How to Become a High School Career Counselor [2024]

Last Updated: June 23, 2024

What is High School Career Counseling?

High school career counseling is an occupation that is deeply rooted in the principles of both counseling and education. It is the practice of assisting students in grades 9-12 with job-related issues.

Much of what high school career counseling is concerned with is ensuring that students have a plan for obtaining an education that is needed in order to pursue the career in which they are interested. As a result, career counseling in high school entails taking information from students, parents, and teachers, as well as academic information and career assessment data in order to help students achieve their career-related goals.

Career counseling at the high school level is a long and detailed process that must continually adapt to the changing interests and needs of students. As a student’s career aspirations change, so too does the input and direction a career counselor provides to that student.

This is not to say that high school career counselors attempt to push students toward one career or another. Instead, central to the practice of career counseling is the idea that counselors work with students, not on behalf of students, to make progress towards future goals.

What Does a High School Career Counselor Do?

The primary duty of a high school career counselor is to help students make plans to achieve their career goals. This often takes the form of academic advising to ensure students take the appropriate classes while in high school. The planning does not stop there, however, as career counselors often help students identify appropriate college programs for their career of interest.

Assisting with college applications, scholarship applications, and making inquiries about internships or job shadowing assignments are common duties as well. These activities normally take place in a one-on-one setting in the career counselor’s office. Working with students on an individual basis allows the counselor to offer the most personalized services to students.

Career counselors at the high school level will also organize career fairs so students have the opportunity to meet and talk with various employers in the area.

These career fairs often include an opportunity for students to take part in mock interviews, which give students the chance to hone their interview skills. Workshops on preparing resumes and tips for applying for jobs are common features as well.

Career fairs may be open to all students, or they might be restricted to older students, such as juniors and seniors, who are much closer to graduation. In this context, much of what a career counselor does is administrative in nature, organizing all the components of the career fair, contacting participants, and working with teachers and school administrators to ensure students are given the time they need out of class to participate in the fair’s activities.

Much of what a high school career counselor does is behind the scenes work. In order to provide students with insight and advice regarding the best career options, career counselors will examine a lot of data. This includes grades and standardized testing data, as well as information the career counselor gets from assessments he or she administers, such as aptitude or interest inventories.

High school counselors use this information to guide and direct students towards the appropriate college, vocational school, or training program.

Additionally, high school career counselors will work with teachers and administrators to develop the necessary learning activities to prepare students for careers. This might involve consulting with teachers on the development of classroom lesson plans that focus on building career-related skills.

It can also include working with curriculum directors to help drive the development of a school district’s career-technical programming.

Why Do We Need High School Career Counselors?

As the final step before adulthood, high school is an incredibly important time period when students have the opportunity to develop a clearer picture of what they want their future to be like. High school career counselors play an integral role in this process by providing career-based services.

Often high school students either have no idea what they want to do with their lives while other times they can’t decide between many different options. The services that career counselors provide help students focus on a particular path so they can plan appropriately for their future.

For example, a student that wishes to go to med school but hates science and has failed chemistry will need to do one of two things. One, choose a different career pathway that better suites their aptitude or secondly, collaborate with the high school career counselor to determine why is having difficulty with subjects they need for their chosen career and devise a plan of action to conquer it.

Without some career guidance, high school students may not know what classes they should take in high school or what college programs would be best suited to fit their goals. Likewise, students may not be aware of their particular interests or aptitudes if it weren’t for access to career counseling services at their high school.

What are the Requirements to Become a High School Career Counselor?


A minimum of a master’s degree is required in order to work as a high school career counselor. Specifically, completion of a graduate program in school counseling is recommended. This particular degree introduces students to the counseling and educational components of the job.

Typical coursework includes career assessment, career counseling, school guidance, ethics, educational psychology, and administrative topics in education.

Additionally, an internship is required as part of most graduate programs in this field. This gives prospective high school career counselors the related experience they need in order to be licensed.

These programs usually take one to three years to complete, depending on the number of credits required.

Before entering graduate school, one must first complete a bachelor’s degree program. The undergraduate degree should be in a field closely related to career counseling or education, such as psychology, social work, or secondary education. These areas of study provide a strong foundation upon which a student can base their graduate studies.

Some states require school career counselors to be certified teachers, so pursuing a degree in education and obtaining licensure as an educator before entering graduate school is highly advisable.


One to two years of supervised practice is often required in order to be licensed (see below).

Licensing Requirements

State licensure is required in order to work as a high school career counselor. Licensure procedures are specific to each state’s jurisdiction. However, there are some common requirements across most states. Minimum education standards generally include at least a master’s degree from an accredited institution. L

ikewise, many states require a certain number of supervised hours of practice before licensure can be obtained. This usually entails approximately 2,000 of clinical work under the supervision of a licensed counselor.

Many states also require school counselors to pass a written exam, while others also require certification through the National Board of Certified Counselors.

What Does a Career Counselor Actually Do Day-to-Day?

  • Assess personality inventories
  • Assess skills inventories
  • Assess aptitudes of students
  • Assess student goals and devise a plan to reach those goals
  • Assist choosing the correct higher-education institution to reach goals
  • Assist in finding suitable financial support programs
  • Coach applicable life-skills such as interviewing, networking and resume writing
  • Assisting the student to look for job seeking tools and the correct places to find open positions in their field of expertise.

What Skills are Needed for a High School Career Counselor?

Various skills are necessary in order for effective practice as a high school career counselor. These include:

  • Speaking skills – Speaking skills are necessary for high school career counselors for the occasions when they are asked to speak to classes about career-related information.
  • Listening skills – Listening skills are important for working one-on-one with students so career counselors understand students’ needs, wants, and interests.
  • Problemsolving skills – High school students may not fully know what career they want to pursue. Likewise, they may not understand the educational and work requirements in order to enter a career field in which they are interested. As a result, high school career counselors need to be able to help students solve problems by identifying ways in which students can realize their career goals.
  • Ability to administer and interpret tests – Part of a career counselor’s function is to help students identify their strengths, weaknesses, and interests. Administering interest inventories, for example, requires that counselors can effectively analyze, interpret, and evaluate the results, as well as communicate those results effectively with students.

What is the Salary for a High School Career Counselor?

As of February 2024, according to Ziprecruiter, high school career counselors can expect to make an average annual wage of $59,137. Ziprecruiter also notes that the expected wage increases rather dramatically as the level of experience increases. For example, a high school career counselor with 10 years of experience earns over of $60,000 per year, while a someone with 15 or more years of experience can expect an income of $65,000 per year.

Because of the employment setting in public or private high schools, career counselors can expect excellent benefits as part of their salary package. Medical, vision, and dental insurance are common. High school career counselors in public school settings can expect a state-funded retirement plan as well.

What is the Career Outlook for High School Career Counselor?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that school and career counseling jobs will grow at an average rate, or about 10 percent over the next few years.

While increasing enrollment numbers in some districts will drive faster-than-average growth for careers in this field, other school districts will experience a reduced need for career counseling services. A reduced number of students, and with that reduced local and state funding, is the primary factor in some districts having less job growth in this field.

Even in districts that are experiencing some growth in student numbers, high school career counseling jobs may be difficult to find if the local and state resources are not available to fund such positions.

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