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What School and Career Counselors Do

School counselors help students develop social skills and succeed in school. Career counselors assist people with the process of making career decisions by helping them choose a career or educational program.


School counselors typically do the following:

The specific duties of school counselors vary with the ages of the students they work with.

Elementary school counselors focus on helping students develop skills they need to be successful in their social and academic lives, such as decision-making and study skills. They also help teachers and administrators identify possible behavioral or developmental problems. They observe children in the classroom and at play activities and confer with teachers and parents about children's strengths, problems, and special needs. They work with teachers and administrators to be sure the curriculum addresses the development needs of students as well as students' academic needs.

Middle school counselors work with students and parents to develop career and academic goals and to create a plan for students to achieve them. They help students develop the skills and strategies necessary to succeed academically and socially.

High school counselors advise students making academic and career plans. Many help students with personal problems that interfere with their education. They help students choose classes and plan for their lives after graduation. Counselors provide information about choosing and applying for colleges or training programs and for financial aid or apprenticeships. They help students develop job search skills, such as writing résumés and interviewing.

Career counselors typically do the following:

Career counselors work with clients at various stages in their careers. Some work with college students to help choose a college major. They also help students determine what jobs they are qualified for with their degrees. With people who have already entered the workforce, counselors provide advice about entering a new profession or develop plans to improve their client’s current career. Some career counselors work in outplacement firms and assist laid-off workers to transition into a new job or career. Others work in corporate career centers to assist employees in making decisions about their career path within the company.

Some career counselors work in private practice. These counselors must spend time marketing their practice to prospective clients and working with clients to receive payments for their services.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition