As educators and future school counselors, you’re developing relationships every single day with students, fellow teachers, parents and your grad student colleagues. These kinds of connections are essential to your success as a school counselor, and as you work toward your Master of Arts in Counseling, it’s a smart idea to extend this type of relationship-building beyond the classroom, and into professional networking environments. Networking can open the door to post-graduation job opportunities, trainings, and connect you with like-minded individuals who share your challenges and goals. One of the best ways to start building your network is by joining professional associations — and the best time to do this is now. Here are five professional associations for school counselors to consider.
1. American School Counselor Association (ASCA)
The American School Counselor Association is a professional organization whose members are certified and licensed school counselors, program directors and supervisors. It offers professional development, publications, peer networking and other resources to more than 33,000 professional school counselors worldwide. ASCA members receive discounts on conferences, webinars and industry publication subscriptions. They also get access to a host of free resources like sample lesson plans, checklists and back-to-school handbooks. Annual dues for student members is $69. You can learn more about the ASCA at https://www.schoolcounselor.org/.
2. Texas Counseling Association
A state branch of the American School Counselor Association, the Texas Counseling Association provides leadership and advocacy for the counseling profession at the local level. Member-only benefits include conference and service discounts, grant opportunities and more. With 32 chapters, you can find a group near you, which means you’ll meet with professionals who are likely facing similar challenges in similar environments. Take advantage of local meetings and face-to-face networking events. You can learn more about the Texas Counseling Association at www.txca.org.
3. American Counseling Association (ACA)
With more than 56,000 members, this non-profit organization is the world’s largest association representing counselors in various practice settings. It was founded in 1952 and is home to 20 chartered divisions, each providing leadership and resources to different specializations within the counseling profession. Members have access to webinars, publications, journals and conference education sessions. Interacting with counselors across different kinds of organizations and specialties is a great way to exchange ideas and solutions. The ACA also has various Interest Networks designed for counselors with specialized interests, such as grief and bereavement, multiracial/multiethnic, children’s counseling and more. The ACA Interest Network for Professional Counselors in Schools, for example, caters specifically to LPCs and guidance counselors in school settings. You can learn more about the ACA at https://www.counseling.org/.
4. Association of Child and Adolescent Counseling (ACAC)
ACAC is a support and information network for counselors who work with children and adolescents in all settings, including schools, hospitals agencies and private practice. Its primary mission is to help counselors better understand the unique needs of children and adolescents. The organization strives to accomplish this by supporting the implementation of new strategies, providing professional development activities and encouraging the exchange of ideas. To join, you must be a member of the ACA. You can learn more about the ACAC at http://acachild.org/.
5. National Education Association (NEA)
Founded in 1857, the NEA is the country’s largest professional employee organization. It has more than 3 million members across every level of education and caters to different groups of education professionals. Member-only benefits include discounts on online professional development, discussion forums and association news and resources. A robust online resources center offers literature and research on issues such as bullying prevention, positive behavior interventions and using technology to connect with parents. The NEA has affiliate organizations in every state. You can learn more about the NEA at http://www.nea.org/.
You may find it beneficial to become a member of one or more of the professional associations listed above depending on where you live and what your specific goals are. By calling and speaking with membership advisors, you may be able to get a better idea for which organization best suits your needs and interests. It’s never too early to start thinking beyond graduation and begin making connections that can help advance your career once you’ve earned your Master of Arts in Counseling.