School guidance counselor salary & career outlook

school guidance counselor

From elementary schools to universities, school guidance counselors provide advice and mentoring on everything from preteen relationships to career choices. Depending on the education level in which they are employed, counselors may work to help students improve social skills, evaluate abilities or identify career goals. Individuals interested in this field must maintain a high level of personal integrity and should have a strong desire to see others succeed.

How much do school guidance counselors make?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that educational, vocational and school counselors nationwide earned a mean annual wage of $56,160 in 2013, with the top 10 percent of earners taking home at least $86,870. Individual salary figures can vary quite a bit, based on factors such as job experience, education level and regional or industry-based demand for expertise in the field.

Elementary and secondary school counselors outearned those working in other school environments in 2013, reporting a mean salary of $63,100 for the year. Counselors at junior colleges earned a mean of $56,510 in 2013, still outpacing the national median, while those at colleges, universities and professional schools reported a mean annual salary of $49,320.

Average school guidance counselor salaries varied by state as well in 2013, from $70,070 in the highest earning state to $34,270 in the lowest. Here are the 2013 mean annual wage for guidance counselors in the five highest earning regions, as reported to the BLS:

  • New Jersey: $70,070
  • Alaska: $67,870
  • New York: $63,960
  • Washington, D.C.: $63,500
  • California: $63,250

The value of a school guidance counselor salary can depend a great deal on the cost of living in your area. Here are a few more mean annual salary figures reported by the BLS, alongside 2014 affordability rankings provided by the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center:

  • Bloomington, Indiana: $56,860, state ranks 5th in affordable cost of living
  • Auburn-Opelika, Alabama: $48,970, state ranks 8th in affordable cost of living
  • Ames, Iowa: $47,830, state ranks 9th in affordable cost of living

Training for counseling careers

Different states maintain different educational and licensing requirements for school guidance counselors. School counselors in some states are required to hold a standard teaching certification, for example, while others must earn separate guidance counselor certification

Most states require candidates to complete at least some graduate coursework before certification can be awarded, and many require a full master's degree in school counseling or a related field. In fact, according to the Occupational Information Network, 93 percent of all educational, guidance, school and vocational counselors working in 2012 held at least a master's degree.

Aspiring guidance counselors without the available time for a traditional full-time university program may choose to take their school guidance counselor training online. If online school sounds right for you, remember to check with your registrar and the licensing authority in your state to make sure the institution is appropriately accredited and the education will meet state requirements for employment.

Job outlook for guidance counselors

According to projections by the BLS, career opportunities for school guidance counselors should grow about as fast than the average for other occupations. Approximately 12 percent growth is expected between 2012 and 2022, leading to more than 31,000 new jobs in the field. Increased student enrollment, state-mandated requirements for school counseling services and rising demand for career guidance among recent and soon-to-be college graduates are cited as primary drivers of job growth, although hiring may be tempered by budget shortfalls at the regional or institutional level.

Certain individual states are projected to have particularly strong growth within the category of educational, guidance, school and vocational counselors. State labor departments collect their own data on projected job growth, in addition to what the BLS aggregates, and according to those numbers, the states with the best projected growth for these jobs from 2010-20 are:

  • Utah: 35.3% growth
  • Texas: 29.6% growth
  • New Mexico: 28.7% growth
  • Virginia: 28.5% growth
  • Washington, D.C.: 28.1% growth


Cost of Living Data Series: First Quarter 2014, Missouri Economic Research and Information Center,

Summary Report for: Educational, Guidance, School and Vocational Counselors, O*Net OnLine,

Long Term Occupational Projections for Educational, Guidance, School and Vocational Counselors, Projections Central,

Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013: Educational, Guidance, School and Vocational Counselors, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,

School and Career Counselors, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014,