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Looking for a Challenging Career? How School Counseling Has Changed

An online counseling degree can lead to a dynamic and rewarding career working in schools to help students realize their potential.

Sometimes, the first clue to a dramatic shift in the focus of a profession is a name change.

“We cringe when we hear the term ‘guidance counselor,’” Terri Tchorzynski told National Public Radio in 2017 after being named School Counselor of the Year. The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) honored Tchorzynski for her work at the Calhoun Area Career Center in Battle Creek, Michigan. “It’s kind of that older-fashioned model from years ago, the ‘I’m gonna guide you toward your career or college.’ It’s from when people didn’t really understand what was going on with the whole realm of school counseling.” 1

Looking for a Challenging Career? How School Counseling Has Changed

While school counselors are still instrumental in assisting students with post-high school educational and vocational choices, they are now involved holistically in a school’s comprehensive educational plan and serve as a resource to teachers, administrators, and students. Their varied duties include leading efforts to combat bullying, raise awareness about mental health issues, provide trauma counseling in the wake of gun violence and other tragedies, and promote understanding of LGBTQ issues, to name just a few.

Here is how the ASCA, based in Alexandria, Virginia, defines today’s counselor role: “School counselors are certified/licensed educators with a minimum of a master’s degree in school counseling, making them uniquely qualified to address all students’ academic, career, and social/emotional development needs by designing, implementing, evaluating, and enhancing a comprehensive school counseling program that promotes and enhances student success. School counselors are employed in elementary, middle/junior high, and high schools; in district supervisory positions; and in counselor education positions.”2

How Guidance Counseling Has Changed

The American Counseling Association, also based in Alexandria, Virginia, has charted some of the significant differences between the profession 20 years ago and today. Here are some of their conclusions: 3

  • Then: Guidance counselor. Now: Professional school counselor.
  • Then: A small percentage of students were identified as having special needs and acute mental health issues. Now: Counselors address the needs of all students and are responsible for assisting with increasingly complex social challenges.
  • Then: Almost all counseling took place individually in the counselor’s office. Now: Counselors are fully integrated into the natural flow of the school day.
  • Then: Most school counselors were in high schools and middle schools. Now: Today’s model recommends multiple counselors in every middle school and high school and at least one counselor in every elementary school.

How to Become a Counselor

If you have strong communication and problem-solving skills, enjoy working as part of a team, are empathetic, and thrive in dynamic environments of change, then you may want to consider a master’s in school counseling online. Faster-than-average job growth is projected through 2028, with an additional 27,200 jobs expected to be added between 2018–2028. The annual median school counselor salary was $56,310 in 2018.4 According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an MS in counseling is a required degree, and additional certification and licensing may be required.

In selecting an online counseling degree program at Walden University, you may choose to enroll in the general program or pursue a specialization in addiction counseling, career counseling, crisis trauma, or military families and culture. There is even an optional accelerated track that allows students to earn a degree more quickly.

Walden’s MS in School Counseling program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), a specialized accrediting body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

Is school counseling your calling? If so, there are students, schools, and educators waiting for you. “We need the right people, people who truly want to help students,” said Kathryn Pastor, selected as the 2016 School Counselor of the Year for her work at Flagstaff High School in Flagstaff, Arizona.5 “You have to constantly think of how to be better because you’re doing it for them. One adult believing in a student makes all the difference to that kid.” 6

If you’re interested in a broader scope of career opportunities, you may wish to consider earning Walden’s MS Dual Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and School Counseling degree.  Upon successful graduation, you will have earned two degrees from an accredited program and be able to pursue licensure or certification as both a mental health counselor and a school counselor.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an MS in School Counseling online. Expand your career options and earn your degree using a convenient, flexible learning platform that fits your busy life.


Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,