Student Counselor Job Description

Student counselors work closely with students, parents, and educators to improve student outcomes and help students succeed academically and socially both during school and after they’ve graduated. Student counselors work in a variety of school settings ranging from elementary schools to colleges. In any setting, they provide one-on-one guidance to students, listening to their concerns and helping them make healthy decisions.

This role requires extensive preparation, including an internship or other supervised work, along with patience and compassion for students dealing with a range of issues and challenges. Student counselors provide students with a safe and secure space to talk about their problems and work closely with those students to develop and implement solutions.


Student Counselor Duties and Responsibilities

Based on postings that we examined, student counselors share several core responsibilities:

Listen to Student Concerns

The primary duty of a student counselor is listening to students. A student may visit a counselor or receive a referral due to academic, emotional, social, or behavioral concerns. The student counselor listens to the student’s problems in an open and nonjudgmental way, allowing the student to explain what’s troubling them and give the counselor a more complete picture of surrounding circumstances.

Develop Solutions and Goals

Student counselors work directly with students to develop solutions and set goals. These goals can be as simple as developing a timeline for college applications and setting a schedule or as complicated as managing difficult emotions or processing trouble at home. In any case, the counselor listens to the student to learn what they want and proposes actionable goals to resolve these issues.

Mediate and Resolve Conflicts

Many student counselors play an important role in conflict resolution. This includes not only conflicts between students, but conflicts between students and teachers or teachers and parents as well. By assisting with conflict resolution and mediation, the student counselor helps ensure that personal conflicts do not interrupt academic activities or disrupt the student’s goals.

Assist with Career and Academic Development

Another important duty of student counselors is supporting academic and career development activities. They may organize job or college fairs for high school juniors and seniors, provide one-on-one skill assessment and career guidance, or hold test and admission application preparation sessions for students. The student counselor may also provide students with materials related to careers that they are interested in or that would suit their skills.

Develop Counseling Programs

Many student counselors help develop counseling programs within their schools. These can include peer counseling activities that connect students to one another for support, as well as school-wide initiatives like drug and alcohol prevention programs. Student counselors may organize assemblies to address ongoing issues that affect the entire student population or work with teachers on classroom activities.

Connect Students with Care Providers

Student counselors may also need to provide students with access to resources outside of the school to provide further support. A student counselor may provide a student or their parents with a referral to a mental health or substance abuse counselor, for example. Student counselors may also need to report student issues to state agencies if they suspect abuse or neglect.


Student Counselor Skills and Qualifications

Student counselors prepare students for success by helping them with a variety of issues and tasks ranging from behavioral issues to career preparation. Student counselors tend to have a master’s degree, extensive supervised experience, and the following skills:

  • Counseling – effective counseling skills are vital in this role, and student counselors should be able to confidently provide advice and guidance while creating a space where students can express themselves honestly
  • Child development expertise – student counselors work with students of all ages, so they should have an understanding of the different needs of students at every stage of development
  • Communication skills – student counselors need excellent communication skills, including the ability to actively listen to a student’s thoughts, feelings, and concerns, and provide helpful advice
  • Patience and compassion – this role requires high levels of patience and compassion, since student counselors assist students dealing with a range of academic, emotional, social, and behavioral issues
  • Attention to detail – student counselors should also possess a high level of attention to detail to successfully guide students and understand their goals and concerns during a counseling session
  • Collaboration – student counselors work with students, teachers, and parents to guide students toward success, so they should be able to successfully work together while respecting privacy guidelines


Student Counselor Education and Training

This role requires extensive training and professional development. With very few exceptions, states require student counselors to have a master’s degree in school counseling. Additionally, most student counselors have also completed an internship or similar period of supervised employment before finding full-time work. Depending on the state and school, student counselors may also need a state license, certification, or endorsement (particularly if they work in public schools). Finally, many states require that student counselors have some teaching experience or a valid teaching license.


Student Counselor Salary and Outlook

Student counselor salaries can vary from district to district and between private and public schools. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that school and career counselors earn a median annual salary of $55,410. The highest-paid counselors earn more than $91,960 per year, while the lowest-paid 10 percent earn annual salaries of less than $32,660.

The BLS estimates that employment of school and career counselors will grow 13 percent through 2026, which is a faster-than-average pace.


Helpful Resources

We searched the web and found many resources and opportunities to connect and learn if you’re interested in working as a student counselor:

American School Counselor Association – the ASCA is a professional organization for counselors that provides helpful guidebooks and resources along with opportunities to network with other counselors and attend events and conferences

The School Counselor’s Mental Health Sourcebook: Strategies to Help Students Succeed – author Rick Auger explores mental health and the impact it can have on student outcomes while providing advice and guidance for counselors helping students with mental health issues

“The Top 10 Ways School Counselors Can Support Teachers” – this blog post explores the important connection between teachers and counselors and demonstrates ways that both roles can support one another and drive students to success

Career and College Readiness Counseling in P-12 Schools – read this book to learn how student counselors can prepare students of every age group for college and careers through active counseling


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