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How to Become a School Counselor

Begin your career path with these five steps.

School counselors can make a significant impact on students’ development and success by providing them with essential emotional, social, and academic support. Studies show school counselors have the ability to help improve everything from students’ attendance, study skills, and test scores to their mental health and awareness of college and career options.1

Unfortunately, there is a shortage in the U.S.2 Nearly one in five students (about 8 million children) do not have access to a counselor in their school. And nearly 3 million of those students don’t have access to other school support staff, including school psychologists and social workers.2


With employment of school and career counselors projected to grow by 8% between 2019 and 2029, now is a great time to become a school counselor.3 Here’s how to make it happen:

Step 1: Find a university with a master’s degree program in school counseling – After you earn a bachelor’s degree, you will need to earn a master’s degree in school counseling or a dual master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling and school counseling. Search for an accredited program to ensure the curriculum meets standards set by the profession. At Walden University, the online master’s degree in school counseling is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). Walden also offers a dual master’s degree program with its CACREP-accredited clinical mental health counseling and school counseling programs. While an online MS degree in school counseling can prepare you to provide critical guidance and support to students in preK–12 settings, an online dual degree in clinical mental health counseling and school counseling provides greater career flexibility.

Step 2: Choose your specialization – Make sure the degree program you select offers a specialization that suits your career goals. At Walden University, the MS degree in school counseling program includes specializations in areas such as addiction counseling; crisis and trauma counseling; military families and culture counseling; and marriage, couple, and family counseling. Walden’s online MS Dual Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and School Counseling program offers similar specializations, as well as a specialization in forensic counseling.

Step 3: Complete an internship or clinical experience – Most master’s degree programs for school counseling require internships or clinical experience before graduation. For example, Walden University’s MS Dual Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and School Counseling program requires 15 to 25 credits of field experience, including a 100-hour practicum, a 600-hour clinical mental health counseling internship, and a 600-hour school counseling internship. Completing a practicum gives you clearly defined, real-world field experience in your area of interest, under the supervision of faculty and an on-site supervisor. Internships are longer and more intense than a practicum and often offer a broader training experience with added responsibility. Walden University faculty members work with you to determine the type of internship experience that best matches your interests.

Step 4: Once you’ve graduated, pass your state’s licensing exam – Licensing rules and regulations vary by state. The American School Counselor Association website includes a list of certification requirements for each state. Some states also prefer a National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) certificate.

Step 5: Launch your job search – It’s time to turn all your hard work into your dream career! Walden University’s Office of Student Experiential Learning Services supports students’ professional development from the beginning of their program to after graduation. The office’s Career Planning and Development include several job-search resources, including an easy-to-use, online search engine for jobs and internships.

Ready to get started?

Begin your path to becoming a school counselor at Walden University, an accredited institution offering a dual degree program in clinical mental health counseling and school counseling. Walden’s online programs allow you to take classes whenever—and wherever—you choose. All you need is internet access.

A leader in distance learning for more than 50 years, Walden offers working professionals like you the flexibility to earn your school counseling degree online while continuing to work and engage in family life.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an MS Dual Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and School Counseling program online. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.


Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,