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The Many Hats of A Guidance Counselor: Find Out More About a Career in Counseling

November 11th, 2014 by

Student with Counselor A student needs to vent about a teacher she feels is unfair.  Five schools request transcripts.  OGT tests need to be ordered.  A frustrated parent calls for help with a student’s grades.

You are being called to a two-hour administrative meeting.  Anything can happen on any given day in the job of a guidance counselor.

School counselors can plan their tasks and attempt to keep a schedule, but something always comes up. Flexibility is the key to successful guidance counseling.

Each guidance counselor has their own preferences as to what aspect of the job they like and dislike.  By far, I most enjoy working with my students and seeing positive changes in their development over time.

Being able to observe and guide students through the process of their academic and personal growth is rewarding.  I love seeing the light bulb go off as students realize that they are in control of their own destiny.

Preparing to Become a Guidance Counselor

Individuals can become school counselors whether they have experience working in K-12 schools or not. However, experience with children is essential.  Preparation for the job of a guidance counselor begins every time you walk into a school.

During your time in university classes, you must try to engage in as many experiences with the target population as possible as it is valuable asset to the school counselor’s toolbox.  Students come in all shapes and sizes and if you have experience teaching you may already have had prior dealings with situations that may make you feel more comfortable in dealing with them as a counselor.

Most counseling programs require two years of full-time coursework, including an internship.  Courses include group counseling, program development, school law, counseling adolescents, supervision, and special education. In addition, a pre-practicum is required as well as a 600-hour internship.  Because of the nature of the work, most classes are face-to-face instead of online.

Challenges of Guidance Counseling

As with every job and career, there are challenges to be met.  My least favorite activity is, by far and wide, proctoring tests.  Not only because it is tedious and boring work, but also because I have personal reservations about the value of high-stakes testing.  Testing takes up a ton of time that I would much rather spend on individual counseling.

Another difficulty arises when you have different philosophical beliefs than your superiors, or when they ask you to do tasks that ethically go against the counselor’s roles.  Sometimes administrators are not aware of the boundaries that counselors must abide by and you can find yourself in sticky situations.  You have to make many tough decisions when you are a guidance counselor.

Additional Career Possibilities

A counseling degree can provide options outside of pursuing a traditional school counseling role.  A school counseling degree could lead to jobs in adult education, group homes, virtual schools or job training sites.  Some counselors can work in the corporate arena as trainers or consultants.  Guidance counselors can also specialize in certain types of school counseling, such as special education or college planning, and start their own business.  Counseling positions are often available in college or university advising as well.

What to Expect in Your Role as a Counselor

If you do get hired as a school counselor, don’t expect to do much individual counseling.  Much of the time spent at work is filled with scheduling, record-keeping, administrative duties, test management, and discipline.  If you are graduating with a degree in school counseling, be prepared for this reality.

The best advice I have for prospective counselors is to know your limits, take care of yourself, forgive yourself for not being able to do it all and be ready for anything! A counselor’s job is filled with a lot of different duties, but knowing that you can help students grow and achieve success makes it a worthwhile career choice.

About the Author:

Jennifer Vineyard

I have been in education for 19 years as a teacher, coach, guidance counselor, supervisor and education coordinator. My current position is as a school guidance counselor at an urban charter high school in Cincinnati, Ohio. I am passionate about helping students and aiding them in reaching their highest potential. I currently reside in Loveland, Ohio with my husband and two children.

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