Why We Need More School Counselors (and How You Can Become One)
Many schools across America have experienced different levels of crisis in the wake of the pandemic. On top of the learning loss that many have suffered, it’s also had a devastating impact on students’ socio-emotional and behavioral development, according to recent data from the National Center of Education Statistics.
“I feel like there’s been a big reset in education that we haven’t been equipped for, and we’re still feeling the ripple effect of that,” says Jan Powers, PhD, program director of the school counseling program at Creighton University. “There’s a lot of stress in the schools – not just for students, but also for teachers. But I believe education always bounces back.”
Many realize that a push for more caring, effective counselors can help combat some of the issues in schools today. Keep reading to learn more about the impactful role of a school counselor and how you can become one.
The important role of a school counselor
When properly resourced, school counselors can play a meaningful role in any district. The support they provide for students is invaluable, reaching far beyond their school years.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, typical school counselor responsibilities can include everything from helping students overcome social and behavioral challenges to identifying factors that impede a student’s academic performance. And more, depending on the student.
These duties become increasingly difficult when counselors are spread too thin. The American School Counseling Association (ASCA) advocates for one counselor for every 250 students. During the 2020-2021 school year, the national average was 415-to-1.
“I think the challenges of the modern classroom have shown administrators that we need to do things differently. We need more support. We need a focus on mental health, particularly preventive mental health in the schools,” Dr. Powers says. “School counselors, when employed at a student-to-counselor ratio that’s manageable, can do a great deal to help a school to address the needs of students, the anxiety and behavior problems, plus building a sense of belonging in a safe and caring environment.”
Helping solve the school counselor shortage
Creighton University understands the value that school counselors bring to students and is committed to helping educate and empower individuals to join the field. Our Master of Science in School Counseling program is 100% online, offering flexibility that meets the needs of busy professionals.
Students can choose between elementary school counseling, secondary school counseling, or a combined K-12 specialty. You’ll learn to model Jesuit values such as the importance of compassion, relationship-building, reflection and humility for the students with whom you work.
"Our program focuses on self-care and system-wide care for the well-being of educators and students by building a collaborative supportive community that values and guards the well-being of its members,” Dr. Powers adds.
Through hands-on, project-based learning experiences, you’ll also gain knowledge that will help you guide future students through tough challenges, including bullying and self-esteem issues, relationship problems, drug use and more.
Career change to counseling
If becoming a school counselor wasn’t your original career path, you’re not alone. Many educators find themselves naturally gravitate toward a career in counseling after gaining experience in the field.
Dr. Powers can relate – she spent 14 years loving her job as a music teacher before feeling called to shift gears. “There came a point where I saw the students that I couldn’t reach because of trauma, and I realized how much I loved building relationships with students and families over time,” she reflects. “School counseling was a natural path for me.”
You may be a former psychology major looking for a new way to apply your training, or a school paraprofessional eager to expand your impact. As long as you have a passion for working with children and feel called to make a difference, then you’ll find yourself at home in the Creighton program.
Jennifer Goetz, MS’22, related, “While completing my degree, I had a full-time job as a high school English teacher and guidance teacher. Even though it was challenging at times, the coursework was manageable and realistically fit into my busy schedule. The information gained was enhanced substantially by daily practice. Much of my knowledge was quickly integrated and utilized with students.”
2022 Creighton graduate Kara Baker started the school counseling program after 20 years of working full-time and being a mother of two. “I knew going back to school would be a challenge – and it was,” she admits, recalling the times she doubted, struggled, and cried.
“But this experience taught me just how strong I am and how people can make such a difference in your life,” Baker says. “They expect a lot of you, especially in school counseling where you have a unique opportunity to support and impact children and the school community.”
A closer look at Creighton’s online master’s in school counseling
As a student in the school counseling program at Creighton, you’ll learn about the many aspects of child and adolescent development and how to develop strategies to help students cope with challenges and overcome obstacles.
In the first year, core classes teach the foundations of school counseling, ethics, theoretical orientation, how to run groups, and more. The second year features practical experience—internships, practicing in schools with other counselors, and a few additional classes.
“The cool thing about this is that we are nationwide, and we have overseas students, so you learn from each other,” Dr. Powers explains. “You don’t just learn in your school. You learn what people are doing in other schools, which makes it a very broad-based and engaging curriculum.”
Even in a virtual setting, the learning is very practical. Courses are conducted through Zoom in a very intentional way, focused on building relationships with fellow students and instructors. “It’s online, but everyone is face to face on the screen focused on each other,” Dr. Powers says. “We use breakout rooms to work together and exercise counseling techniques in small groups.”
“The MS in School Counseling was not only incredibly convenient for its remote flexibility, but the program was also supportive and compassionate,” says 2022 Creighton graduate Tara O’Malley. “School counseling is an empathetic field, which naturally lends itself to forming great relationships. I was so fortunate to connect with some very special people, including peers and faculty I know I will remain friends for many years to come.”
School counseling certification
Creighton University also offers a school counseling certification, which includes 600 hours of practical experience embedded into the program that meets Nebraska school counseling certification requirements. Students from states other than Nebraska are responsible for determining the certification requirements for their state and will work with their advisor to meet those requirements. The curriculum is based on the standards identified within the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) national model.
Make a difference as a school counselor
The school counselor shortage is real, and it means that promising opportunities wait for those who are qualified.
“School counseling jobs are abundant! I have schools calling me saying, ‘Do you have any more graduates yet?’” Dr. Powers says. “I think this is only going to continue. It’s a great field to explore.”
Creighton offers guaranteed scholarships for all current educators to help support and encourage teachers to continue their education in school counseling.
Learn more about the Master of Science in School Counseling program today!