Becoming an Elementary School Counselor – Career and Degree Guide [2024 Updated]

There are many rewarding professions in the field of education. Conventionally, education is thought of as the teachers and educators that work directly with students in the classroom.

There are, however, other great resources and individuals that students need in order to get the most from their formative years. One of the individuals that are a staple for children is their elementary school counselor.

The following explains more about the steps that you might take in order to become an elementary school counselor for younger children. Also included is the important information that you can use in order to better decide if this profession is right for you.

What Does an Elementary School Counselor Do?

A counselor working at the elementary school level is a professional counselor who is responsible for providing social, emotional, behavioral, and academic treatments and guidance to the school’s students.

Elementary school counselors have a deep understanding of developmental issues and use that knowledge to develop prevention and intervention programs to address common issues and problems that children face during the elementary years.

To help them devise appropriate interventions and programming to meet the needs of students, elementary school counselors will work directly with teachers, administrators, parents, and other stakeholders to identify children in need of counseling, evaluate the school climate, and develop strategies for addressing school-wide needs. In that regard, counselors work as part of a large team to achieve goals outlined for students. Elementary school counselors also work independently, often providing individual counseling to students as well.

For example, an elementary school counselor might work with an individual student who is struggling to make friends. They might engage the student in one-on-one counseling and provide activities to promote the development of improved social skills.

Furthermore, counselors in this setting might work with an entire classroom of children. For example, an elementary school counselor might develop a classroom-based curriculum that teaches students how to resist peer pressure to engage in unhealthy activities.

Related: How to Become an Educational Counselor

Despite working so closely with all interested parties, the main role of the elementary school counselor is to act as an advocate for the children. By helping to identify children who may be struggling educationally or socially and helping adults around them to understand and provide support to the young person, the elementary school counselor is providing early intervention.

This allows coping mechanisms and strategies to be put in place, hopefully before the young person’s education begins to suffer. They can also play an extremely important role in detecting and intervening in bullying within the school.

Other responsibilities of an elementary school counselor include:

  • Helping student explore future career options.
  • Educating the public on child-related issues.
  • Teaching communication, problem-solving, and conflict resolution behaviors.
  • Educating young learners on substance abuse/addictions.
  • Fostering a multicultural and diversity awareness.
  • Helping elementary school student recognize their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Providing individual and small-group counseling for young learners.
  • Developing individual, family, and school crisis prevention and intervention programs.
  • Aiding in teacher-student or peer-to-peer conflict resolutions.
  • Consulting and collaborating with other medical and educational professionals to ensure that the student is receiving the best possible care and resources.
  • Referring young learners to other professionals, when needed.

Why Do We Need Elementary School Counselors?

Elementary school is a time where children begin to truly establish themselves – they begin to form ideas and attitudes to the world around them and learn fundamental communication skills. It is an extremely important time for all individuals, both socially and educationally.

With backgrounds in mental health and understanding of child development, elementary school psychologists develop programs which aim for a balance of education, prevention and intervention.

Elementary school psychologists help all children to develop their social skills – this, in turn, increases their academic achievement. Any issues manifesting here that interrupt that process are likely to impact upon them for a significant period of time.

Elementary school psychologists are an important resource to help guide children through this time. They work to identify additional needs within children that are likely to impact upon education. Successful identification of these needs at such an early stage allows for extra provision of support leading to a greatly reduced impact upon their learning.

The ultimate aim of an elementary school psychologist is to help students in their most formative years, to attain the highest level of academic achievement possible both now and in the future.

How to Become an Elementary School Counselor?

Elementary School Counselor Degree

As with many professions in the United States, the requirements that must be met in order to become an elementary school counselor can vary from state to state. Generally speaking, though, all fifty states require some level of certification specific to the counseling field, according to the American School Counselor Association (ASCA).

