How to Get a Guidance Counselor Certification

Counseling Corner: How to become a School Counselor (Step By Step)

Benefits of earning guidance counselor certification

Counselors can work in schools and with students legally if they are certified as guidance counselors at the state level. Voluntary certification can increase one’s opportunities for employment and financial gain by broadening one’s knowledge and skills.

Guidance counselors can demonstrate to potential employers their commitment to the industry and to their own professional development by completing a certificate program. Counselors who are certified may also be eligible for job advancement to management or administrative positions. Guidance counselors who are certified acquire a digital badge they can use to demonstrate their authority and background. They also have access to more affordable liability insurance.

Other benefits of becoming a certified guidance counselor include:

What does a guidance counselor do?

In either public or private schools, guidance counselors meet with students one-on-one or in groups to support their academic and extracurricular success. They could help students with decision-making in their personal, social, and academic lives. In elementary and middle schools, guidance counselors frequently assist students and parents with behavioral issues and teach kids good study habits. Those who work in high schools assist students in choosing their colleges and careers. Guidance counselor responsibilities can include:

When school is not in session, guidance counselors typically work full-time with a summer break. They meet with parents, teachers, and other members of the school staff in addition to students. The abilities that most successful guidance counselors possess are communication, listening, interpersonal skills, and compassion. In the formative years of young people’s lives, these professionals frequently play crucial roles.

How to earn guidance counselor certification

To become licensed and certified, guidance counselors must complete a certain amount of education and accumulate a certain amount of work experience. You can use these steps to become a guidance counselor:

1. Earn a bachelors degree

Study psychology, child counseling, or a related field to earn a degree. Future guidance counselors will learn about topics like group counseling, career counseling, human development, family dynamics, communication, and more during this four-year program.

2. Earn a masters degree

A master’s degree in school counseling, which typically takes two years to complete and can include advanced coursework on developing school counseling programs, child development theories, and learning or behavioral disorders, is a requirement in many schools for guidance counselors. A masters degree is also required for certification.

3. Complete an internship

Most guidance counselors must complete a period of fieldwork to gain supervised experience before they can apply for jobs, especially those getting their master’s degrees.

4. Apply for a state license

State-specific requirements for guidance counselors may include obtaining a teaching license or holding a master’s degree. Guidance counselors need to be licensed if they intend to work in public schools. Your state’s board of education can provide you with information regarding these requirements.

Before applying for a guidance counselor license, get in touch with your state board to find out what is needed. On the NBCC website, a list of state boards is available. You must prepare for and pass either the National Counselor Examination (NCE) or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE), depending on your state. You can sign up for and take the exam, which may be computer-based or on paper, through your state board.

The NCE exam consists of 200 multiple-choice questions, and you have three hours and 45 minutes to finish it. Counselors must evaluate 10 case examples for the NCMHCE exam in three hours. Your state will grant you a license with a title like “Licensed Professional Counselor,” “Licensed Mental Health Counselor,” “Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor,” or “Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor” if you pass the necessary exam. You will also need to pass a background check.

5. Seek voluntary certification

The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) offers certification for guidance counselors so they can show off their superior counseling expertise.

Guidance counselors can become National Certified Counselors through the NBCC if they have obtained the necessary master’s degree, passed the NCE or NCMHCE exam, and accrued at least 100 hours of supervised fieldwork and 3,000 hours of professional experience. The NBCC also offers three specialty certifications:

Guidance counselors must first become National Certified Counselors in order to pursue any of these three specialties. Guidance counselors stand to gain the most from the National Certified School Counselor specialty, which calls for completion of coursework on subjects like family and youth counseling, counseling program development, and counseling for trauma or abuse, among others.

You must complete a certain number of hours of continuing education each year in order to keep your certification as a guidance counselor. The NBCC or one of its recognized continuing education sponsors, such as the American School Counselor Association, can help you locate these professional development opportunities.


How do I become a registered guidance counselor?

Steps to Become a School and Guidance Counselor
  1. Earn a bachelor’s degree in behavioral, social science, or education.
  2. Earn a master’s degree in school counseling. …
  3. Complete graduate internship experience for certification/licensure requirements. …
  4. Pass any required exams for certification/licensure.

What is the difference between NCC and NCSC?

The National Board for Certified Counselors’® trade and service marks NBCC® and NCC® are registered. All applicants must currently hold the National Certified Counselor (NCC) credential in order to be eligible for the National Certified School Counselor (NCSC) certification.

Where do guidance counselors get paid the most?

Best-Paying States for School Counselors California ($81,350), New Jersey ($75,030), Virginia ($73,590), Massachusetts ($72,780), and Maryland ($72,720) are the states and districts with the highest mean salaries for school counselors.

How do you get a SCL in Michigan?

The Michigan Department of Education’s (MDE) Office of Educator Excellence will evaluate candidates for the SCL if they meet all the requirements of an approved, out-of-state school counselor education program or the prerequisites listed above.

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