How to Become a Student Counselor

Ginger Abbot

May 4, 2022

We are a reader-supported education publication. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission to help us keep providing content.

Becoming a student counselor can be a rewarding experience. You can help children and young adults overcome their everyday challenges. So, if you’re asking how to become a student counselor, follow these steps. 

Primary Role of a Student Counselor 

A school counselor works with students, parents, and educators to help students succeed.  They can work in any type of education setting, from elementary schools to colleges.  A counselor’s main goal is to listen to students and develop solutions. They may also assist them in their academic or career development. 

Step on How to Become a Student Counselor

Student counselors can play a meaningful role in students’ lives. If this seems like the job for you, then here are the steps to take. 

1. Earn Your Bachelors Degree

Getting a degree is one of the first steps when determining how to become a student counselor. You want to earn a degree in a related field, such as counseling, education, or psychology. Try to find a school that is a good fit for your learning style.

Here are some colleges with good counseling programs to look into:

  • University of Maryland
  • University of Georgia 
  • University of Wisconsin
  • University of North Carolina 
  • Ohio State University 

2.  Get Your Masters

The next step after you complete your undergraduate degree is to obtain a master’s. Look for a program specifically in counseling or one with a concentration. The length of your program may vary, but most take around two years.  

When enrolling in a program, look for one with flexible study options. With more options, you can choose if you prefer studying online, in-person, or both. Leigh University offers an international school counselors certificate using a hybrid model. You also want to find a program that focuses on your specific needs. Try looking on the school’s website to see if they work with a diverse group of students. 

Another important element is that the school allows you to earn professional credentials. You want to ensure you’ll be able to advance within your career. Also, check out the school’s exam pass rate, before enrolling in a program.


3. Gain Internship or Clinical Experience 

During your education, you will also have to complete 600 internship hours. The experience is crucial to prepare students for real-world experiences. It also ensures they can understand the role and can handle the responsibilities. The internships may involve running individual or group sessions under supervision.  

4.  Pass Any Required Exams 

Passing your exams is one of the final steps for how to become a student counselor. In Pennsylvania, you need to pass two exams. These are the Praxis exam and a counselor-specific test.  The Praxis exam tests your basic classroom skills in reading, writing, and mathematics. Then you will need to pass another exam that dives deeper into the specific practices of a counselor. It tests things such as management of programs and ethical aspects. You can take these exams on the computer or at a testing center.

5. Apply for License  

Once you pass your exams, you can receive your certificate.  The process varies depending on your state. In Pennsylvania, you will need to fill out a form, provide transcripts, and pay a fee. To obtain a National Certified Counselor Certification it’s a $335 fee.

Qualities Needed to Become a Counselor 

When determining how to become a student counselor there are certain traits you want to have. Here are some of the key characteristics that make a successful advisor. 

1. You’re a Good Listener

Being a good listener is one of the essential qualities to have. To understand their student’s needs, they need to actively listen to them. Also, being fully present allows counselors to give the best advice. 

When listening, it’s important to let the student tell the whole story before jumping in. During the story, keep an open mind. Also, you want to face the student and maintain eye contact. 

2. You’re an Empathetic Person

Putting yourself in your patient’s shoes can help to build a better connection. It also makes the student more comfortable opening up. With a deeper understanding of the situation, you can brainstorm more effective solutions. Being a good listener can help make you more empathetic. 

3. You Can Easily Build Relationships 

Building a relationship takes time. However, it is crucial to create a safe environment for the student. Having a strong relationship with their therapist allows students to express their emotions. The connections make students feel like they can open up without being judged. 

Listening and being empathic can help build strong relationships. Also, accepting a student’s views, even if different from yours, can improve the bond.

4. Be a Good Leader

You may help with coordinating activities or implement school programs. To be successful, you need to exercise authority and take control of the situation. It’s your job to manage tasks, set expectations, and hold people accountable for deadlines. 

Also, while you want to be a friend to your students, their safety is still your top priority. So, it’s important to be able to handle a situation that gets out of hand. 

5. Be Flexible

As a counselor, your responsibilities can change daily. For example, there may be schedule changes or new programs implemented. Also, sometimes a student’s needs may become more urgent. So, you want to leave some room in your schedule for unexpected sessions. 

Tips for Starting Your Job Search 

Once you receive your license, you’re ready to start applying for jobs. Networking can be a great way to get your foot in the door. Attend career fairs or reach out to your previous internship advisors. 

When networking, take advantage of social media. Create a Linkedin profile to meet other professionals in your field. Also, don’t ask for a job right away. Instead, you want to build a relationship with your connections first. 

You could also try speaking with other schools in your local area. Even using online search engines like Indeed can help you find open positions. 

How to Become a Student Counselor Successfully 

Managing social and academic pressures can feel overwhelming sometimes. Student counselors can help play a key role in supporting students. If you’re ready to make an impact follow these steps on how to become a student counselor today. 

Written By