Guidance Counselor Degree

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What is a Guidance Counselor?

A guidance counselor and related guidance services is an area of study that relates to the prudent understanding of children in a school atmosphere.  Counselors are tasked to help provide all children with a safe atmosphere in which to confide and receive assistance from the counselor. Individuals in this field will be familiar with techniques to build confidence and relationships with students, as well as provide them with helpful information and direction in regards to their studies, personal life, and future as needed. This field deals primarily with children, and as such counselors should be patient, understanding, respectful and capable.

Top Guidance Counseling Degrees

If you are considering earning a degree to become a guidance counselor, the best approach is to get the facts from schools before applying.  Schools have differing curriculum and differing pedagogy so gathering information about guidance counseling degrees from regionally and nationally accredited colleges & universities is a key to your future success.  We have culled a list of programs below to help you better understand the options available and what to expect within each program.  It is important to know the U.S. Department of Labor publishes data annually about a wide variety of vocations and fully 93% of guidance counselors responding in their survey have a master’s degree with the balance being split between a bachelor’s degree and a doctoral degree.

Bachelor’s Degree in Guidance Counseling

A bachelor’s degree in guidance counseling is a 4-year degree program conferred as a Bachelor’s of Arts (BA) at select colleges and universities around the country.  A bachelor’s degree blends liberal arts classes like philosophy, English composition, and sociology with core psychology courses.  The core classes include programs such as educational psychology, human development, introduction to school counseling, educational assessment, and school counseling theory.  Depending on your state of residence and requirements of your school district, you may be required to take additional courses in educational counseling or obtain a counseling certificate coupled with qualifying work experience to begin work in the field.

Master’s Degree in Guidance Counseling

The master’s degree in guidance counseling or educational counseling is the most common entry-point into the field of school counseling.  The master’s degree in guidance counseling can be conferred as a Master’s of Arts (MA) or a Master’s of Science (MS) depending on the school’s curricular design of the program.  A master’s degree will take 2-3 years to complete as a function of course load, pace, and time invested in the thesis project.  Courses in the master’s degree program include upper level classes in school counseling theories, group counseling, school safety, crisis prevention, counseling diverse populations, consultation skills, counseling children, research & statistics, counseling adolescents, addiction therapies, career development, human growth & development, family systems, psychopathology, and multicultural counseling.  In addition to graduate courses, students will generally spend time in a school-approved internship and 1-2 of a residency program.

Doctorate Degree in Guidance Counseling

The doctorate degree in guidance counseling is a degree conferred as a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in most schools.  The PhD program is a 4-6 year program dependent upon course load, pace, residency, and time invested in the board-approved dissertation project.  Classes in the PhD program will typically include the following: advanced child & adolescent therapy, family dynamics, qualitative research, quantitative research, advanced psychopathology, preventative counseling, human sexuality, marital & couples therapy, advanced coaching, and disaster trauma.  Students graduating from an accredited college or university with a PhD in guidance counseling will be equipped to step into a variety of careers such as: licensed professional counselor, writer, researcher, school administrator, mental health director, clinical practitioner, college professor, non-profit agency manager, or counseling manager.

Educational Requirements for Guidance Counselors

A degree in counseling and guidance services prepares an individual with the skills and knowledge necessary to operate in a school environment and assist students by providing a safe environment to discuss problems and plan for the future. A typical education will require at least a master's level degree and involve the study of multiple science disciplines, including psychology and behavioral science. Individuals studying in this field should also be compassionate, with the ability to empathize and listen.

A curriculum in counseling and guidance services may include:

  • Addiction Counseling
  • Stress Management
  • Adolescent Psychology
  • Adolescent Behavior
  • Crisis Intervention

Online Schools Other Students Requested Information From:

Employment Opportunities for a Guidance Counselor

A career as a guidance counselor requires the individual counselor to take into confidence students of various ages and backgrounds, and assist them in dealing with issues that may occur. These may include stress, frustration, assistance with planning the future, or may run deeper, including abuse, addiction, or other serious problems. A guidance counselor must be able to listen without judgment and offer assistance as needed, following regulations regarding specific scenarios as demanded by the state.

Most employers will be public schools, which require some form of credential as required by the specific state. Most states will require at least a master's degree to obtain a credential, and most employers prefer individuals with master's degrees due to the sensitivity of the work, and the added education benefiting students. Counselors working in a private practice will be required to obtain licensure, which requires a master's degree and up to 3000 hours of supervised clinical experience.

Job Growth & Careers for a Guidance Counselor

Job opportunities are expected to grow at a rate of 8% over the next decade as student enrollment at all levels of education increases.  The increase in enrollment will require additional professional services from counselors, resulting in a moderate number of new openings. This growth in employment will result in an additional 79,700 jobs in the coming decade providing ample opportunities for qualified counselors.  The average salary of a guidance counselor is approximately $54,560 per year, with varying median wages for different sectors.

Individuals interested in counseling and guidance services may also be interested in social work, substance abuse and addiction counseling, family therapy, mental health counseling, addiction counseling, rehabilitation counseling, or counseling psychology.  Additional resources for a student studying to become a guidance counselor include a variety of associations.  Top ranked associations for guidance counselors include the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) and the American Counseling Association (ACA).

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Related Areas of Study

Career Summary: Guidance counselor Major




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