As a school counselor, you are responsible for working with the children who come to you with their problems every day. The things that you do vary depending on whether you work in an elementary school or a high school. Elementary students may need help dealing with bullies or abuse at home. While high school students also suffer from abuse and bullying, they can also feel stressed as they apply for college and worry about dating and making friends. Before you can work as a counseling professional, you must complete your education.
Going to college and finishing your bachelor’s degree is the first step in becoming a counselor. As there are few schools that offer a counseling major, you’ll want to major in a field like sociology, psychology or even social work. As a social work major, you will meet some of the requirements of becoming a licensed social worker once you graduate, which may help you gain more counseling experience. You’ll also want to look for opportunities to gain more experience in college such as doing volunteer work in a shelter or doing an internship in a local school.
During your junior or senior year in college, you need to look at school counseling programs offered by graduate schools. These programs typically only accept students who have a college grade point average of 3.0 or higher and a high score on the GRE. Going to graduate school lets you get the experience necessary to get your license and work in your state. You’ll take classes on working with children and adolescents as well as older students, identifying signs of abuse in students and creating special programs that educate students on issues like sexually transmitted diseases and battling problems in college. These programs also include fieldwork.
Though you can work as a school counselor in some schools with just a master’s degree, most school districts require that you continue your education after going to work. When you reach the doctoral level, you’ll need to do 300 hours of fieldwork or more and have a supervisor look over your work and grade you. You’ll also need to do a dissertation, which is a type of extensive research project. Some students opt to write a detailed paper, but other students do final projects. Your dissertation must contain research that you did on your own based on your field experiences.
Before you look at counseling positions in schools, you should look at the requirements in your state for getting your counseling certification. According to the ASCA, which is a professional organization for counselors, states generally require that you take classes on advanced topics like individual and group counseling, childhood development, testing and research in the field. The ASCA points out that most states require that you do both a practicum and an internship too. You typically need to maintain a high grade point average and do several hundred hours of fieldwork before you can get your license or certification.
Counselors help students overcome the problems they experience at home that can affect them at school as well as the problems they encounter at school. If you want to help students on a daily basis as a school counselor, you will need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree.