March 2, 2024

School counselors work with a school support team to provide a counseling program for students. They ensure equity and access for all and relate the program to the school’s improvement plan and academic mission. Professionals in this role must have a robust understanding of social culture, behavior and career development. School counselors provide a safe environment for children and young people to discuss their worries and concerns. They work with students to develop academic and social skills that can improve behavior, grades and friendships.

Counselors in schools develop and implement counseling programs to improve student outcomes. They work with students in career, academic, social and emotional development. These areas are connected, and each one is important in achieving success at school. Improved student motivation and performance can improve a school’s educational outcomes. Teaching behaviors and attitudes that improve learning can benefit students when they leave school. Counselors provide individual and group counseling in schools, which helps students to gain confidence and learn coping mechanisms for challenging situations. School counselors typically have a master’s degree. They are in demand by schools and have many employment opportunities.

Qualifications and career outlook

There are specific educational and licensing components needed to become a counselor. A higher education qualification of a bachelor’s degree in counseling or psychology is required. After this, an aspiring counselor must attain a master’s degree in counseling, psychology or social work, often with a specialization. They can then apply for licensure. The requirements vary depending on the territory or state.

You can prepare to become a licensed school counselor by enrolling in the Master of Education in School Counseling offered by St. Bonaventure University. This program allows students to develop skills in individual and group counseling, cultural competencies, communication, critical thinking and the counseling role. They practice what they learn in the community with a practicum and two internships. Student success advisors support students throughout the program.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of school and career counselors and advisors is projected to grow by 5% from 2022 to 2032. This growth is faster than the average for all occupations. Schools are expected to employ more counselors to support their students’ developmental, academic and career-planning needs.

Social and emotional development

School counseling involves working with students with family, social and mental health problems. Counselors must understand the cultural and social mores that affect behavior and relationships at school. They are trained to identify problems that may impact a student negatively, such as friendship difficulties, bullying and academic struggles. School counselors help students to develop interpersonal skills, manage emotions and learn behaviors that enhance learning. School performance can be badly affected by high-risk behavior, such as violence, depression, sex, substance and alcohol abuse, and attempted suicide.

Counselors can identify these behaviors, support students and refer them to specialist services. These professionals run support programs to help students overcome problems and build positivity and confidence. Some school counselors run support groups for students with issues such as social anxiety, dealing with grief, mindfulness, LGBTQ+ or study skills.

The school counseling role can include developing counseling programs, individual and small group counseling, and improving students’ social and emotional wellbeing. School counselors have knowledge and understanding of child and adolescent development. They use counseling theories to underpin and inform their practice. They liaise with teachers to ensure a mutual understanding of each child and their needs.

Academic development

School counselors support students to achieve success in many ways. They help them develop the attitude and behavior to improve academic performance. School counseling programs use data to develop educational goals related to students’ interests and abilities and promote equality of opportunity. School counselors liaise with teachers to share knowledge and work together to create a positive learning environment. There is an emphasis on building relationships between schools, students, families and the community to support students in reaching their potential.

These professionals assess school programs to identify problem areas and work with teaching staff to address them and enable students to succeed. They contribute to academic and educational outcomes by improving student motivation and performance. They use data to identify student needs and run counseling programs to help students develop educational goals that reflect their interests and abilities. School counselors work with teachers to create a culture that encourages students to reach their potential. They work to remove barriers to success and ensure equality of opportunity for all students.

Career education

School counselors understand that all students have values, interests and skills that can lead to future opportunities. Leaving school can be challenging for young people as they transition into the outside world, and students are supported in developing the knowledge and skills they need to do well in the world of work. School counselors work with teachers, students, families and the community to ensure that students know what options are available and have a career pathway to follow. The options could be an apprenticeship, college, university or getting a job.

Career education is provided throughout the students’ time at school. Students learn about different careers by doing community projects, work experience and visiting careers fairs. School counselors work with teachers to ensure that career development is always part of the curriculum. School counseling teaches students about educational and occupational options, how to develop self-awareness around abilities and ambitions, and how to make career decisions and set goals. Students can be motivated by having short-term and long-term goals. Career development can have a positive effect on school performance and can also help with retention.

