School counselors play a vital role in the academic, social, and emotional growth of youth. In Florida, the school-counselor-to-student ratio is 1:485. These professionals must work effectively with hundreds of students of varying ages, backgrounds, and abilities. Securing certification as a guidance counselor takes significant investments of time and effort to ensure proper training.
In the sections below, we explore how to become a school counselor in Florida. Details include education requirements, experience requirements, and certification procedures for both Florida residents and out-of-state candidates.
Counseling License and Career Requirements in FloridaExplore more pathways to becoming a counselor in Florida here
Education and Experience Requirements
Counselors working in any specialization, including school counseling, must meet rigorous academic and professional standards to practice. The following section details basic Florida counseling certification requirements as they pertain to higher education degrees, coursework content areas, and classroom experience.
Education and Coursework
When exploring how to become a guidance counselor in Florida, the most important step is enrolling in higher education. Each aspiring counselor must begin their journey by obtaining a bachelor's degree. Completing a four-year program proves a student's ability to succeed academically and fosters the development of foundational knowledge and critical-thinking skills. At the undergraduate level, a future counselor's choice of academic discipline can be a bit flexible, but many find it beneficial to pursue their degree in education, psychology, counseling, or sociology.
All guidance counselors must complete appropriate master's degrees before they can pursue certification and start working. Specific program requirements and coursework expectations vary from state to state. To meet Florida requirements, counselors may pursue a master's in guidance and counseling, counselor education, or another discipline, as long as the program includes at least 30 graduate-level credits in specific content areas. These content areas include:
Principles, Philosophy, Organization, and Administration of Guidance
Student Appraisal and Administration of Standardized Tests
Learning, Personality Theory, and Human Development
Counseling Theories and Individual/Group Counseling Techniques
Consultation Skills and Techniques for Use with Parents and Teachers
Legal, Ethical, and Current Counseling Issues
Specialized Counseling Techniques for Special Populations
Practicum and Internship
To qualify for school counselor licensure, a candidate's graduate degree must meet the above curriculum specifications, along with practicum requirements. Florida requires at least three graduate-level credits of practicum experience involving supervised counseling work in either an elementary or secondary school. This generally requires between 400-600 on-site hours.
Interested in pursuing an education in school counseling? Check out the following pages to explore available academic programs by level:
Application and Exam Requirements for Florida School Counselors
Counseling encompasses a large field, including school counselors; substance abuse counselors; mental health counselors; and marriage and family therapists. Licensing requirements and certification procedures vary between each of these specializations. The State of Florida Department of Education (DOE) Division of Certification acts as the Florida counselor board for professionals working in schools. The DOE sets guidelines and reviews certification applications from school counselors throughout the state.
After completing a qualifying master's program, each aspiring guidance counselor must meet a few additional requirements before obtaining certification and starting work, including earning a passing score on the state certification exam for school counselors.
Teacher Certification Requirements
In Florida, a school counselor must also possess a separate teacher certification. This ensures that guidance counselors develop a firm foundation in pedagogy, child development, and the state's K-12 academic system. Counseling certification candidates without a current, active teaching license in Florida must complete the Professional Education Test and the General Knowledge Test in addition to the counselor certification exam.
Specific teacher certification requirements and procedures vary depending on a candidate's prior education (e.g., a teacher preparation program vs. unrelated bachelor's degree). Aspiring school counselors in Florida should review DOE guidelines and work closely with academic advisors throughout their education to chart a course to teacher certification well in advance of graduation.
Out-of-State School Counselor Candidates
Florida's teacher certification requirements also apply to school counselors from out-of-state. Florida offers two reciprocity routes for individuals who hold active, out-of-state teaching certifications. Acceptable certifications for reciprocity include standard state certifications and licenses issued by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). Guidance counselors moving from a state that does not require them to hold teacher certification must obtain a Florida teaching certification before they can continue their work.
School Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal Requirements
All Florida educators, including school counselors, must renew their certification every five years. To qualify for renewal, candidates must complete a renewal application form, pay an application fee, and complete continuing education requirements. The primary continuing education pathway for renewal involves completing six college credits, with at least one credit in teaching students with disabilities. Other acceptable college credit equivalencies include:
- 20-60 inservice points at a Florida master inservice program
- A passing score on a Florida subject area exam, specific to the certification being renewed
- A valid certificate issued by NBPTS
- Teaching a college-level course at an acceptable institution
All Florida educators, including school counselors, must renew their certification every five years
Resources and Organizations for School Counselors in Florida
Though they spend a lot of time working with people, K-12 counselors generally receive limited field-specific networking opportunities in the workplace. Joining professional associations and pursuing online resources can significantly enrich a guidance counselor's professional life.
- American Counseling Association In addition to membership benefits like access to an online job center and industry publications, the ACA offers a free Knowledge Center for members and non-members alike, featuring articles, webinars, and podcasts.
- American School Counselor Association ASCA supports school counselors nationwide in their effort to help students succeed in and out of the classroom. Membership benefits include magazine and journal subscriptions, professional development opportunities, and annual conference access.
- Confident Counselors Confident Counselors is a collaborative blog written by school counselors, psychologists, and social workers. Its posts cover topics like professional development tips, personal experiences, and counseling techniques.
- Florida Counseling Association FCA is a branch organization of the ACA, supporting counselors and promoting the value of professional counseling in Florida. Membership benefits include local, regional, and state networking; job board access; and professional development opportunities.
- Florida Department of Education The Florida DOE serves students, educators, and administrators throughout the state. This department provides educators and counselors with certification information, professional development guides, and funding and support programs.
- Florida School Counselor Association As a division of ASCA, the FSCA supports, empowers, and advocates on behalf of Florida school counselors at the state level. Membership benefits include online and in-person networking opportunities, professional development opportunities, and periodicals.
- The Middle School Counselor This blog shares counseling techniques and tools with middle schoolers in mind. Topics covered include academic success, career planning, group and individual counseling, and student empowerment.
- Savvy School Counselor Created by a school counseling professional with more than two decades of experience, this blog features counseling tips and techniques, relevant book reviews, and issue-specific resources on bullying, public relations, and more.
- School Counselor Resources Guided by the values of the ASCA National Model, School Counselor Resources objectively evaluates and describes hundreds of publications and materials each year, making it easy for counselors to purchase the best resources available.
- YouthLight, Inc. Founded and operated by school counselors, YouthLight, Inc. develops award-winning educational resources for professionals in the field. Products include books, technology, and hands-on materials, with options available for all K-12 ages and issues.