How to Become a School Counselor
School counselors give students the tools they need to process and manage the variety of challenges and obstacles they face. Counselors play a vital role as members of the education system’s support team, providing students socio-economic support and academic support.
Most importantly, school counselors are trained to identify and help the students most likely to fall through the cracks in the education system. They have the expertise to help at-risk students before their issues reach a crisis point.
For those interested in becoming a school counselor and helping guide students to success, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a concentration in elementary education or secondary education offers the educational foundation needed for students to move on and earn the required master’s degree in school counseling.
The Role of a School Counselor
The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) defines school counselors as “certified/licensed educators who improve student success for ALL students by implementing a comprehensive school counseling program.” Those programs are designed to improve student outcomes.
In the past, a school counselor’s primary role involved providing academic support. For example, counselors have traditionally helped juniors and seniors in high school select a college to further their education.
But that role has greatly expanded. School counselors work at all levels of education, helping students apply academic achievement strategies, manage their emotions, and improve their interpersonal skills. For those who work in high schools, a key component of the job continues to be helping students plan post-secondary options that include going to college, joining the military, or entering the workforce.
Some of the typical duties for a school counselor including the following, according to the ASCA.
- Working with individual students on academic planning and goals
- Creating school counseling classroom lessons based on student success standards
- Providing students short-term counseling
- Giving referrals to students for long-term support
- Collaborating with families, teachers, administrators, and the community for student success
- Becoming an advocate for students
- Using data analysis to identify student issues, needs, and challenges
- Working to improve equity and access, achievement, and opportunities for all students
School Counselor Qualifications
Qualifying for the challenging, rewarding job of a school counselor requires meeting the strict standards of the profession. The typical steps for becoming a school counselor are:
- Earning an undergraduate degree in Behavioral Science or Education
- Earning a Master’s Degree in School Counseling
- Fulfilling continuing education requirements
- Getting state certification as a school counselor
- Upholding ASCA Ethical Standards
The extensive ethical standards cover the school counselor’s responsibilities to students, schools, parents/guardians, and to themselves. Topics covered include bullying, identifying at-risk students, the ethical use of data, and providing leadership to promote positive change within the school system.
How a TUW Degree Helps Aspiring School Counselors
The first step for future school counselors is earning a bachelor’s degree that will prepare them for a master’s degree program in counseling. The TUW BA in Psychology with a concentration in elementary education or secondary education accomplishes that goal.
Graduates from the program learn the skills necessary to work in school or counseling settings. Courses in the program prepare them to pursue a graduate degree. Students take 45 credit hours of general education, 39 credits in core courses, 24 credits in electives, and 12 credits in their chosen concentration.
The courses in the concentration provide students a detailed understanding of how to apply psychology to an elementary or secondary school setting. For example, those in the elementary education concentration take the following courses:
Structured English Immersion Foundations
Students study the psychology of new language acquisition, including comparing and evaluating various language educational models. These include Structured English Immersion (SEI), English as a Second Language (ESL), and bilingual.
U.S. History and Constitution
Students explore the political and social development of the United States. The course emphasizes the colonial period, the U.S. Constitution, and American institutions up to the Civil War.
Students learn the psychological principles, theories, and methodologies that relate to teaching and learning. The course emphasizes developmental, learning, and motivational theories.
Theories of Reading
Students explore the general theories and cognitive models of reading, drawing on ideas from linguistics and cognitive psychology. Topics covered include writing systems, the brain region involved in reading, factors associated with reading difficulties, the relationship between language and intelligence, and the complicated human language processing system.
Because the program is 100% online, students have the flexibility to schedule their classwork around busy personal and professional schedules. Students receive more of their professor’s time as TUW keeps classes smaller.
The university also offers a generous credit transfer policy and provides an abundance of support for incoming students designed to champion their success at TUW.
For those who want a career that makes a significant, positive impact on students’ lives, becoming a school counselor is a great choice. Earning a BA in Psychology with a concentration on elementary education or secondary education provides the foundation for students to move on to a graduate degree program in school counseling.