College Counselor Degrees

A college counselor is an integral part of a high school student's decision-making process, helping guide college-bound students to a school or career path that is best for them.

College counseling was developed to advise students on the best next steps in their education. Through an interactive process, counselors may help students identify their strengths, challenges, and skill sets. Counselors can then determine which career paths or programs are the best fit for each individual student, often assisting them through the required administrative processes.

If you are interested in helping high school students plan their academic futures, read more about some of the college counseling programs that can equip you with the skills to effectively guide students.

MA in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine
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Overview of College Counseling Programs

The decision of which college or university to attend (or, whether to attend college or university at all) can change the trajectory of a student’s life. It can be a difficult decision to make, and without the right guidance, it may seem overwhelming.

The role of college counselors is to help young people understand their options and carefully think through the logistical, financial, and academic implications of their chosen path. Additionally, college counselors can help students identify the best strategies for being accepted to the college of their choice, for choosing the right major, or even for receiving the optimal amount of financial aid.

College counseling programs can provide the knowledge-base and social skills necessary to succeed in this position and make a lasting difference in the lives of students.

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What Does a College Counselor Do?

College counselors can work in different settings, including high schools, colleges, or even state agencies. In high schools, college counselors often work with the school system to help analyze and plan for each student's individual needs.

Through interviews, counselors can determine the dreams and aspirations of each student. This process allows the counselor to put the student in contact with universities that can provide the best degree program for what the student desires. To be effective in their position, counselors should stay up to date with the general admission requirements of colleges, the admission process, the prerequisite requirements for different programs, and the educational stipulations that students must abide by during high school education.

College counselors provide several important services to the students they serve.

  • College counselors can help students with administrative tasks including the initial college application process, applying for financial aid, and coordinating college visits.
  • Counselors may also help with securing relevant paperwork such as transcripts and letters of recommendation.
  • Counselors may work with new college students to obtain room and board, become accustomed to using financial aid funds, and deal with any psychological effects of becoming independent.
  • On college campuses, there are many concerns regarding safety and wellness. College counselors can direct students to programs that address on-campus sexual abuse, alcohol abuse, and bullying, for example.
  • Lastly, in state agencies, college counselors can work with adults who are considering returning to school. Similar to high school and college students, adults are coached through the college search process, admissions, financial aid, and dispersal of funds.

    Featured College Counseling Certification Programs 

    Becoming a college counselor can include earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Certificate programs may give students more specialized knowledge in their chosen disciplines without having to complete another degree program. Below are some certificate-based college counseling  programs available online for you to browse. 

    UCLA – Online Certificate Program in College Counseling               

    The Online Certificate Program in College Counseling from UCLA has a seven-course requirement that can help students gain a better understanding of how to assist high school and college students with achieving success. This program can expand on the skills of current high school counselors regarding expertise in collegiate education, implementation of specific knowledge of college and high school requirements, and connecting students with different resources and services. The program can normally be completed in less than a year. 

    Some sample courses from this program include:

    • Introduction to Counseling for College Admission
    • Financial Aid Fundamentals
    • Testing/Career Assessment

    University of California – Riverside – Professional Certificate in College Admissions Counseling              

    For those who want to help students transition to collegiate education, UCR’s Professional Certificate in College Admissions Counseling program is a great place to start. This program educates counselors on transitioning high school students to college, identifying populations of students that need additional support, and providing supportive services for college exams and preparatory admissions requirements. The entire program consists of 18 units and can usually be completed in around one year at full-time enrollment. This certificate program can be a great complement to bachelor and master-level degrees.

    Some sample courses from this program include:

    • The College Counseling Process
    • Financial Aid Planning for Higher Education
    • Professional and Ethical Issues in the College Application Process

    Why Do We Need College Counselors? 

    There are large numbers of people each year searching for the right educational program. Choosing the right degree and school can be complicated, especially for those who have little experience in the workforce, or for those who have little support from outside resources. College counselors are great resources for students throughout their transition into higher education, especially if they are unsure of how to make that transition.

    College Counselor Salary and Career Outlook

    According to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), school and career counselors make a median annual salary of $58,120 per year. The field is growing at a pace of 8% annually, which is faster than the average for all professions. Note that salary figures can vary based on location, experience, and certification.

    In this current day and age, the implementation of online degree programs is adding to the pool of students across the country who are pursuing a college education. More people are finding the time to take part in flexible, remote college degree programs that are easier to manage with a busy lifestyle. With this influx of students, the need for college counselors is likely to increase as well. 

    As you consider whether a college counseling program is right for you, take the time to research the job availability in your area. You may be surprised to see how many colleges and agencies are seeking educated professionals to help others start their college advancement.

    Sources:
    American College Counseling Association, Home Page
    National Board for Certified Counselors, National Counselor Examination
    National Board for Certified Counselors, State Licensure
    U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, School and Career Counselors and Advisors

    Common Educational Requirements to Become a College Counselor?

    The educational requirements to become a college counselor can vary based on individual aspirations or career goals. Some college counseling positions only require a bachelor’s degree in any subject. However, you may want to pursue licensure to provide counseling services to students and adults. Take a look below at some of the common paths to become a college counselor, including different types of college counseling programs.

    Bachelor’s Degree in Counseling

    At the minimum level, students should earn a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university. The most common degree requirement to become a licensed counselor is a bachelor’s in counseling or psychology. Through four years of undergraduate education, students can learn to properly assess the needs of their clients to provide the best possible service.

    While degrees in counseling, psychology, and sociology are common subjects of study for school counselors, other degrees can qualify candidates to become college counselors as well. However, students who have degrees in non-psychological disciplines may find their career options and growth are more limited, because they are typically not able to counsel students outside of their program of study. For instance, a student who receives a bachelor’s degree in political science may have the option to counsel students entering into the political science program, but not students wishing to earn other degrees.

    Master’s Degree in Counseling

    If you want to provide psychological counseling services through colleges and universities, you will be expected to earn a minimum of a master’s degree in counseling or psychology. At a master’s level, college counseling programs focus on the different techniques and abilities required to counsel people in need of guidance. Most programs at this level can be completed in 2-3 years and include a supervised practical experience, but these requirements may vary based on the program and state regulations.

    Master’s in counseling programs include:

  • In-person master’s in counseling
  • Online master’s in counseling
  • Online master of arts in counseling
  • Online master’s in counseling psychology
  • Master’s in mental health counseling
  • Master’s in school counseling
  • Online master’s in school counseling
  • Licensure

    While licensure is not always required for college counseling positions, most graduates choose to pursue it to expand their capabilities as a professional. While state guidelines may vary, becoming licensed within any state requires students to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in counseling or psychology from an accredited university. In addition, graduates must also take part in 1-2 years of supervised work experience and successfully pass a state board examination in counseling. Once these requirements have been completed, graduates may apply for licensure.

    List of College Counseling Programs

    Counseling Career Guide

    Still Looking for a Counseling Degree?

    Here are some of the most popular online counseling programs. On each page you will find a detailed write-up of the program, specific courses, and schools that offer that program that are currently accepting applicants.


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