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Are you interested in a career where you directly work with and assist students? If so, becoming a school counselor might be right for you. Counselors are licensed educators who use their master’s degree in counseling (or related field) to help students navigate their academic career and care for their mental health. In other words, a school guidance counselor can also assume the role of a career advisor or mental health counselor1.

School counselors work at all educational levels from elementary school to university. Best of all, they can enjoy a competitive salary coupled with a rewarding day-to-day work environment.  

Where do you start? And what is an average school counselor salary? These questions on school counselor salary and more are answered below.

To learn more about our school counseling degrees, get in touch. 

School Counseling Programs

School counselors may provide:

  • Individual counseling2
  • Group counseling2
  • School-wide program organization2
  • Student assessments2
  • Career counseling2
  • Meetings with parents2
  • Referrals to other mental health professionals2

School Counselor Career Path

An elementary, middle school counselor, or high school counselor would typically have completed an undergraduate degree in psychology or a related subject, before continuing their education by pursuing a master’s degree in the field. 

Most school counselors that work in the public school system must be certified educators. Any school counselor  or school psychologist that provides psychological counseling must have completed a master’s degree and deemed qualified to provide these services to students by the school board. 

When pursuing a master’s degree in school counseling, prospective counselors focus on various subjects related to the role:

  • Group and individual counseling training
  • Career development
  • Social justice
  • Multiculturalism and inclusion
  • Learning and developmental theories

Upon completing their studies, school counselors embark on the certification process. Depending on your state, you may have to go through the following steps to be certified counselors:

  • Supervised clinical work (minimum of 3,000 hours)
  • Classroom experience (up to 2 years at minimum, depending on school district)
  • Teaching license requirements (varies by state)
  • School counselor tests

Once a school counselor or school psychologist has completed all the required training and has become a licensed professional counselor, they are met with various opportunities for full-time employment.

  • Work as a school counselor in the public school system (Kindergarten, Elementary, Middle, or High School)
  • Work at a private school at any level
  • Work for the school board or district 
  • Work as a college or career counselor
  • Work as a counselor at the university level

Salaries will vary depending on which pathway a professional school counselor takes. 

What Determines School Counselor Salaries?

There are various elements that contribute towards variations between salaries for school counselors1. Some of the most common reasons for differing salaries are: 

  • Working for a public or private institution1
  • Your highest level of education—master’s or doctorate (private schools may accept applicants with only a bachelor’s degree)1
  • Your location1
  • Whether you work as a university, high school, middle school, or elementary school counselor1

Average Salaries for School Counselors

Salary Information - So, how much does a school counselor make?

The median salary for school counselors across the United States can be around $57,000, although it can vary according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics3. There are some variations between the average salary levels.

Soft Skills Every School Counselor Should Have

  • Analysis. Part of a school counselor’s job involves reading and interpreting data, whether from career aptitude tests or school achievement reports. The ability to make sense of numbers is a plus1.
  • Compassion. The school guidance counselor is often the first person to hear about troubling or traumatic situations in students’ lives. This professional must respond with genuine concern and understanding1.
  • Interpersonality. Like administrators and teachers, school counselors must be comfortable interacting with and relating to students, parents and colleagues1.
  • Listening. Certified counselors must be good listeners and not rush to judgment when a student just wants to be heard1.
  • Speaking. Whether before a small group or the entire student population, school counselors must be comfortable speaking in public1.

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Pros and Cons of Becoming a School Counselor

There are several employment-related pros and cons to becoming a professional school counselor.

Pros include:

  1. Growing sector – School counselors are always needed with job availability increasing each year and have an excellent job outlook3
  2. Variety of available jobs – Prospective counselors have many options for job placement at various education levels and institutions1
  3. Socially interactive and rewarding work – Counseling requires a high degree of social interaction on a day-to-day basis and focuses on assisting youth1
  4. Job security – School counselors benefit from good job security, especially when working in the public-school system (ability to acquire tenure)

Cons include:

  1. Competition – Acquiring a good school counseling job can be highly competitive with a high number of applicants for each available position1
  2. Busy work – many school counselors must complete a large amount of busy work, such as administrative tasks1
  3. Disciplinary action – counselors are also part of the disciplinary arm of schools, so prospective employees must be comfortable with this type of work1
  4. High turnover – the average turnover rate for a school counselor is less than two years—much higher than other types of educational jobs1

Despite these pros and cons, all school counselors regardless of education level can expect to receive a competitive salary. Browse our online programs at Alliant University today to see which area of study is right for you. 

Start Your School Counselor Career Journey Now

You can begin your school counselor career journey by pursuing a master’s degree in school counseling either online or on campus with Alliant International University. 

Alliant offers prospective school counselors two programs through its California School of Education.

  1. The Credential in Pupil Personnel Services, School Counseling – A hybrid program for individuals who have already completed a master’s degree and are interested in transitioning towards school counseling.
  2. MAE in School Counseling with Pupil Personnel Services Credential – A fully accredited master’s degree and school counseling credential.

Both programs can be completed completely online and revolve around your schedule. Embark on your new career pathway now with Alliant International University.


  1. Editorial Team, "How to Become a School Counselor: Salary, Requirements: Resilient Educator,", August 11, 2020. Accessed November 29, 2021.
  2. Career Explorer, "School Counselor Salary," November 14, 2019. Accessed November 29, 2021.
  3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, "School and Career Counselors and Advisors : Occupational Outlook Handbook," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, September 08, 2021. Accessed November 29, 2021.
  4. MONEY, "School Counselor Salary," Careers. Accessed November 29, 2021.

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