How You Can Advance Your Career with a Master’s Degree in School Counseling

James Paterson
James Paterson
M.S. in School Counseling
School counselor advising a female student.

For educators who want to shift careers within education and work directly with individual students and their advocates – often as a member of the school leadership team – a master’s in school counseling may be the right choice.

Those with teaching experience are in a prime spot to move into school counseling, having broad knowledge about the classroom and academics, the operations of a school, and the makeup and motivations of students from having daily experience interacting with them. They have a leg up the job market, because school leaders generally like to hire counselors with a teaching background for those reasons.

Most states require a master’s in school counseling and certification. The master’s programs generally cover the three priorities for school counselors, defined by the American School Counselors Association: Helping students with academic, career and social/emotional development. It describes those responsibilities for counselors concisely in a national model that spells out the role further.

“These domains promote mindsets and behaviors that enhance the learning process and create a culture of college and career readiness for all students,” ASCA says.

It notes that while counselors primarily work directly with students individually, in small groups, or in classroom settings, they must also study and use data, and often collaborate with others – teachers, administrators, parents and community services or other experts.

Colleges often have a separate track in school counseling with fewer requirements for students who have a teaching certificate. One school says it expects graduates will grow to understand and use the ASCA model, and they will learn how to:

  • Become a school leader, by emphasizing the personal/social development of all students and their academic and career readiness;
  • Carry out group and individual counseling services for students in schools, based on the candidate’s knowledge of counseling skills;
  • Coordinate counseling interventions with other professionals, for teachers, parents, and school administrators;
  • Analyze data aggregated through testing and assessment, to identify and advocate for underserved school populations.

There are a number of careers into which an educator can move with credentials or experience as a school counselor.

They can consider becoming school psychologists, which would require further training and a master’s degree for the different responsibilities involved. Some might move on to obtain a doctorate, which prepares them to teach or do research in the field.

Some counselors in high school also might work specifically on college admissions within the school or become independent college consultants, hired by families to help students with the college exploration and application process. Others also move into personal or career coaching.

They may also become college or admissions counselors, who work with students considering and applying to a school.

For those interested in working outside the school setting, school counselors can move into therapeutic counseling in an array of areas, which will require additional training in most cases, and more hours logged with clinical supervision. There are a number of counselor-related positions in service agencies, too, for which school counselor training is a good foundation. Online counseling is also growing quickly.

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