School Counselor Salary and Career Outlook

Careers in school counseling are some of the most unique and rewarding in public education. School counselors work with all of the stakeholders in the educational ecosystem to help create a culture of success, safety, and learning for students, their families, and the educational professionals that serve them.

Some of the primary responsibilities of a school counselor include:

  • providing social/emotional support for students in both individual and group sessions
  • aiding students with issues related to study skills and time management
  • encouraging and fostering student strengths (both in and out of the classroom)
  • collaborating with families and other school faculty to address individual student needs
  • helping students and families respond to crises
  • identifying students’ social, behavioral, and/or learning issues
  • working as part of a child study team to develop and implement interventions for students with special needs and other at-risk students
  • coordinating support services between school, home, and/or outside agencies
  • offering professional input on school and district policies

This wide variety of responsibilities ensures that becoming a school counselor is a career choice with potential to make a positive difference every day. 

School Counselor Careers

School counseling is a career that looks differently depending upon the population a counselor serves.  Providing support to younger students and their stakeholders is very different from doing so for older, college- and career-bound students.

In some school districts, a counselor may be asked to serve a large span of ages; however, it is more common for counselors to focus on specific age groups.

Elementary School Counselors 

Elementary school counselors are responsible for assisting younger students and their families through the beginnings of the educational journey. As such, elementary counselors help to bolster school readiness skills and provide support for the academic, social, and emotional development that will serve as the foundation for a child’s educational career.

Elementary counselors also play an important role in identifying both learning and behavioral issues so that early interventions can be developed and implemented. By working with teachers, students, families, and other relevant stakeholders, elementary counselors can help ensure a student is able to maximize his or her ability to learn and thrive.   

Middle School Counselors

Middle school counselors support students through the often-challenging transition from childhood into the teenage years. The social and emotional trials of puberty can be difficult for both students and their families. A counselor can serve as a key ally for navigating the inevitable tensions, questions, pressures, and issues that arise as students mature.

The junior high years are also a significant academic transition. Middle school counselors are called upon by students, parents, and teachers to help foster the time-management and study skills that students will need to be successful in high school and beyond.

Similar to elementary counselors, there is also a need for counselors to weigh in on both the identification of and interventions for academic and behavioral issues so that they can be addressed prior to entering high school.

High School Counselors 

High school counselors have their own set of unique responsibilities. In the secondary years, students are preparing for college admissions, careers, and adulthood; counselors help facilitate these transitions by helping with course selection, college and job applications, high-stakes test preparation, and interview skills.

Additionally, high school counselors are more likely than their elementary and middle school counterparts to be called upon to help students and families through serious struggles involving peer pressure, risk behaviors, drugs, alcohol, sex, and self-harm.

How Much do School Counselors Make?

Most public schools include school counselors as part of their certificated faculty contracts. As such, school counselor salaries and tenure eligibility (where applicable) typically follow the same salary guides and policies as teachers and other certificated staff.

One major exception is 12-month counseling positions. It is common practice for schools to retain some or all of their counseling staff through the summer to complete tasks like child study team evaluations, individualized education programs (IEPs), student matriculation, and scheduling. In these cases, counselors are typically compensated at a higher rate than similarly experienced 10-month employees are.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual school counselor salary in May 2018 was $63,280. It should be noted that this figure is a combination of both 10- and 12-month school counselor salaries.

School Counselor Career Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is expected to be a 13% growth in the employment of counselors over the 10-year span from 2016-2026. This is a 5% increase over the same projections from a year prior, which indicates demand for those pursuing school counselor careers is likely to continue to rise. Furthermore, this is 6% higher than the projected growth rate of all US careers.

State Median Salary Data for School and Career Counselors

State Median Salary
Alabama $54,450
Alaska $62,950
Arizona $48,300
Arkansas $54,600
California $69,510
Colorado $49,660
Connecticut $66,970
Delaware $65,860
District of Columbia $64,520
Florida $49,280
Georgia $54,910
Guam $59,090
Hawaii $58,970
Idaho $40,880
Illinois $50,800
Indiana $49,210
Iowa $53,690
Kansas $48,130
State Median Salary
Kentucky $59,720
Louisiana $56,070
Maine $51,080
Maryland $62,230
Massachusetts $67,110
Michigan $53,120
Minnesota $55,330
Mississippi $51,860
Missouri $45,990
Montana $46,640
Nebraska $59,350
Nevada $56,880
New Hampshire $49,560
New Jersey $69,090
New Mexico $54,690
New York $61,800
North Carolina $49,530
North Dakota $56,230
State Median Salary
Ohio $53,460
Oklahoma $42,340
Oregon $57,100
Pennsylvania $59,470
Puerto Rico $33,250
Rhode Island $59,740
South Carolina $51,230
South Dakota $41,710
Tennessee $49,690
Texas $60,610
Utah $46,830
Vermont $48,660
Virgin Islands $50,600
Virginia $60,680
Washington $63,500
West Virginia $45,250
Wisconsin $51,380
Wyoming $56,540