Transitioning from School Teacher to School Counselor: Trading your Classroom for a Counseling Office.

Transitioning from School Teacher to School Counselor: Trading your Classroom for a Counseling Office.

Transitioning from School Teacher to School Counselor: Trading your Classroom for a Counseling Office blog header
Transitioning from School Teacher to School Counselor: Trading your Classroom for a Counseling Office blog header

As a teaching professional it doesn’t take years of experience to recognize that some of the students who show up in your class are dealing with some rather big challenges in their life outside of school. Some students are more vocal than others, and you will hear a great deal about their problems while from others you will never hear a word, even though it seems they carry a burden.

As you teach the assigned curriculum, your mind (and heart) might start considering supporting students in a different way, that of being a school counselor (AKA Guidance Counselor).  Let’s take a deeper look at this important role and how it can shape the lives of your students.

The School Counselor Role

Some consider the school counselor role to be somewhat ambiguous.  While we all know they “support” students, how do they do that? According to the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), school counselors “.... help all students in the areas of academic achievement, career, and social/emotional development, ensuring today's students become the productive, well-adjusted adults of tomorrow.”   

School counselors take an active role in the growth of their students. Students pass through developmental stages with particular challenges at each level. From crying to credits, peer issues to parent expectations, grades to graduation, and careers to colleges, a school counselor deals with it all.  Students are complex, and as educators, we are unable to just “input data” into their brains. While one student is trying to figure out what a possible career could be, another may be facing a genuine learning disability. 

Students come with all kinds of concerns that impact their learning. A school counselor is first and foremost a student advocate. School counselors work within the system and with all parties, including parents, teachers, students, and administrators to ensure that the child is getting the best education possible.   

What is it like to be a school counselor?  

The role of the school counselor is a very fulfilling profession.  Each day you return home with a job satisfaction that warms your heart. Even on the toughest days, you can reflect on celebrations of student success and the listening ear you provided the troubled student.

However, as with all professions, it also comes with its challenges.  Often a school counselor has multiple demands on their time and must learn to assess and prioritize while staying calm.   People will expect you to be a miracle worker, a genie, a motivator, etc., and hopefully, you can accomplish all that with the student in just five minutes.  You will meet some angry parents and occasionally encounter some disrespectful people.  In spite of this, however, you will treat everyone with respect and dignity.  This is one of the primary ethical standards of being a school counselor as proposed by the American School Counselor Association.  School counselors are held to a high standard.  

If you are considering this rewarding profession, you might also have a few questions on how to become a school counselor. Let’s take a look at the most commonly asked questions.

How much does a school counselor make?

U.S. News and World Report has the profession of a school counselor as number six in the top twenty-five social services jobs in 2019 with a median salary of $55,410.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that a 13% growth of the profession is expected between 2016 and 2026.

What education is required to become a School Counselor?  

You need a masters in school counseling to grow in your counseling career.  The coursework prepares you with the background in the history of the profession, psychology, human development, and the theories and techniques of personal counseling.  Some specific subsets such as special education counseling and crisis counseling are also explored.

In addition, there are practicums and internships required to develop these skills in the school setting. This is the hands-on experience and practice that provides the real-life application of the theories and concepts.  It builds your confidence in your new skill set.

Check out the curriculum details of  St. Bonaventure’s University Master of Science in Education School Counseling program.

A licensure exam is required after the completion of the degree to become a licensed professional counselor.  NCMHCE (National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Examination) is the exam used in the state of New York.  Certification to become a counselor in school is done by application with the state certification board.

Next Steps to Becoming a School Counselor: Exploring the Online Option

Many working professionals choose to pursue a master’s level degree online.  Gone are the days when you have to leave your job after a long day to travel to the university and sit in class all evening. Online coursework provides some distinct advantages like flexibility and self-paced learning.  However, only you can decide if it is the right choice for you. 

What should you consider in a potential university? Look for a university that has a certified program that will provide you with an excellent education. Make sure your values match the values of the university. Check out the core values of SBU.  These closely mirror the values mentioned earlier.

Take the leap!  When it comes to improving your skill set, getting a degree, or pursuing a different career, there comes a time when you have to just go for it.  When you look back, there will be a sense of satisfaction that you took on the challenge and conquered it. The outstanding faculty at St. Bonaventure University can help you get started on this rewarding career.