School counseling programs

School counseling programs should include preventive and early intervention measures and the referral of students who need specialist help or long-term counseling. Counselors educate children, teachers and parents on mental health. They also promote healthy lifestyles and try to encourage open and non-judgmental attitudes to mental illness. These professionals use appraisals to help students understand their skills, abilities, interests and achievements, and they make recommendations based on appraisals and other data.

Counselors in schools know how to recognize mental health warning signs, though this can be more difficult with children as growing up involves constant change. When a student is mentally unwell, it may be apparent because of behavior, mood or personality changes. They may become withdrawn and stop engaging with others, or they could become angry and irritable and take unusual risks, which could be harmful. Some young people may use damaging coping mechanisms, such as increased sexual activity or unhealthy relationships.

Best practices are followed to develop and implement school counseling programs that improve student outcomes. Counselors understand how the student demographics, socio-economic environment and resources combine to allow the school’s improvement plan to succeed. By running inclusive counseling programs, these professionals are important in ensuring the success of disadvantaged groups and special needs students. They create a safe environment and promote equal access so that students can reach their academic potential and develop essential social skills. Emotional regulation strategies and conflict resolution can assist students in dealing with challenging situations and adapting to their environments.

Studies have shown that students of color and students from low-income families benefit particularly from contact with school counselors. When there are the number of counselors in schools recommended by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), students have better academic outcomes, improved attention, fewer disciplinary incidents and higher graduation rates.

Individual counseling

Individual counseling is provided when students need it. The counselor’s role is to provide support to help students overcome challenges affecting their school performance. The kind of topics that school counselors help with include bullying, divorce, problem-solving and conflict resolution. It is recommended that school counseling is short term. Individual counseling takes time and can limit how many students the counselor can see. However, it is provided to the students who will benefit from it.

The counselor aims to teach students how to manage different situations. They explain how long the sessions will run for, and agree on a goal for the student to work toward. The student is involved in goal planning, so they are focused and motivated. Studies have found that success rates and long-term change are improved if parents and carers are involved. School counselors involve teachers, who also make a difference in the success of an intervention.

Small group counseling

The students, teachers or parents/carers can request small group counseling places. Small groups usually meet every week for six to eight weeks. Counselors will communicate with teachers to find the best time and day to meet. Students can learn more about themselves, increase their confidence, develop coping strategies and interact with others. Counselors help students to practice skills using role play, discussion, art, music and books.

Members for the group can be identified with a school needs assessment. Short interviews can be used to explain the purpose and content of the group, and permission forms can be given if they are interested. Group counseling involves students building supportive relationships and working on activities. It is an efficient and effective way to support students with situational concerns and social/emotional developmental issues. Group counseling can help to reduce negative emotions and social isolation and build a sense of belonging and new relationships. The students benefit from a trusting and caring environment, allowing them to share their concerns.


Counselors screen potential group members and address the group’s purpose, goals, informed consent, voluntary participation and confidentiality. Best practice includes parental/carer agreement and student consent to participate. School counselors recognize and address student mental health needs and crises. They provide short-term interventions such as small group counseling until the student is connected with the right help. Group counseling is an important part of a school counseling program. The school counselor’s training in group processes benefits students, their families and teachers.

Data collection

School counselors can use a data-collection school counseling program, which means that counseling decisions can be based on available data and achieve the best outcomes. Counselors can interpret program data to see how student performance has changed. The school’s counseling program focuses on students’ needs by reviewing the school’s data. Understanding the data can ensure that the school counseling program is equitable and every student has the benefit of the program. School counselors review data to recognize patterns and trends across grades and years. They use data to determine if program interventions, strategies and activities have been effective and to make decisions about future practice.

Counselors can use data about family and social circumstances to help struggling students. The data collected by teachers and administrators is reviewed by the counselor, but they need additional information to intervene effectively for students. The best way to get accurate information is to ask the students directly. Once they have this data, they can develop counseling programs.

The service

The role of a school counselor is multi-faceted and requires advanced qualifications and training. Counselors liaise with teachers to develop and implement counseling programs that help improve a school’s outcomes. They provide services to support students with career, socio-emotional and academic development. These areas of development are all connected, and the counselor aims to help every student develop across the board to reach their full potential at school.

School counselors provide individual and group counseling to increase self-awareness and confidence and teach coping strategies. They keep students safe and well looked after, and provide an invaluable service to students and schools.