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The Role of the School Counselor

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Well-prepared school counselors are essential to student success. They offer guidance to students in a variety of areas, including applying academic achievement strategies, managing emotional and interpersonal skills and planning for postsecondary schooling and career options.

To meet the needs of each student, counselors take holistic, data-driven approaches. They support classroom instruction, offer counseling and referrals to individual students, advocate for student success and equity, and collaborate with faculty and staff to meet the needs of their unique population. The goal of school counseling is to help students achieve success in and beyond school, preparing them to lead fulfilling lives and become responsible members of society.

Specializations in School Counseling

The chosen area of focus and specialization often determines the job title and responsibilities of a school counselor. A few of these specialties are:

  • Guidance counselor
  • Career counselor
  • Education counselor
  • Occupation counselor
  • Intervention counselor
  • Enrollment counselor

The UW-Superior Master of Science in Education – Counseling, School Counseling online program prepares students to work as guidance counselors or career counselors.

While many of the above titles encompass the multifaceted role of school counselor, some titles reveal the need for special areas of focus within a school or district. Occupation and career counselors focus on helping students plan and prepare for future careers, identifying key courses and experiences students can utilize to work toward specific career paths. Enrollment counselors, on the other hand, focus on immediate needs as they make recommendations when students begin the process of choosing future courses.

There are a host of different specializations available to school counselors. For such positions, potential school counselors should focus their education and experience on specific areas of expertise, such as mental health counseling, international communication, disability counseling or substance abuse counseling.

Licensing and Certification

Some counseling positions, such as that of intervention counselor, require specific certifications offered through licensing associations. These certification titles vary from state to state, but they are all intended to ensure counselors are trained and licensed to provide sensitive and effective service. In 24 states, this license is referred to as an LPC, or Licensed Professional Counselor. While titles for this licensure might go under other names, holding an LPC demonstrates a counselor has undergone training in mental health.

While counseling jobs that focus on mental health intervention have standardized licensing requirements, other specialized positions may have more fluid standards. Take, for instance, international counseling. Since the range of responsibilities for international counselors spans from working with international students and programs to working as traditional counselors abroad, the requirements for such positions can vary widely. While some states or countries require international counselors to obtain advanced degrees in international studies or language studies, others are satisfied with certification programs and/or a combination of education and experience in international relations and/or international schooling.

How School Counselors Support Student Success

Many school counselors address the mental and emotional health of students as well as behavioral concerns. They are expected to conduct data-driven interventions, organize programming and provide individual guidance for students, which may include mental health counseling, behavioral intervention and disability support.

For a counselor to offer guidance on these sensitive and personal issues, however, they must have the proper training. The preparation and experience received through the licensing or certification process will contribute to a counselor’s ability to meet the needs of students. In fact, many schools require their counselors to obtain LPCs, particularly those in communities with low-income and/or high risk of student trauma. Such training can also prepare them to collect and analyze data regarding student mental health, substance abuse and student trauma. Since counselors play a pivotal role in generating programming and education plans that address their school’s specific needs, this data is crucial to their success.

Working with faculty and staff, a well-prepared school counselor is in a position to see that each student receives the opportunity and support they need to succeed academically, personally and beyond.

Learn more about the University of Wisconsin-Superior’s MSE – Counseling, School Counseling Track online program.


American School Counselor Association

Ben Caldwell Labs: Decoding Counselor Alphabet Soup: LPC, LPCC, LMHC, and More

Berkeley High School: Intervention Counseling

International School Counselor Association: Becoming an International School Counselor

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