How Much Do School and Career Counselors Make?

A career in school counseling or career counseling can be rewarding due to the effect you may have on students and clients. Demand for school and career counselors is expected to grow much faster than the average profession.

What Do School and Career Counselors Do? 

School counselor careers can be found in public and private institutions of education. These professionals may help:

  • Evaluate and encourage students’ interests and abilities.
  • Watch out for classroom performance issues.
  • Help students work on their executive functioning skills.
  • Help schools manage mental health issues among their students.

Depending on the grade level, the day-to-day job of school counselors may vary. An elementary school counselor may help students develop basic study skills while a high school counselor might help students begin to plan for their college education or career.

The difference between school and career counseling is that career counselors work with people at any stage of their careers, helping clients make decisions about career changes, interwork conflicts and training programs. Career counselors’ work is similar to some of the responsibilities of high school counselors, such as helping people to search and apply for jobs, improve their resumes and prepare for interviews. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 44% of school and career counselors are employed in elementary and secondary schools. Another 35% work in colleges and professional schools, 7% work in healthcare and social assistance, 4% work in other forms of educational services and 3% are self-employed.

What Is the Median School Counselor Salary? 

When considering school counselor careers, you may wonder how much do school counselors make? According to the BLS, the median school and career counselor salary in May 2020 was $58,120 per year. At the low end, the bottom 10% of school and career counselors made less than $35,620, while the top 10% made more than $97,910. The median salary of every profession measured by the BLS was $41,950 in May 2020, so counselors might have a higher than average earning potential.

While most school and career counselors work full time, some school counselors may not work during the summer when schools are closed.

What Can Affect School Counseling Salary?

A number of variables can affect school counselor salaries, including length of experience, the type of degrees obtained by the counselors, job location and work setting. School counselors may make more money than career counselors. 

The highest median salary earned by counselors working in elementary and secondary schools was $64,960 while school and career counselors working in healthcare and social assistance tended to make less with a median salary of $42,300, according to the BLS. School counseling salary may also differ depending on the school setting in which one works. An elementary school counselor, middle school counselor and high school counselor have different job descriptions, such as “Director of School Counseling”, and their salaries may vary. 

School counselor salaries at public schools may be dictated by local boards of education while counselors in other settings may have their salaries dictated by market demand.

Master’s in School Counseling Job Outlook 

The outlook for school and career counseling jobs appears strong. The demand for school and career counselors is expected to grow 8% through 2029, much faster than the average growth of all occupations. This is largely due to rising enrollment in K-12 and college-level schooling. 

Typically, school counselors obtain a master’s in school counseling, even for entry-level jobs in the field. Nearly all states and the District of Columbia require a master’s degree in counseling or a related degree to become a school counselor. Prospective school counselors can obtain their master’s degree in counseling online or on campus. An undergraduate degree that may help students when choosing to enter this field may be a bachelor’s degree in social work, psychology, sociology, or education. 

Top-Paying States for School Counselors

According to the BLS, these are the top-paying metropolitan areas for school and career counselors as of May 2019. Notably, the top five are all in California, which is also the top-paying state for school counselors.

Metropolitan AreaMean Annual Salary
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA$91,420
El Centro, CA$91,110
Fresno, CA$90,860
Stockton-Lodi, CA$87,020
Napa, CA$86,900

To give a broader idea of where school counselor jobs may be in demand, these are the top five metropolitan areas for total employment of school and career counselors as of May 2020:

Metropolitan AreaMean Annual Salary
New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA$74,670
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA$83,210
Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI$61,060
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV$82,750
Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ$53,400

And these are the top-paying states for school and career counselors as of May 2020. Of these states, California and New York also are among the top five states for total school and career counselor jobs, according to the BLS.

StateMean Annual Salary
California$81,350
New Jersey$75,030
Virginia$73,590
Massachusetts$72,780
Maryland$72,720

Alternative Counseling Jobs 

If you are interested in counseling, but aren’t sure about working as a school or career counselor, there are several alternative professions you may want to consider. For instance, if you want to offer career services for marginalized people, you might consider a career in social work. Becoming a social worker typically requires at least a master’s degree in social work, though some employers may offer positions for graduates with just a bachelor’s in social work. 

Your career path should ultimately be determined by your goals, natural abilities and interests. Consider what is attracting you to a school counseling career and also take time to consider other careers that may offer similar advantages. If you’re interested in working with people therapeutically, for example, you may want to become a mental health counselor. If you’re interested in working with students in particular, you may even want to consider becoming a teacher. 

Whether or not you decide on a different path beyond career or school counseling, thinking about these issues may help you find the most suitable work environment for you. 

Last updated August 2021