Guidance counselors who work in secondary and elementary schools have the highest average annual salary at $60,200 per year. In 2008, the average annual income for all of these professionals was $51,050. Guidance counselor salaries vary widely based on experience and location. In addition, educational credentials also affect counselor salaries. Many schools are required to have guidance counselors on staff, but budget cuts may affect growth in these jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that jobs for guidance counselors will grow by 14 percent by 2018.
If you love working with young children and have a passion for helping others, becoming an elementary school counselor might be the right career choice for you. Elementary school counselors help children achieve their highest academic potential by removing or reducing social and psychological barriers to learning. As of May 2010, the average salary for school counselors was $53,380, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The specific educational requirements for elementary school counselors vary by state. However, like all school counselors, they usually need to have at least a master's degree in school counseling or a related field. Some counselors also have doctoral degrees in school counseling or related fields. In addition, elementary school counselors must also have a state license or certification to practice. Although the requirements for licensure or certification can also vary by state, it usually involves providing proof of education, completing a criminal background check, passing an exam and submitting documentation of a certain number of hours of supervised experience providing counseling in a school setting.
Elementary school counselors work in both public and private schools. Depending on the size of the school, they might be a part of an interdisciplinary student support services team consisting of other professionals, such as school social workers, psychologists, special education teachers and administrators. School counselors usually have a private office within the school so they can meet one-on-one with students to discuss any problems or issues that arise.
According to the American School Counselor Association, elementary school counselors provide academic support, help students begin the career exploration process, educate students about self-awareness and self-esteem, teach problem-solving and conflict resolution skills, provide individual and small group counseling services and make referrals to outside services. They might also meet with parents or consult with external parties, such as child protective services or other social services agencies. However, the responsibilities of elementary school counselors can vary from day to day. They might need to rearrange their schedules to meet the changing needs of students and teachers, especially if they need to intervene in crisis situations.
Elementary school counselors should be flexible and have the ability to relate well with young children. They need to be good listeners and able to communicate with children in a way that they can understand. They also need to be compassionate and understanding of the difficulties that elementary school-aged children experience, such as making friends, bullying, family problems or learning disorders. Sometimes, they might need to use play therapy techniques, such as drawing or toys, to help children open up and feel comfortable talking about their problems. They should also be able and willing to handle crisis situations, such as reporting suspicions of child abuse.