School and career counselors and advisors work with (sometimes stressed) individuals dealing with difficult choices. Hired by public and private schools, social programs, and work placement companies, school and career counselors work with clients and students who are trying to make the best decisions about their futures.

Because of the importance and relevance of what they do for most students and professionals, school and career counselors (sometimes called educational, vocational, or occupational counselors) compose the largest group of any kind of counselor, almost 41% of the entire field.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2008:

  • 54% of school and career counselors worked for elementary schools and high schools
  • 15% worked for colleges and universities
  • 7% worked for junior colleges
  • 7% worked for vocational rehabilitation services
  • 3% worked for individual and family services
Where to work Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

For more information on online counseling degrees, CLICK HERE.

School and Occupational Counseling Career Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 275,800 school and occupational counselors in 2008. Career opportunities are expected to be favorable for school counselors as schools grow and post-secondary education becomes more common. They are also expected to be favorable for career counselors, as multiple career changes become more common.

School and career counselors are expected to add 38,600 new jobs over 10 years, for a 2018 total of 314,400 positions. That's a 14% growth rate, significantly higher than the 8.2% expansion of the civilian workforce expected over the same time period.

Real job opportunities for school and career counselors will be even better than that estimate. According to the Occupational Information Network, a project of the Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration, there will be 94,400 positions available to qualified substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors from 2008 to 2018. That figure includes those 38,600 predicted new positions AND positions vacated by retirement, career change, early termination, etc.

School and Career Counseling Earnings

School and career counselors are generally very well paid. According to the BLS, the annual median wages for school and occupational counselors in 2008 were $51,050. The middle 50% of the field made between $38,740 and $65,360 a year, while the bottom 10% made less than $29,360 and the top 10% made more than $82,330.

Earnings Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Earnings for school and occupational counselors vary by the candidate's education and work history, and by the employer's industry. School counselors who worked for elementary and high schools earned the most, with median annual wages of $57,800. Counselors that worked in individual and family services earned the least of any large group: an annual median of $33,780.

School and Career Counseling Educational Benefits

Because of their proximity to young students and the lasting influence that educational decisions may have on their lives, school counselors have the most rigorous licensing requirements of any counseling field. All states license school counselors, and most license career counselors. Licensing requirements generally include a master's degree and several thousand hours of supervised experience.

According to the Occupational Information Network, the vast majority – 73% – of professional counselors have a bachelor's degree or higher. Only 9% have no formal education beyond a high school diploma, and the remaining 18% have completed some college, including counseling associate's degree programs.

Educational Achievement Source: Occupational Information Network

Counseling programs generally include coursework in areas like psychology, sociology, human development, social and cultural sensitivity and diversity, and counseling techniques.

School counselors focus on developmental science and disorders, and are generally experts in educational and occupational information that is useful to students of all ages who are considering continuing their education or starting a career. Career counselors have a similar knowledge base, but tailored towards older, working professionals who are considering career changes.

School and Career Counseling Degrees Online

There are a growing number of online school and career counseling master's and doctoral programs offered through accredited educators. Because of the rigorous licensing standards in place for counselors in general and school counselors specifically, you MUST make sure that the online school counseling or occupational counseling degree you are considering will meet the entry requirements of your state. Generally, that means that online school counseling programs should include rotations, practicum, and other supervised experiential components.

The best online school and career counseling programs provide an education as good as one pursued at a local ground school, in a more flexible and remote format that may be better suited to working students. As with all expensive and important educational decisions, do your research when choosing an online counseling degree program at any level. Is the school accredited? Do credits transfer? What are people saying about this program specifically and this school in general? The answers to many of these questions can be found on this Web site, but don't be afraid to ask your admissions counselor difficult questions.

School and Career Counseling Skills and Abilities

School and career counselors work one-on-one with individuals, and in larger groups. They should be strong organizers, able to keep track of many students and clients at once and give relevant, critical advice.

School and career counselors of all types must be excellent listeners and communicators, able to effectively gather information about what their students and clients want out of an education or career. They must be knowledgeable and articulate enough to offer expert advice on how to get there.

School and career counselors often work as part of a counseling team. To maximize cohesion and effectiveness, they should be able to cultivate positive relationships with their coworkers, in addition to their students and clients.

School and Career Counseling Qualification and Advancement

Completion of a school or career counseling master's degree and successful completion of all state licensing requirements qualifies graduates for entry-level positions as School Counselors or Career Counselors.

Doctoral work may be a prerequisite for supervisorial positions in educational and occupational counseling offices that employ a large staff of professional counselors.

Additional Information

For more information on online counseling degrees, CLICK HERE.

The American School Counselors Association maintains a Web site at