What School and Career Counselors Do
School counselors help students develop the academic and social skills needed to succeed. Career counselors help people choose a path to employment.
School counselors work in public and private schools. Career counselors work in colleges, career centers, and private practices. Both types of counselors generally work full time.
How to Become a School or Career Counselor
Most school counselors need a master’s degree in school counseling or a related field and have a state-issued credential. Some states require licensure for career counselors.
The median annual wage for school and career counselors was $57,040 in May 2019.
Employment of school and career counselors is projected to grow 8 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. Increasing school enrollment is expected to lead to employment growth of these workers.
School counselors help students develop the academic and social skills that lead to success in school. Career counselors help people develop skills, explore a career, or choose an educational program that will lead to a career.
School counselors typically do the following:
- Evaluate students’ abilities and interests through aptitude assessments, interviews, and individual planning
- Identify issues that affect school performance, such as poor classroom attendance rates
- Help students understand and overcome social or behavioral problems through classroom guidance lessons and counseling
- Counsel individuals and small groups on the basis of student and school needs
- Work with students to develop skills, such as organizational and time management abilities and effective study habits
- Help students create a plan to achieve academic and career goals
- Collaborate with teachers, administrators, and parents to help students succeed
- Teach students and school staff about specific topics, such as bullying, drug abuse, and planning for college or careers after graduation
- Maintain records as required
- Report possible cases of neglect or abuse and refer students and parents to resources outside the school for additional support
The specific duties of school counselors vary with the ages of their students.
Elementary school counselors focus on helping students develop certain skills, such as those used in decisionmaking and studying, that they need in order to be successful in their social and academic lives. School counselors meet with parents or guardians to discuss their child’s strengths and weaknesses, and any special needs and behavioral issues that the child might have. School counselors also work with teachers and administrators to ensure that the curriculum addresses both the developmental and academic needs of students.
Middle school counselors work with school staff, parents, and the community to create a caring, supportive environment for students to achieve academic success. They help the students develop the skills and strategies necessary to succeed academically and socially.
High school counselors advise students in making academic and career plans. Many help students overcome personal issues that interfere with their academic development. They help students choose classes and plan for their lives after graduation. Counselors provide information about choosing and applying for colleges, training programs, financial aid, and internships and apprenticeships. They may present career workshops to help students search and apply for jobs, write résumés, and improve their interviewing skills.
Career counselors typically do the following:
- Use aptitude and achievement assessments to help clients evaluate their interests, skills, and abilities
- Evaluate clients’ background, education, and training, to help them develop realistic goals
- Guide clients through making decisions about their careers, such as choosing a new profession and the type of degree to pursue
- Help clients learn job search skills, such as interviewing and networking
- Assist clients in locating and applying for jobs, by teaching them strategies that will be helpful in finding openings and writing a résumé
- Advise clients on how to resolve problems in the workplace, such as conflicts with bosses or coworkers
- Help clients select and apply for educational programs, to obtain the necessary degrees, credentials, and skills
Career counselors work with clients at various stages of their careers. Some work in colleges, helping students choose a major or determine the jobs they are qualified for with their degrees. Career counselors also help people find and get jobs by teaching them job search, résumé writing, and interviewing techniques.
Career counselors also work with people who have already entered the workforce. These counselors develop plans to improve their clients’ current careers. They also provide advice about entering a new profession or helping to resolve workplace issues.
Some career counselors work in outplacement firms and assist laid-off workers with transitioning into new jobs or careers.
School and career counselors held about 333,500 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of school and career counselors were as follows:
|Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private||44%|
|Junior colleges, colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private||35|
|Healthcare and social assistance||7|
|Other educational services; state, local, and private||4|
School counselors often have private offices so that they can have confidential conversations with students.
Most school and career counselors work full time. Some school counselors do not work during the summer when school is not in session.
This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of school and career counselors.
|Occupation||Job Duties||Entry-Level Education||Median Annual Pay, May 2019|
High School Teachers
High school teachers teach academic lessons and various skills that students will need to attend college and to enter the job market.
Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers
Kindergarten and elementary school teachers instruct young students in basic subjects in order to prepare them for future schooling.
Marriage and Family Therapists
Marriage and family therapists help people manage and overcome problems with family and other relationships.
Middle School Teachers
Middle school teachers educate students, typically in sixth through eighth grades.
Psychologists study cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavior by observing, interpreting, and recording how individuals relate to one another and to their environments.
|See How to Become One||$80,370|
Rehabilitation counselors help people with physical, mental, developmental, or emotional disabilities live independently.
Social and Community Service Managers
Social and community service managers coordinate and supervise programs and organizations that support public well-being.
Social and Human Service Assistants
Social and human service assistants provide client services in a variety of fields, such as psychology, rehabilitation, and social work.
|High school diploma or equivalent||$35,060|
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors
Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors provide treatment and advise people who suffer from alcoholism, drug addiction, or other mental or behavioral problems.
Training and Development Specialists
Training and development specialists plan and administer programs that improve the skills and knowledge of their employees.
For more information about counseling and information about counseling specialties, visit
For more information about school counselors, visit
For more information about career counselors, visit
For more information about state credentialing, visit
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, School and Career Counselors,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/school-and-career-counselors.htm (visited ).