Will a Masters in Education Prepare me to be a Guidance Counselor?

Guidance counselors are important members of a school staff. They support students with a variety of situations they may face in school, and they are an invaluable support for teachers. Counselors are important to student success, especially students who may be struggling academically, emotionally or socially. Work as a school guidance counselor is a calling for those who have a heart to help struggling students be successful and plan for a bright future. While training to be a guidance counselor is similar to training to be a classroom teacher, there are some important differences.

Guidance Counselors Are Not Teachers

A guidance counselor works with school students just like a teacher does, but their job is not the same as a teacher. A guidance counselor also needs education that covers the counseling side of their role. Requirements to be a guidance counselor vary by state. Some states allow guidance counselors to work having only completed a regular bachelor level education program. However, such a program does not include training in certain areas, such as group and individual therapy and research study related to therapy. This may leave students unprepared for the practicum and internship they will be required to complete at the end of their schooling. It is better to approach this degree by focusing on school counseling, child psychology or general counseling from the beginning. Those who have already completed an education degree and want to transition into becoming guidance counselors should take the therapy courses that will help them meet the requirements of being a guidance counselor.

Master’s Degrees

Just like with teachers, having a master’s degree is recommended for school guidance counselors, and holding a master degree in counseling is required by some states. Like with the bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree in school counseling is different than a master’s degree in education. A master’s in education focuses on classroom skills and student management but will lack the critical therapy skills school counselors are expected to have. That said, for those who have already completed a bachelor’s degree in education, gaining a master’s in school counseling would be an excellent choice.

Experience, Practicum and Licensure

Hands on experience is a critical part of being prepared to become a guidance counselor. Most counselor preparation programs finalize with a mandatory practicum experience, but this may vary by state. Some states have no official requirements for experience and only say that the graduate must have completed a practicum of any length. Others specify both a 100 hour practicum and a 600 hour internship. It is obviously important to check state requirements before planning out an education goal. Once this experience is completed, the graduate will usually need to pass state-specific licensure exams. Licensure of a school counselor is the same or similar to that for teachers in many states. Usually, the licensure exams are also the same. Like a certified teacher, the guidance counselor will need to plan continuing education credits to maintain their license and renew it every several years.

It is important to remember the distinctions between teachers and counselors. They both work in schools, and they both work with students, but the demands and requirements for their jobs are very different. Whereas a teacher is managing a classroom, a counselor more often works with students one-on-one or in small group settings. Schools, however, need both teachers and guidance counselors to fully support students and help them be successful.