How to Become a School Counselor in Georgia

By Staff Writer

A Georgia guidance counselor works in public and private schools, career and technical programs, or secondary educational institutions to help students achieve academic and career goals. The Georgia Department of Education has developed pathways for students, which guidance counselors help them navigate on their way to college or career readiness. Counselors also address social and emotional issues, such as bullying and suicide prevention. School counselors possess academic and emotional counseling and coaching abilities. The state offers multiple paths to certification in school counseling.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 8% growth in national employment for school counselors as schools focus on developmental and academic student needs. Counselors earn a mean wage of $57,800 in Georgia. The Atlanta metropolitan area falls among the top metro areas for school counselor employment, with 5,520 working counselors. In this metro area counselors earn $60,720 annually.

Use this resource to help you plan your path to becoming a school counselor, with information on educational and licensing requirements and resources to use throughout your career.

Counseling License and Career Requirements in Georgia

Explore more pathways to becoming a counselor in Georgia here

Education and Experience Requirements

The Georgia Professional Standards Commission considers school counseling a service field. Applicants must complete an approved master's program in school counseling and an educator certificate, plus hands-on learning opportunities. The state also provides licensing options for individuals without educator certification. Learn about specific academic requirements, exams, and license maintenance below.

Education and Coursework

Many school counselors begin their education with a teacher preparation undergraduate degree. This degree may focus on a specific content area, such as English or math, or a particular age group, such as early childhood or elementary education. Your undergraduate degree should meet the requirements for initial teacher certification.

Many graduate programs require an active teaching certificate and passing the Georgia Assessments for the Certification of Educators (GACE) basic skills exam for admission to a master's program.

Many graduate programs require an active teaching certificate and passing the Georgia Assessments for the Certification of Educators (GACE) basic skills exam

The Georgia Department of Education approves teacher education programs, including school counseling programs, at Georgia colleges and universities. Learn more about counseling education and careers at If attending a school in another state, check for programmatic accreditation. Georgia requires specific coursework for identifying and educating children with exceptional needs.

School counseling curriculum includes understanding the ethical and legal obligations of the school counselor, child and adolescent psychopathology, and counseling assessment and intervention. The degree requires 60 credits, completed over two or more years. Specific courses may focus on counseling theories, such as play therapy, trauma, the family system over the life cycle, or addiction.

Counselors also develop skills in crisis response and intervention, plus education administrator skills in areas of instructional leadership or organization and research methods.

Interested in pursuing an education in school counseling? Check out the following pages to explore available academic programs by level:

Practicum and Internship

School counseling programs require hands-on practice in providing services to students in school settings. State-approved master's programs include the first-semester practicum for three credits, plus a year-long internship during the second year worth six credits. Students assume a counselor-in-training role during their internship experience.

Application and Exam Requirements for Georgia School Counselors

Georgia offers induction and professional certifications in school counseling through the Georgia Department of Education, following requirements established by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission. The guidance counselor certificate allows qualified counselors to work with students in all public schools from pre-kindergarten through high school. All applicants must meet the Georgia standards of conduct.

Professional Certificate

The standard professional certificate requires completing a post-baccalaureate or master's program in school counseling from an approved school. Applicants must already meet educator certification requirements, including passing the GACE exam in school counseling. The state also accepts applicants who hold a valid National Certified School Counselor credential.

Induction Certificate

The state offers an induction certificate for applicants without a teaching certificate at the request of a local school system. For this certificate, individuals should hold a master's degree in a counseling area, a master of social work degree, or a license to provide clinical social work services in Georgia. Individuals must also pass the state's program admission assessment exam or qualify for an exemption, either through minimum scores on other standardized tests or by presenting a professional education certificate from another state.

Non-renewable Certificate

The state also offers a nonrenewable certificate for individuals who hold a bachelor's degree in school counseling or a teaching certificate in another field and who meet the induction pathway requirements. They may also possess an expired professional school counseling certificate. This license allows school systems to hire these counselors while they gain the education or experience necessary to qualify for a renewable license.

Out-of-State School Counselor Candidates

Individuals holding an active professional school counseling license in another state may apply for a Georgia certificate under the state's reciprocity agreements. Georgia often accepts certificates issued by other U.S. states or jurisdictions, as long as the applicant worked full-time in their field for the past five years. Individuals without this experience must pass the Georgia content assessment.

All educators in Georgia must submit to a criminal background check

All educators in Georgia must submit to a criminal background check before obtaining a certificate. School counselor applicants must also complete coursework related to special education.

If you hold a provisional or temporary guidance counselor certificate in another state, Georgia considers you an applicant for initial educator certification. The state evaluates your education to ensure it meets comparable standards to Georgia-approved programs. Often, this evaluation means your school earned approval from its state for teacher preparation or from an accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

School Counselor Licence Maintenance and Renewal Requirements

You must renew your Georgia guidance counselor certificate within five years. The Georgia Professional Standards Commission requires educators to complete a criminal background check every five years with fingerprints. School systems typically submit the information needed for renewal for their employees, including an individual professional learning plan.

You must renew your Georgia guidance counselor certificate within five years

Additionally, school counselors must show continuing professional knowledge in their field. Continuing education credits or college coursework meets this requirement. Georgia requires completion of six semester hours of college credit during the five-year term, or 10 continuing education units. Continuing education units may include Georgia professional learning units, International Association for Continuing Education units, or U.S. Department of Education teacher-to-teacher workshops.

Resources and Organizations for School Counselors in Georgia

Several state agencies and professional organizations offer information and assistance to aspiring or new school counselors. These resources provide information to develop a robust career choice curriculum, deal with critical social and emotional challenges, or promote the need for highly-trained school counselors.

  • American School Counselor Association The national association for school counselors, this organization offers continuing education opportunities and a host of resources for practicing school counselors, particularly related to legal and ethical considerations. The organization also advocates on behalf of the profession.
  • College Board The site offers timely resources for high school guidance counselors to help students navigate the college application process. Resources include college and career readiness, student achievement, and paying for college.
  • Crisis Resources Learn to help students cope with traumatic situations and recognize the signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. This resource offers some tips for memorial activities, as well.
  • Georgia Career Clusters and Pathways Georgia offers 17 career clusters, featuring a variety of courses students can take to prepare for their future career. Counselors help educate students on the different clusters and offer career exploration for each field.
  • Georgia Department of Education Learn about the state department's rules for student advisement, guidance counselors, and special services for students. Counselors may also review the guidance standards for each grade cluster.
  • Georgia Department of Education School Counselor Information This site offers access to webinars counselors can use for career exploration, with videos on pathways and interviews with industry leaders. The site also offers webinars on other issues, such as digital safety, and bullying.
  • Georgia School Counselor Association This professional membership organization supports the student counselor role in improving student academic achievement, career development, and social development. The organization also advocates for counselors on the state and national level.
  • Office of Civil Rights The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights calls on guidance counselors and other school personnel to ensure equal educational opportunities for all students. This site addresses the policies and practices adopted by schools to ensure they meet student needs.
  • Professional School Counseling Journal The journal features peer-reviewed articles focusing on research, theories, and best practices for guidance counselors. Membership with the American School Counselor Association includes access to the journal and its archives.
  • Safe and Drug-Free Schools This site from the Georgia Department of Education includes toolkits and resources for suicide prevention, bullying prevention, and substance abuse prevention and education. Counselors can also find resources related to child abuse intervention and referrals to appropriate state agencies.

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