How to Become a School Counselor in Massachusetts

School counseling professionals provide vocational, academic, social, and personal guidance to students. This role also requires counselors to support stakeholders who influence students' well-being, which includes parents, educators, and administrators. Job availability in this field remains positive. In fact, BLS data projects jobs will increase faster than the national average through 2026.

Professionals exploring how to become a school counselor in Massachusetts should examine pertinent qualities, which include patience, empathy, and interpersonal skills. To obtain licensure, students must earn at minimum a master's degree in school counseling or a related field.

Counseling License and Career Requirements in Massachusetts

Explore more pathways to becoming a counselor in Massachusetts here

Education and Experience Requirements

The section below explores bachelor's degree options for aspiring counselors and specifications to look for when choosing a master's degree in counseling. While this profession offers doctorate opportunities, professionals are only required to hold a master's degree to become licensed. This section also elaborates on coursework, credit requirements, and licensure requirements.

Education and Coursework

The Massachusetts School Counselor Board requires applicants to hold a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in counseling to qualify for licensure. While Massachusetts does not require students to obtain a bachelor's degree in a particular field, relevant majors include counseling, psychology, or sociology. Ultimately, coursework should develop students' ability to offer interpersonal relationship development, social and emotional growth, educational and career decision-making, and academic improvement.

The Massachusetts School Counselor Board requires applicants to hold a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in counseling to qualify for licensure

On average, a bachelor's degree program requires at least 120 credits. Common courses include sociological theories, probability and statistics, social science research methods, developmental psychology, theories of personality, and counseling methods. By contrast, a master's degree in counseling requires a minimum of 60 credits. Students should also anticipate practicum or internship experiences. Coursework typically includes law and ethics, career guidance, group counseling, social justice practices, leadership and advocacy, and intervention methods.

A master's degree remains the minimum requirement to practice with a license. However, earning a doctorate in counseling allows professionals to stand out as subject matter experts. Additionally, students should strongly consider programs that hold accreditation through the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). This accreditation indicates that the program prepares graduates for careers in counseling.

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

Practicum and Internship

Advanced counseling degrees typically include a hands-on component to provide students with applicable experience prior to entering the field. To become a licensed counselor in Massachusetts, students must enroll in a master's program that includes a minimum 450-hour practicum experience in an approved educational setting under a supervisor with a valid counseling license.

Application and Exam Requirements for Massachusetts School Counselors

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education requires professional counselor applicants to hold a master's degree from an accredited institution approved by the board. While CACREP-accredited programs indicate to employers that students received proper training, the National Board for Certified Counselors also approves CORE- or APA-accredited schools. To earn an initial counseling license, the Massachusetts Counselor Board also requires students to obtain a passing score on the Communications and Literacy Skills test. Students must also complete Background Check, Inc. (BCI) and FBI background checks.

To obtain a professional license, applicants must hold:

  • An initial license
  • Three years of experience
  • An advanced counseling degree

Applicants must also pass the National Counselor Examination (NCE) and maintain good standing. The NCE exam consists of 200 multiple-choice questions and requires around four hours to complete. The NCE is not evaluated on a curved scale. The exam assessed pertinent knowledge and skills, including:

  • human growth and development
  • social and cultural diversity
  • counseling and helping relationships
  • group counseling and group work
  • career counseling
  • assessment and testing
  • research and program evaluation
  • professional counseling orientation and ethical practice

Massachusetts applicants should note that the process may vary depending on students' specialization.

Out-of-State School Counselor Candidates

The Massachusetts Counselor Board accepts qualified out-of-state counselors looking to relocate. Applicants must provide proof of:

  • A master's degree in counseling from an accredited institution
  • Internship hours
  • Examination results
  • A valid counseling license
  • Three years of experience

Massachusetts does offer alternative paths to gain reciprocity. Applicants who completed a state or jurisdiction educator preparation program or an alternative educator preparation program may apply. Massachusetts also accepts other programs accredited by the CAEP, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, or the Teacher Education Accreditation Council. Other requirements may include:

  • Official transcripts
  • Professional reference forms
  • BCI/FBI background check

School Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal Requirements

The Massachusetts School Counselor Board requires guidance counselors to renew their license every five years. However, school counselors may renew their license up to 12 months in advance. While professionals should consult their individual school district for renewal requirements, the state of Massachusetts requires 150 professional development points with a minimum 15 English Immersion points. Professionals should keep records of professional development and renewal documentation as the state periodically audits counselors.

The Massachusetts School Counselor Board requires guidance counselors to renew their license every five years

Counselors may acquire professional development credits through colleges and universities. Other approved providers include:

  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Educational corporations
  • Educational associations

Professionals can obtain additional professional development providers through the Massachusetts Department of Education website.

Resources and Organizations for School Counselors in Massachusetts

The professional counseling community continues to expand. Guidance counselors can access multiple resources and an international network that offers cutting-edge research and innovative practices on a regular basis. The resources below can also assist emerging and practicing counselors by advancing their knowledge of the field.

  • American Counseling Association The ACA advocates for ethical, culturally diverse practices that assist individuals who use counseling services. The ACA also advocates for professional counselors. Members gain access to publications, professional development, and annual conferences.
  • American School Counselor Association The ASCA strives to support students and professionals in the field by providing cutting-edge resources, statistical data, publications, and professional development. Members also gain access to annual conferences.
  • Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development The AMCD provides resources that help counselors promote ethnic and racial empathy. AMCD offers leadership academy competency opportunities, growth workshops, mentorship, and a 25-state division network.
  • Center for School Counseling Outcome Research and Evaluation CSCORE provides educational opportunities for aspiring counselors. CSCORE also offers professional development for practitioners who wish to develop data-driven decision making, survey development, and program implementation skills.
  • Counseling Academic and Professional Honor Society International Established in 1985, this international honor society promotes professional excellence in counseling. Students gain access to annual conventions, mentorship, practical experience, leadership development, research opportunities, and fellowships.
  • Journal of School Counseling The JSC provides articles that discuss best practices for professional school counselors. Content focuses on innovation, theory and research, professional development, emerging issues, and current dilemmas.
  • Massachusetts School Counselors Association Since 1961, MASCA has promoted professional counseling excellence by offering leadership, professional development, and networking opportunities. Membership also includes access to conferences, advocacy, and legislation involvement. MASCA also maintains relationships with multiple sister organizations.
  • National Association of College Admission Counseling The NACAC strives to connect students and professionals. Members gain access to webinars, workshops, job fairs, national conferences, and microcommunities focusing on specific areas of the counseling field.
  • National Board for Certified Counselors The NBCC identifies as a grassroots network. Certified counselors gain access to a network of professionals who remain passionate about developing innovative solutions to modern problems in the field.
  • National Education Association Professional counselors work directly with educators and provide social and emotional education to students. NEA membership is over three million strong, and members can access discussion forums, learn innovative field techniques, and explore online resources like webinars.

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