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Comparing the Roles of Different Types of School Counselors

School counselors do much more than help kids figure out their plans after high school. They are a vital part of students’ learning and developmental processes. Their work helps children grow into adults with fulfilling personal, professional and family lives.

Today, schools are in great need of skilled and knowledgeable school counselors. New and fast-evolving technologies are changing the way we learn, work and interact, and students need to be prepared to thrive and adapt to a rapidly changing world. In addition, schools are more diverse than ever. Students come from a great variety of cultures and backgrounds, and have different learning needs and styles.

School counselors are all dedicated to helping their students thrive, but their responsibilities differ according to the level of education in which they work. This article breaks down the different types of school counselors and what they do.

Elementary School Counselors

Elementary school is a crucial intellectual, mental and emotional developmental period in the human lifespan. Children are developing a stronger self-concept and learning how to communicate and interact with others; social behavior in groups; and their attitudes toward school, friends, and teachers. Assignments and classwork provide opportunities to learn about interests, study habits, goals, responsibility and commitment.

This is also an age where learning disabilities and difficulties, family issues, challenges with social skills and problems obtaining basic necessities (such as food and clothing) may become clear. An elementary school counselor can help students with these challenges by arranging to provide support and extra instruction where appropriate. For example, they may arrange access to resources such as a speech therapist, tutoring, counseling or social services.

Secondary School Counselors

High school can be challenging for even the most well-adjusted teenagers. It’s a gateway to adulthood, with all the attendant pressures. Students are still establishing their identities, and generally place more importance on the feedback and feelings of their peers than their families or authority figures. In addition, they are facing academic pressures such as placement tests, college applications and decisions about work or vocational training.

Secondary school counselors help students develop their educational and postsecondary plans; work with teachers, parents and other staff members on any developmental or learning issues; counsel individual students and groups with personal problems or issues; and much more. Ultimately, a secondary school counselor can help high school students to become responsible, productive and fulfilled individuals, citizens, workers and community members.

American School Counselor Association (ASCA) guidelines recommend that school counselors spend 80 percent of their time allocated to direct and indirect student services. Direct services include helping students identify and plan for future goals, and offering one-on-one or group counseling, both in ongoing and crisis situations.

Indirect services involve working on behalf of the student by providing referrals for additional counseling assistance, meetings and consultations with parents and educators, or arranging access to other community or educational resources.

School Counselor Coordinators and Directors

School counselor coordinators and directors manage and lead school counseling programs at the district and state levels. Working with other school counselors and educators, as well as with input from parents, teachers, student groups, and school administrators, they create and implement a comprehensive school counseling plan that benefits all students and supports institutional goals. To assess progress toward those goals, school counselor directors review and analyze student data and outcomes against the desired objectives, amending or altering the counseling plan to ensure that school counselors continue to meet student needs and yield results. School counselor directors may also design calendars, communication plans and outreach events to inform the greater school community of counseling services and programs and to encourage participation.

In a time when schools are undergoing transformation and challenges, school counselor jobs are growing. The online Master of Education in School Counseling at Our Lady of the Lake University can help prepare you for a fulfilling career working with children, teenagers, families, educators and community members to ensure that students receive the support and counseling they need to successfully move into young adulthood.