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Educational-Guidance-Vocational Counselor: Education and Career Information

Finding the right career path can be challenging. In most instances, students are encouraged to think about what they like to do when in high school to formulate a curriculum around areas they may want to explore. The person that assists in evaluating their career profile is usually the guidance counselor, or educational counselor. In most schools, they are one and the same, but there are rare cases where a guidance counselor deals strictly with student issues, while the educational counselor focuses on academic achievement and success. If you enjoy working with students and want to help make a difference in their lives, this may be the career for you. If you have already found your career path and need to decide which steps to take or how to find a job, then you need to speak to a vocational counselor to help you chart your path.

What does an Educational, Guidance or Vocational Counselor do?

Educational counselors work with students in their progression and success in school. They are also known as guidance counselors. Educational and guidance counselors talk to students, help them work on their academic goals, identify trouble with classes and grades, provide resources to excel academically, and identify issues that may be occurring at school or at home. Educational and guidance counselors work to develop IEP plans for special needs students and in providing resources for parents of troubled children who need assistance in adjusting. Guidance counselors are also the resource person for families that have undergone tragedy such as a death, or fire that has left them in a compromising state. Guidance counselors work diligently to help the family get back on track with little to no disruption in the student’s academic schedule.

A vocational counselor helps students in finding a vocational skill they are interested in that matches their strengths and career interests. All three positions specialize in working with students, but a vocational counselor may also be found in recruitment firms and workforce agencies helping adults. Vocational counselors are also called career counselors. They help in writing resumes, conducting workshops on how to fill out job applications, how to dress for an interview and provide mock-interview skills. If you are still in school, a vocational counselor can help find an internship based on your interests to help you gain practical experience. Vocational counselors can teach computer classes and serve as a valued resource in finding the right career path and assisting in providing the tools needed to get there. Vocational counselors also work in university career centers.

How much do these positions earn?

According to the U.S. Labor Department, a school guidance or educational counselor makes $53,610 as a median income, while the highest paid counselors make up to $86,000 annually. This is all contingent on the location, type of educational facility (public or private) and level of education the counselor has. A vocational counselor earns about $53,000 annually, which fluctuates depending on experience and education. Vocational counselors starting out usually make around $32,000.

What types of skills are needed to be successful in these fields?

Individuals in these fields must have the following skills:

•Ability to lead
•Ability to speak to diverse groups of people and individuals
•Compassion
•Empathy
•Research skills
•Administrative skills
•Public speaking and communication skills
•Writing skills
•Problem-solving skills
•Technology skills
•Planning skills
•Time management skills

Internship requirements

Most educational counselor and guidance counselor positions must have at least a year of supervised counseling internship experience within the school setting after they have become certified teachers. A vocational or career counselor usually has an internship if they are in a four-year degree program.

Education requirements

Guidance and educational counselors need a bachelor’s degree at the minimum, but most school districts require a higher education degree or completion of graduate coursework. Most guidance and educational counselors have been teachers and some states require that counselors must hold a valid teaching certificate. Although the bachelor’s program is four years, the master’s program is typically one to two additional years. Most counselors obtain a master’s in school counseling, educational psychology or educational leadership.

Coursework needed to be a guidance counselor or educational counselor include courses in counseling procedures, human development, research, interventions, risk assessment and child and family development. A guidance counselor and educational counselor must meet all the requirements of a teacher, including passing a certification exam, being certified through the National Board for Certified Counselors, and passing a criminal background check. There are additional certification options available for specialized areas. High school guidance counselors may qualify for the National Certified School Counselor (NCSC) designation, if they have a master’s degree and have passed the National Certified School Counselor Exam.

Educational counselors may also become certified through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, demonstrating they have competence in areas including counseling techniques, student assessment and collaboration with family and community, group counseling, individual counseling, career development. This is a more detailed option, and requires presentation of a portfolio and completion of an online assessment.

Depending on where they work, vocational counselors may not have as many requirements as school or educational counselors. While counseling is the focal point, vocational counselors may undergo training or complete two years of school to work in an agency where they assist adults. In most instances, vocational or career counselors must have a bachelor’s degree at the minimum, and depending on the level at which they are providing advice, an extended degree is needed. For vocational counselors working at a university, a four year degree is mandatory.

There are so many different career paths and roles for someone who is interested in becoming an educational counselor, guidance counselor or vocational counselor. They all primarily do the same, with certain niche areas of concentration. Educational and guidance counselors are usually found in K-12 educational settings, while vocational counselors are found at higher education institutions or private agencies. Whatever course you choose while pursuing this profession will all result in helping individuals work toward a goal of positively enhancing their future.

Counseling Scholarships

American Psychological Foundation Scholarships Association of Black Psychologists Epilepsy Foundation
Elizabeth Munsterberg Koppitz Child Psychology Graduate Student Fellowship Future Counselors of America Scholarship Gallagher Koster Health Careers Scholarship
Kay Wilson Presidential Leadership Award NIH Undergraduate Scholarship NAJA Graduate Scholarship
National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Psi Chi Awards and Grants Wayne F. Placek Grants

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