A school counselor is a counselor and educator who works in schools, and have historically been referred to as "guidance counselors" or "educational counselors", although "Professional School Counselor" is now the preferred term.
Most school counselor occupations or equivalent occupations (e.g. career counselor) are comparable to the U.S. high school counselor in terms of duties and services. Historically, the need for high school counselors has been emphasized more so than school counselors in lower grades(Schmidt, 2003). Many countries vary as to whether school counseling services are provided.
In the United States, the school counseling profession began as a vocational guidance movement at the beginning of the 20th century. Jesse B. Davis is considered the first to provide a systematic school guidance program. In 1907, he became the principal of a high school and encouraged the school English teachers to use compositions and lessons to relate career interests, develop character, and avoid behavioral problems. Many others during this time did the same. For example, in 1908, Frank Parsons, "Father of Vocational Guidance" established the Bureau of Vocational Guidance to assist young people in making the transition from school to work.
From the 1920s to the 1930s, school counseling and guidance grew because of the rise of progressive education in schools. This movement emphasized personal, social, moral development. Many schools reacted to this movement as anti-educational, saying that schools should teach only the fundamentals of education. This, combined with the economic hardship of the Great Depression, led to a decline in school counseling and guidance. In the 1940s, the U.S. used psychologists and counselors to select, recruit, and train military personnel. This propelled the counseling movement in schools by providing ways to test students and meet their needs. Schools accepted these military tests openly. Also, Carl Rogers' emphasis on helping relationships during this time influenced the profession of school counseling. In the 1950s the government established the Guidance and Personnel Services Section in the Division of State and Local School Systems. In 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik I. Out of concern that the Russians were beating the U.S. in the space race, which had military implications, and that there were not enough scientists and mathematicians, the American government passed the National Defense Education Act, which spurred a huge growth in vocational guidance through large amounts of funding. Since the 1960s, the profession of school counseling has continued to grow as new legislation and new professional developments were established to refine and further the profession and improve education (Schmidt, 2003). On January 1, 2006, Congress officially declared February 6-10 as National School Counseling Week.
Additionally, professional school counselors may lead classroom guidance on a variety of topics within the three domains such as personal/social issues relative to student needs, or establish groups to address common issues among students, such as divorce or death. The topics of character education and diversity are usually infused into the guidance curricula. Often counselors will coordinate outside groups that wish to help with student needs such as academics, or coordinate a state program that teaches about child abuse or drugs, through on-stage drama (Schmidt, 2003)
The framework for Professional School Counselor responsibilities and roles is outlined in the ASCA (American School Counselor Association) National Model (2005). ASCA is the national organization for Professional School Counselors.
According to the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), a school counseling program should meet several standards such as the professional identity of school counseling (history, organizations, so on), cultural diversity courses, human development and growth, and career development. Additionally, it has to have core components for helping relationships (consultation, counseling, so on), group work, assessment, research and program evaluation, knowledge and requirements for school counselors, contextual dimensions of school counseling, and foundations of school counseling. In programs that are CACREP accredited, a school counseling student must have 600 hours of internship under a highly qualified school counselor (master's degree or higher, and appropriate licenses and certifications) (CACREP, 2001).
Lastly, according to CACREP, a school counseling program must be a master level (or higher) graduate program. Each state has its own certification or licensure requirements, and at least one state, California, merely requires a bachelor's degree, causing concern about competence of school counselors in that state (National Clearinghouse. However, California does have a Pupil Personnel Services credential (PPS) that requires completion of 48 semester hours in a Commission approved program specializing in school counseling (California Commission on Teacher Credentialing , 2004).
School Counselors may opt for national (American) certification through two different boards. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) requires a two-to-three year process of performance based assessment, and demonstrate (in writing) content knowledge in human growth/development, diverse populations, school counseling programs, theories, data, and change and collaboration. As of February, 2005, 30 states offer financial incentives for this certification.
The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) requires passing the National Certified School Counselor Examination (NCSC), which includes 40 multiple choice questions and seven simulated cases which assess school counselors abilities to make critical decisions on the spot. Additionally, a master's degree and three years of supervised experience are required. NBPTS also requires three years of experience, however a master's degree is not required, but only state certification (41 of 50 require a master's degree). At least four states offer financial incentives for the NCSC certification (McLeod, 2005). Both certifications have benefits and costs that a school counselor would want to consider for national certification. For more information, see external links.
In Korea, school counselors must teach a subject besides counseling, and not all school counselors are appointed to counseling positions. Even though Korean law has required school counselors in all middle and high schools.