Especially public schools have guidelines depending on their region about what qualifications it takes to become an elementary school counselor. These are similar in different regions, but not always identical, and this means people should always research in the areas they plan to work for the different requirements. Though individual per-region search is preferred, it’s fairly easy to give a broad stroke analysis of what it might take to work in this field. The average elementary school counselor is well educated, holding at least a master’s degree, and may also have certificates or teaching credentials.
Those who would like to become an elementary school counselor will first need to get a bachelor’s degree. There are a variety of degrees that people might attempt. These include degrees in psychology, education, or early childhood education, or in other single subjects. One good way to determine a major is to look at master’s programs for elementary school counseling and decide which courses are necessary or which majors are looked upon with most favor.
After completing an undergraduate degree, a student will continue by getting a master’s degree in elementary counseling. Counseling degrees can come from either psychology or education departments. It’s usually important to make the distinction between educational or psychological counseling (therapy). Though these fields are related, the educational counselor needs to know how to administer educational testing, and work within the school forum to best assist students, teachers, and their families. The emphasis changes a great deal when people have marriage and family therapy degrees instead, and the two are usually not interchangeable.
There may be other requirements for the person who wants to become an elementary school counselor. Some regions require a teaching credential, which may or may not be offered as part of a master’s programs. In addition to master’s studies, some programs won’t give certification without students participating in a certain amount of supervised training after the master’s program is complete. Again, this depends on local requirements.
During all studies, it can also be useful to engage in some work that confirms a person’s interest to become an elementary school counselor. Working with this population of students is often built into education programs. Other opportunities exist to work with students in private programs like Boys & Girls Clubs® or through other community agencies. Learning how to be comfortable with this age group of children can be vital to being a success in this profession. If another age group like junior high or high school students seem a better fit, students may be able to redirect their studies to work as high school or junior high counselors.