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Grad Program: School Counseling and Guidance Services

Basic Information

Guidance and school counselors help students work through emotional turmoil, navigate social conflicts, and make decisions about possible career and educational tracks. While some college counselors work at colleges and universities, guidance and school counselors work in public, private, vocational, charter, and special-education schools at the elementary, middle, and secondary levels. Counselors meet one-on-one and with groups of students and parents to work out solutions to problems and provide students with life skills, such as resume writing and college-application completion, necessary to succeed academically and in the world.

Some guidance and school counselors have social work backgrounds, though most study in guidance and school counseling programs offered through universities’ education and psychology departments. As with social work programs, field work and supervised practicum are large parts of guidance and school counseling programs.

Degree Information

The most common degree for guidance counselors is a master’s in education (M.Ed.) or master of arts in counseling (M.A.). Programs provide a combination of classwork and fieldwork (which, in this case, often happens to be in school settings. Programs vary from one to three years and, almost without exception, prepare students for certification within that state; make sure the program you’re looking at is certified by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Education Related Programs (CACREP). Note that some institutions offer post-master’s certificate programs and, for those interested in teaching counseling at the post-secondary level and/or attaining high-level administrative positions at boards of education or universities, many offer Ph.D. programs as well.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Degree Program
  • In what state do you want to work? Certification for guidance counselors is different in most states; in some, it even requires a teaching certificate.
  • Do you want to work with a certain population (i.e. people with special needs)?
  • Do you want to work at the elementary, middle, or secondary levels?
  • What fieldwork placements does the school offer?

Ask an Educational Advisor