, offering well-being activities (see the examples listed below), counseling, and more.

Student well-being

One of the most creative and rewarding parts of a school counselor’s role is to devise and deliver activities that promote positive student well-being. These include journaling, yoga, art therapy, resilience workshops, and mental health book clubs to encourage students to express their feelings and promote emotional balance. The use of these can significantly reduce stress levels in students, which can in turn boost productivity in learning.

Bullying prevention

Bullying prevention is a key component of mental health programs in schools and is one of a counselor’s principal responsibilities. They will be involved in shaping the school’s anti-bullying policy and use activities such as educating students on what to do if they experience or witness bullying, raising awareness of the effects of bullying, and using techniques such as role play to reinforce anti-bullying messages.

Counseling services

Clearly, providing counseling is one of the major aspects of the school counselor’s role. Here, they will provide support to students on an individual or group basis at critical times, for example, during transition periods in a student’s academic career or in response to a serious incident such as an accident involving a student. Note that school counselors do not provide long-term counseling or therapy services but can help students and their families find appropriate help in this regard.

In summary, through their roles and responsibilities, school counselors create a safe environment where students can express any issues they are experiencing that are impeding their enjoyment of school and academic success. They also nurture and promote a community where all students are valued and supported and where well-being is placed firmly at the heart of school and community life.

How do I become a school counselor?

The role of a school counselor is a highly responsible one, requiring an elevated level of education as well as personal dedication and commitment.

To become a school counselor, you will need a master’s degree in school counseling and pass the licensure and certification criteria for the state you intend to practice in. You must also commit to continuing education requirements and adhere to the standards for school counselors set out by ASCA (American School Counselor Association).

The good news is that training to become a school counselor can be achieved in a flexible way, even if your bachelor’s degree is not in the field of education. If this resonates with you, you may wish to opt for an online master’s in school counseling. It can be a great option since online education gives you the freedom to study from a location and at a time that suits you.

This mode of study enables you to balance your existing commitments with working towards a satisfying and worthwhile career. One of the main benefits of online learning is the ability to cut out the time and expense of traveling to campus. In addition to this, you are able to study at your own convenience, due to flexible coursework requirements.

Accredited online master’s programs in school counseling will provide you with the foundation you need to build a successful career. They include a wide range of relevant topics, such as conflict resolution in schools, diagnosing psychopathology, and counseling skills, which you will be sure to use on a regular basis when working directly with students. Online master’s programs also provide opportunities for would-be school counselors to take part in practicum and internship placements so that they gain practical experience working in this type of role. One such course that provides all these features is the online Master of Science in Education (MSED) – School Counseling program offered by St. Bonaventure University.

It’s open to candidates with a bachelor’s degree in an education or non-related field, including those already working in counseling, as well as candidates new to this sector. The content of the course covers the essentials you need to know as a school counselor, such as individual and group counseling, communication, and critical thinking.

The program also offers a 100-hour practicum and two internships of 300 hours, so you gain plenty of experience in real-life school counseling scenarios. A coordinator will help you locate local placements for these, ensuring that your practical experiences are as convenient for you as possible. In addition, the St. Bonaventure program is CACREP-accredited, which means it meets the standards required to prepare candidates to work as competent and responsible school counselors.

What are the prospects for a school counselor?

The prospects for a school counselor are excellent in terms of remuneration, variety, and job satisfaction.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for a school counselor is around $60,000 per year.

What’s more, the projected growth rate for this profession for the decade 2022–2032 is 5%, ahead of the national average of 3%. In addition, around 26,600 vacancies for school counselors are predicted to be available per year. It means that school counselors are likely to be in demand over the coming years as their skills and experience continue to be highly sought-after, so there should be no shortage of school counseling vacancies you can apply for.

Working as a school counselor also offers you many options in terms of the settings where you can practice. You may choose to work with the youngest students in elementary school or opt to support older students in middle or high school. So, there is plenty of flexibility within the role.

School counselors may also be employed in colleges, universities, and specialized educational facilities, giving you plenty of scope when it comes to the age and maturity of the students you support and the type of establishment where you work.

Meanwhile, the job satisfaction you will gain from becoming a school counselor makes this a meaningful and rewarding career. School counselors are an essential part of the fabric of school life and can make a real difference to students in terms of both their academic success and overall well-being.

Setting students up for life

When you pursue a career as a school counselor, you are choosing a wide-ranging role with plenty of challenges but also many rewards. It’s also a career that will pay dividends, not just in terms of job satisfaction but also in terms of stability and level of remuneration.

If you enjoy working with young people from diverse backgrounds, each with their own unique needs, goals, and challenges, and helping them be the best person they can be, then school counseling could be for you.

It’s good to know that switching careers to become a school counselor is more accessible than ever, thanks to flexible master’s programs.

Be sure to reach out to a reputable institution if you’re interested in taking that first step towards a role where you could empower students, make a noticeable difference in their lives now, and set them up for life beyond school.