Guidance Counselor Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

Last updated: June 22, 2022

A Guidance Counselor, or School Guidance Counselor, provides advice and helpful resources to students regarding certain personal and academic situations. Their main duties include offering counseling to students or Teachers, conducting group counseling sessions to help students develop their personal and academic skills and providing career advice and guidance to high school students.

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Guidance Counselor duties and responsibilities

There are several essential duties and responsibilities a Guidance Counselor must fulfill in order to do the job correctly. Advising students on academic matters is just the beginning and can lead to long-term personal relationships with students and their parents. Here are the most important duties and responsibilities:

  • Oversee and fulfill a guidance program designed to allow students to voice concerns without fear of punishment or judgment.
  • Analyze student performance in class and identify sources of problems.
  • Get to know students and their unique needs to offer specialized solutions.
  • Help students develop a plan for their academic career that corresponds with their skills and interests.
  • Host crisis intervention and prevention programs.
  • Facilitate communication between parents, Teachers, administrators and students about behavior and academic problems.
  • Assist with school programs and events.

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What does a Guidance Counselor do?

Guidance Counselors are professionals who work in schools or other educational institutions providing academic, personal and career advice to students. They work to examine and assess any potential or skills students may have and communicate this to them to help boost their self-esteem and wellbeing. Guidance Counselors typically conduct either group or individual counseling sessions with students to learn about any social or academic challenges the student is facing and provide advice to help them succeed at school or in their personal lives. 

As they speak with students during each session, the Guidance Counselor identifies any behavioral problem and societal or cultural issues that may be negatively impacting the child’s personal or social life.

Guidance Counselor skills and qualifications

Considering how much is expected of a Guidance Counselor, there are extensive skills and qualifications candidates need. While there are many interpersonal and academic skills required that may be different depending on the school or district, the following skills and qualifications are the most important to consider when crafting an effective job description:

  • Many students come to get help with problems, so a quality Guidance Counselor will need to have exceptional problem-solving skills to address a variety of issues.
  • A Guidance Counselor needs great listening skills to fully understand the students’ issues before offering help.
  • The smallest details can make all the difference in solving a problem for a student, so a good Guidance Counselor will be able to identify the details and adjust solutions accordingly.
  • Students need to feel comfortable and welcome when talking with a Guidance Counselor, so applicants should have a friendly and personable attitude about them.

Guidance Counselor salary expectations

A Guidance Counselor makes an average of $49,103 per year. Salary may depend on level of experience, education and the geographical location

Guidance Counselor education and training requirements

Education is essential for Guidance Counselors. A bachelor’s degree in counseling is the most common essential education requirement, though higher degrees may be preferable or required for some Guidance Counselor positions. A master’s degree or Ph.D. in social services or psychology, for example, can go a long way towards making a candidate more experienced.

Guidance Counselor experience requirements

Most Guidance Counselor positions will require some experience in counseling or general social work. For applicants with only general social work experience, they must also be able to demonstrate knowledge of academic counseling in order for the experience to be relevant. Specifically, about three years of experience is a common minimum required for mid-level positions that pay near the average salary.

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Frequently asked questions about Guidance Counselors


What makes a good Guidance Counselor?

Guidance Counselors must be good listeners and have strong communication abilities, as they pay close attention to students’ thoughts, challenges and opinions and provide thoughtful advice. They should be empathetic and understanding to demonstrate their compassion and care to the students to make them feel more comfortable in a counseling environment. 

Guidance Counselors should have effective problem solving and critical thinking abilities to successfully identify a problem and come up with a logical solution that improves the students’ personal or academic life.


What are the different types of Guidance Counselors?

All Guidance Counselors work in an academic environment but may specialize and serve in different areas. Elementary School Guidance Counselors may work with children in Kindergarten through 5th grade, handling children’s developmental and social skills. They also work to identify any special or mental health needs and will report these to their Teachers and parents. 

Middle School Guidance Counselors typically work with 6th through 8th grade, providing students with guidance and advice for their personal and academic lives. They’ll help students develop study skills and educate them on topics like drug or alcohol abuse and bullying. High School Guidance Counselors often hold similar responsibilities as Middle School Guidance Counselors, except they also focus more on career counseling efforts. They’ll help high school students discover which career to pursue after graduation and which institutions to attend to receive the education needed for their desired job.


What's the difference between a Guidance Counselor and a Therapist?

Though both a Guidance Counselor and Therapist work on offering guidance and advice to individuals, their roles greatly vary when it comes to their environment and education. Guidance Counselors typically work primarily in an educational setting and have a basic understanding of mental health and psychological therapy methods. 

Therapists can specialize in a wide variety of counseling fields and often pick a field that requires in-depth knowledge and advanced education. They usually obtain master’s degrees and licenses for the specific type of field they go into, which can include social work, marriage and family therapy or psychology.   


Who do Guidance Counselors report to?

Guidance Counselors typically report to the Principal, Dean or Headmaster of their academic institution. If the Guidance Counselors have any concerns or questions about a student or parent’s behavior, they’ll typically report to the Principal, Dean or Headmaster, who will quickly resolve the issue for them. Some Guidance Counselors may also report to the Superintendent in certain academic institutions for any questions or concerns about their role or responsibilities.

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