How To Become a Guidance Counsellor

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated November 20, 2022 | Published June 21, 2021

Updated November 20, 2022

Published June 21, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A guidance counsellor is an excellent role for people who love helping others. You'll advocate for students and support them through their endeavours.

But how do you know if it's the ideal career for you?

First, you'll need to learn more about the role and the route to get there. In this article, we look at how to become a guidance counsellor, discuss what they do and how much they earn, and answer frequently asked questions you may have about this career path.

Related: Determining the Best Careers For An INFP Personality

How to become a guidance counsellor

If you're considering becoming a guidance counsellor, here are the steps you can follow to do so:

1. Complete your bachelor's degree

While the requirements to become a guidance counsellor change based on the province or territory, Canada's general minimum requirement everywhere is a bachelor's degree. Pick a related program at any reputable university, such as one in counselling, education, social sciences, or counselling. An undergraduate degree takes an average of four years to complete. Ensure you maintain an above-average GPA to move on to the next step.

2. Get a master's degree and/or teacher's certificate

Many employers require candidates to have a master's degree and/or teaching certificate. You can combine the two by getting a Master of Education degree in counselling or psychology. This is because you need teaching experience before you become a guidance counsellor. It ensures you can give students the best educational advice possible. It should take another two years to get your master's degree.

If your province or territory doesn't require a master's degree, you can go to teacher's college for two years and become a certified teacher. This gives you a similar foundation of knowledge to become a guidance counsellor. It's essential to check your province's or territory's requirements for becoming a guidance counsellor to ensure you follow the right path.

3. Complete an internship or placement

Many teaching programs require students to have on-the-job training before they graduate. This ensures they are comfortable teaching a class and leading their students to success. If you perform well in your placement, the school's principal may hire you when you are certified.

If you didn't have to complete a placement in school, an internship is a great way to get experience. You may assist other teachers, guidance counsellors, or even teach your classes. Internships rarely offer the same pay as a traditional position, but they give you valuable experience.

Related: How to Become a Canadian Certified Counsellor?

4. Get teaching experience

You can apply for teaching positions now that you have hands-on experience and the necessary educational background. You may have to start with supply teaching, where you're covering for teachers that are sick or on vacation. This way, you can get to know a school's staff and apply for a full-time role when there's an opening. Most provinces and territories require guidance counsellors to have at least two years of teaching experience. So, you must start teaching as soon as possible to gain experience.

5. Further your education

Before you apply for guidance counsellor roles, consider furthering your education and building up your knowledge and experience further. Consider additional qualifications, such as a specific course for guidance counsellors. This will help set you apart from other candidates and ensure you're thoroughly prepared to be a guidance counsellor.

6. Apply for guidance counsellor roles

After five to six years of schooling and two years of teaching, you're ready to become a guidance counsellor. You may want to wait until a position becomes available at the school you already work at or another school you're interested in working for. If not, get an outstanding reference from the principal at your school and pursue roles in your area.

Related: Key Steps to Asking for a Reference

What does a guidance counsellor do?

Guidance counsellors work in elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools to assist students. The work they do varies depending on the age group they're working with, but here are some of their primary responsibilities:

  • Assist with students' academic, social, and personal development.

  • Offer tools and advice for students to handle their stress and emotions.

  • Advise students on the best educational route to follow their ambitions and meet career goals.

  • Assess students' abilities with aptitude tests.

  • Discuss students' interests to determine what classes or extracurriculars would suit them.

  • Counsel individuals that are struggling academically, socially, or personally.

  • Recommend outside intervention when necessary, such as therapy.

  • Educate students and staff about relevant topics, such as bullying or career planning.

  • Update and maintain student records.

  • Monitor students for signs of neglect or abuse and report the incidents.

  • Research and collect information on different colleges and universities students can attend.

Average salary and working conditions

Guidance counsellors typically have their own office inside a school. This gives them a private space to talk to students one-on-one without worrying about someone overhearing. They spend most of their time sitting behind a desk, talking to students and completing administrative tasks on a computer. They may walk around the school to escort students, retrieve them from class, or speak to other staff members.

Guidance counsellors usually work full time, from Monday to Friday. Their hours depend on the school's schedule, as they typically go to work before students come and leave after the students do. The national average salary for guidance counsellors is $57,186 per year. This salary varies depending on the educational institution, location, level of expertise, and age group of the students.

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Frequently asked questions about becoming a guidance counsellor

Here are some answers to frequently asked questions you may have about becoming a guidance counsellor:

What skills does a guidance counsellor need?

If you want to become a guidance counsellor, here are some skills you should have:

  • Problem-solving skills: Students will come to you with personal, academic, or social problems to seek your advice or counsel. Strong problem-solving skills will help you determine the best solution to each unique issue.

  • Communication skills: You must actively listen to students and communicate the best action plan for their issues. You must also use your communication skills to give presentations and talk to parents or other staff members.

  • Friendliness: It takes courage for students to come to you with their problems. So it's essential to be friendly and approachable to encourage them.

  • Empathy: Sometimes, students want someone to listen to them. Being empathetic and showing students you care about them and understand what they're going through can make a significant difference.

  • Interpersonal skills: Guidance counsellors work with a wide range of students, so strong interpersonal skills are essential. They allow you to connect with students from any race, ethnicity, religion, or socioeconomic background.

Related: How to Improve Your Skill Set and Keep Skills Current

What are the job prospects for guidance counsellors?

Job prospects for guidance counsellors vary depending on the province or territory. More populated areas with more schools will have higher prospects than smaller cities or towns. According to the Government of Canada's Job Bank, here are the job prospects for a guidance counsellor by province and territory:

  • Alberta: Good

  • British Columbia: Good

  • Manitoba: Good

  • New Brunswick: Good

  • Newfoundland and Labrador: Good

  • Northwest Territories: Undetermined

  • Nova Scotia: Moderate

  • Nunavut: Undetermined

  • Ontario: Moderate

  • Prince Edward Island: Good

  • Quebec: Very good

  • Saskatchewan: Good

  • Yukon: Undetermined

What cities in Canada pay guidance counsellors the most?

According to Indeed Salaries, Montreal and Gatineau in Quebec, Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area in Ontario, and Markham, Ontario pay guidance counsellors the most. Job prospects are available in Quebec, but you must be fluent in French and English to succeed.

Do guidance counsellors perform other types of counselling?

Guidance counsellors only perform academic, social, and personal counselling in the school setting. You must refer students to a medical professional if they need long-term mental health or behavioural counselling. But, you can use therapeutic methods to support students, such as talk therapy.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions, or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed. Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organization and a candidate’s experience, academic background and location.

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