According to the U. S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, Counselors are defined as persons who “assist people with personal, family, educational, mental health and career decisions and problems. Their duties depend on the individuals they serve and the settings in which they work” (169). Examples include Mental health counselors who help people cope with daily life issues such as marital, family, stress management, or addiction problems. These counselors primarily work in private office settings. Rehabilitation counselors help people deal with different aspects of their physical disabilities, these counselors generally work in medical facilities. Employment counselors assist individuals in making wise career choices and most of these counselors work in community agencies.
Thus counseling is a diverse field that encompasses an array of situations and settings. This report will center on High School Guidance Counselors. The primary focus will be to discuss the educational requirements necessary to apply for jobs in the field, the needed skills and abilities desired from employers, and the main duties of the job.
Requirements vary by state for specific types of degrees and or licenses and certifications that must be held by guidance counselors. Missouri Law requires that all High School Guidance Counselors have secondary counselor certification. Criteria for certification is listed below and was obtained from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Individuals desiring to become guidance counselors must understand that acquiring certification requires an enormous amount of time, dedication, and education.
The professional certificate is valid for five years from the effective date on the certificate and is issued to persons meeting the following criteria:
? A valid Missouri teaching certificate
? A minimum of two years classroom teaching experience
? A minimum of one year experience working in a field other than teaching or counseling
Renewal of Certification
Certificates may be renewed each five years for persons meeting the following criteria:
? Two years experience in counseling at the secondary level during the previous five years
? Completion of a Missouri Department of Education approved Professional Development Program that must include at least six semester hours of graduate credit appropriate for the counselor and attendance at a minimum of three professional workshops totaling fifteen clock hours.
Because the role of the guidance counselor can be integral to high school students preparation for college, work, and life choices, it is important that the guidance counselor remain abreast of the latest skills and technology in the field. In order to do this, the guidance counselor must commit to lifetime education by attending classes, seminars, and workshops geared toward enhancing existing knowledge.
SKILLS AND ABILITIES
Guidance Counselors must understand that their job is as diverse as the student body of the school in which they are employed. Skills and abilities are not always concrete, tangible things. Often times it has to do with attitude (the counselor’s) and perception (people who deal with that counselor). Gloria King, Personnel Manager for the St. Louis Public Schools Board of Education, states that guidance counselors must be striking and command attention in interviews. She feels that a resume is a tool that anyone can use to their advantage because “there are ways to make anything on paper look good.” She says that she checks for things like eye contact, clear and accurate speech, and confidence. Since the guidance counselor must deal with students from diverse backgrounds it is important that applicants be firm yet sensitive.
Computer knowledge is an important skill to obtain. Because of the administrative functions that must be completed, ability to use computer software and spreadsheets is a must. Without this knowledge the guidance counselor wastes time and often energy doing menial tasks rather than concentrating on the students needs. Preston Thomas, Director of Student Services at Cardinal Ritter College Prepatory High School, stated “10 years ago computer knowledge was not mandatory, but now it can be career ending.” He admits that while this is one of his personal weaknesses, he uses it to his advantage by having students teach him. Thomas feels this is an opportunity to build rapport and gain trust from the students.
Counselors must also be energetic, have a desire to help others, be logical thinking, and an overall ‘people’ person. The guidance counselor is scheduled to work during normal school hours. But because their ultimate goal is to meet students’ needs they may work well past business hours trying to solve problems, plan activities, or meet with any combination of students, parents, teachers, administrators, or outside community resources (like college recruiters or alumni).
The guidance counselor must also be detail oriented, enjoy reading, and like to network by telephone and in person. As mentioned above, the guidance counselor undertakes administrative functions that often include record keeping. These records become part of a permanent file for each students and mistakes can be detrimental. Enjoying reading is essential because of the amount of correspondence received from outside agencies, for example information on Colleges and Universities in the area. In addition, the guidance counselor is still bound by ethical and moral obligations of the profession and must read articles, journals, or newsletters concerning new or updated laws and current practices.
“Certification Requirements for Secondary Counselor (Grades 9-12)”. Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. March 06, 1998 . (November 02, 1998).
Chiles, Donna. School Guidance and Counseling. Pupil Personnel Services Recommended Practices and Procedures Manual. Springfield: Illinois State Board of Education, 1983.
Ellis, Thomas I. The Missouri Comprehensive Guidance Model. Ann Arbor: ERIC Clearinghouse, 1990.
Feller, Richard, & Daly, J. Counselor Role and Educational Change: Planning, Integration, and Basic Skills: Book 5 – Comprehensive School Counseling and Guidance Programs. Fort Collins: Colorado State University, 1992.
Thomas, Preston. Director of Student Services, Cardinal Ritter College Prepatory High School. Personal Interview. 4 November 1998.
Thompson, Rosemary. School Counseling Renewal: Strategies for the Twenty-first Century. Muncie: Accelerated Development Inc., 1992.
U. S. Department of Labor. Occupational Outlook Handbook, 1998-99 Edition. Indianapolis: JIST Works, Inc., 1998.