Most states also require an individual to obtain an accredited Master’s degree in school counseling. There are nearly five-hundred colleges throughout the U.S., as the ASCA states, that are certified in teaching classes in elementary school counseling. Though the course offerings vary, the majority focus on teaching the theories of the field, the ways to approach children, as well as how to work in group and individual settings.

Continuing Education (CE)

Some states do require that you, as an elementary school counselor, continue your education throughout the time of employment in order to remain paid faculty. This includes ensuring that you attend classes to learn the latest techniques. Certain continuing education credits must be taken in order for continued education and employment at certain public schools especially.

What Background Checks are Required?

Because you are working with students, thorough background checks can be expected in order that you be allowed to work as an elementary school counselor. According to governmental standards and certification requirements via the ASCA, a worker in a school must pass several different checks across virtually all states. These include criminal background checks at both the state and federal level.

There may also be employment verification, credit checks, and other assessment tools utilized but this is dependent on the region and the legalities of accessing this information in them. As an average rule, however, be aware that the restrictions for public schools are fairly standard where as private schools can offer some variation in the way in which they assess this background on individuals.

Check with the school you are interested or the state certification board in order to find out what you may face as you apply and seek to become an elementary school counselor.

Why Passion for Children is Important?

Becoming an elementary school counselor is difficult and can take years of schooling to complete, as aforementioned. Though education is a requirement, passion is another thing that you will want to consider before you choose this career path.

If you are not interested in working with children or dealing with some tough emotional topics, this career may not be the best for you.

According to the American School Counselors Association, a counselor is required to be part of the educational team. They do not work alone but in collaboration with teachers and administrators. This is done as a way to make sure that the parent, teacher, administrator, and school counselor can ensure that the child gets the most from their educational experience.

It is also a way to ensure that the student is on task to be successful in the classroom and personal areas of their lives. For that reason, elementary school counselors must inherently have a passion for children and seeing them succeed. If you do, then, training and becoming a counselor may be the perfect job for you.

What is an Online Elementary School Counseling Degree?

School counseling is a popular option for people that wish to be a part of the school environment, working to assist children in their social, emotional, and educational development. Although many school counseling programs take place in person and on campus, more and more school counseling degrees can be obtained online.

The first step is to get an undergraduate degree in a related field. Although students don’t usually have to have a specific undergraduate major, something related to psychology or child development would be highly beneficial.

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree, students can apply to online graduate programs in school counseling. These programs can be as short as 1-2 years, or as long as 3-5 years, depending on the specific program requirements.

Typical school counseling programs require students to take courses in educational psychology, counseling techniques, human development, psychopathology, and testing and assessment.

For students that wish to specialize in elementary school counseling, further coursework that pertains specifically to that population might be required. An internship experience is often integral component of the program, in which students would be placed in an elementary school so they can apply their classroom learning to real-world situations under the supervision of a trained school counselor.

Upon completing an online degree program, students must usually serve a probationary period in order to be licensed. This might involve as many as 3,000 hours of work experience, again under a supervisor’s watchful eye.

However, some school districts do not require elementary school counselors to be licensed, so in some cases, graduates of an online elementary school counseling program might be able to begin working immediately, provided they have obtained the proper certifications to be employed in a school setting.

What is the Salary for an Elementary School Counselor?

One of the most important things to consider when pursuing a career, aside from the personal satisfaction you may get, is the financial reward. Elementary school counselors and school psychologists can make a substantial amount based on their level of expertise and education.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics (BLS), the average salary for a school counselor is $63,090 per year. However, top ten percent earned over $98,000 and bottom ten percent earned around $37,000 per year. The average salary for school counselors working in Elementary and Secondary schools is $70,790 per year.

According to the BLS, the average salary for school counselors in California, Texas, and Florida is $81,590, $59,560, and $56,610 respectively.

What is the Job Outlook for Elementary School Counseling?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics employment for school counselors is projected to grow at the rate of 5% from 2022 to 2032.

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