In this weekly feature, the editors of SpringBoard highlight one career in the health care professions–including a basic description, educational requirements, core competencies/key skills needed, and related web sites and professional organizations where you can find more information!

101Careers in CounselingCounseling in a high school is likely to be very different from counseling in the lower grades. The reason for this difference lies in the reality that high schools are preparing students for college, community or technical college, the military, and so on. Essentially, high school counseling is likely to be academically and vocationally focused at the expense of personal counseling. High school counseling is covered in more detail below.

Issues to Understand

Counseling in a high school can be very rewarding provided you enjoy a variety of activities and that you expand your view of counseling. The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) (2000) has developed a model for school counselors to follow, though it is likely that many school administrators, few of whom were counselors, are not as supportive of it. The ASCA model envisions school counselors as resource professionals and supports more developmental counseling. Unfortunately, with the high stakes placed on testing currently gripping the U.S. educational system, the counselor’s role is likely to be focused on testing results. A lot of work will also revolve around college preparation (ACT and SAT test preparation), college advising, vocational advising for students considering the military, technical college, or those contemplating dropping out of school.

High school counselors must also address the difficult realities of puberty and adolescence, such as sexually active teens, pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, dating abuse, and bullying. A frustration for counselors in many schools is that they will not be allowed to provide contraception and safe sexual practice advice to students, given the weighted political, social, and religious issues it involves. High school counselors will also need to address mandated reporting issues of abuse and neglect. Effective high school counseling involves a task-oriented counselor who is very organized and able to communicate across the teacher–counselor–administrator divide.

Best Aspects of the Job

Some of the best aspects of counseling in a high school will be similar to that in lower grades. High school counselors are likely to enjoy job variety and addressing career vocational concerns as opposed to more in depth mental health disorders, as such students are likely to be referred to outside mental health professionals. Another positive aspect is that the majority of high school counseling positions are likely to operate 9 or 10 months, with summers off.

Challenging Aspects of the Job

There are many challenges to being a high school counselor. Most high school counselors will find they have little time to address the needs of the students in the school. School administrators are likely to place testing results over addressing mental health issues, to the frustration of many school counselors. High school counselors may be silenced from dealing with addressing gay and lesbian student concerns by administrators, local politicians, and evangelical religious leaders.

Occupational Outlook and Salary

The occupational outlook of high school counselors would be, consistent with the BOLS (2010–2012), 14% growth through 2018. This represents moderate job growth. Some areas of the United States will offer more opportunity, especially the Sunbelt. Urban areas often provide the starting point for beginning high school counselors, though urban schools often are the most overcrowded and run down. Median salary reported by the BOLS was $57,000.


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