How to Become a School Counselor in Missouri

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the number of school and career counselors in the U.S. to grow by 13% between 2016 and 2026. Missourians enjoy particularly strong prospects, as BLS data show that the central Missouri region includes some of the highest employment rates for educational and school counselors in the country.

School counselors become certified through Missouri's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), and they must obtain their school services certificate in school counseling. Counselors can further specialize in grades K-8, 7-12, or both. This guide covers how to become a school counselor in Missouri, including education and experience requirements.

Counseling License and Career Requirements in Missouri

Explore more pathways to becoming a counselor in Missouri here

Education and Experience Requirements

Generally, the certification process for school counselors in Missouri involves earning bachelor's and graduate degrees, passing a state-sponsored exam, and completing several hours of supervised experience. However, Missourians can follow several different paths to become a school counselor. The following sections outline the various requirements for school counselors in Missouri.

Education and Coursework

All school counseling candidates must obtain a bachelor's degree in education or another state-approved program. This state-approved program must focus on teaching methods, classroom management, and working with exceptional children.

Prospective counselors also need at least a master's degree in counseling or another state-approved subject, such as counseling psychology. If students do not have a counseling degree, they must complete extra coursework in school counseling and a 300-hour internship or supervised work experience in a school setting. Once students earn their higher degree, their school must submit a recommendation for the candidate to DESE.

State-approved academic programs focus on competencies like student development, program implementation, professional relationships, leadership and advocacy, and ethical and professional conduct. DESE publishes a full list of approved school counseling programs on its website. For more information on how to pick a counseling program, prospective students can visit this resource.


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


Practicum and Internship

Most approved school counseling master's programs in Missouri include a field experience that comprises at least three credits and 300 clock hours. These experiences take place inside elementary and secondary schools.

Application and Exam Requirements for Missouri School Counselors

School counselors must earn a 220 or higher on the Counselor Missouri Content Assessment to earn certification. In addition, every student pursuing a degree related to education must pass the Missouri General Assessment as part of their undergraduate requirements. The certification process also requires a fingerprint background clearance, administered by the FBI/Missouri Highway Patrol.

every student pursuing a degree related to education must pass the Missouri General Assessment as part of their undergraduate requirements

Counselors must earn the initial student services certificate (ISS) before receiving full certification. ISS candidates need a master's degree. They work with this credential for four years, which includes two years of mentorship. They must also participate in 40 hours of professional development. Schools evaluate counselors with initial certification before candidates can obtain full certification.

Alternatively, prospective counselors can pursue a temporary authorization certificate (TAC) before earning their ISS credential. This one-year certification allows counselors to work in schools as they pursue their master's degree. After they complete 24 credits of their graduate degree, candidates can apply for provisional certification, which allows counseling students to work in schools for two years. This path culminates with content and performance assessments, after which students can receive their ISS.

Out-of-state School Counselor Candidates

Professionals moving to Missouri from another state can apply for certification by filling out the non-Missouri graduate application, which they can do through an online portal. They must also submit a copy of their out-of-state certificate and official transcripts. Recent graduates without professional experience must submit a recommendation from their school and complete a criminal background check. Professionals with experience must submit a verification of experience form.

School Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal Requirements

To maintain certification, counselors need to participate in 20 hours of professional development each year. They may earn exemption from professional development requirements if they meet two of three accomplishments: 10 years of experience, earning a higher degree, or completing national certification.

School counselors in Missorui only need to reactivate their certification if they stop practicing for an extended period of time

School counselors only need to reactivate their certification if they stop practicing for an extended period of time. Professionals who want to reactivate certification must enroll in a 2-3-credit graduate-level course in counseling. Once they complete this course, they can fill out the reactivation application online.

Resources and Organizations for School Counselors in Missouri

School counseling students and professionals should consider joining professional organizations. Benefits include professional development, networking, and continuing education opportunities.

  • American Counseling Association of Missouri This professional organization hosts an annual conference that gives counselors continuing education and professional development credits. The group also keeps members up to date on legislative information concerning counseling.
  • American School Counselor Association ASCA offers professional development opportunities and planning resources that counselors can use in schools. The group also publishes a magazine, journal, and newsletter.
  • ASCA Scene ASCA members can communicate with each other through this website, which operates as a social network for school counselors. They can ask questions, share documents, and search for resources.
  • Counselor Keri's Blog This blog publishes information that counselors can use professionally, covering topics such as classroom guidance, art activities, and technology tools.
  • Counselors of TPT E-book Published by the online network Teachers Pay Teachers, this e-book offers advice and resources from school counseling professionals. TPT members can download the e-book for free.
  • High School Counselors' Network This closed group on Facebook allows school counselors, psychologists, and social workers to join and connect. They can ask questions and share strategies about their profession.
  • Missouri School Counselor Association This association offers professional development programs for Missouri counselors. Members can attend conferences, participate in legislative processes, and find jobs on MSCA's website.
  • Redesigning School Counseling - Webcast Series Run by the American Student Achievement Institute, this organization publishes a webcast for school counselors. The series covers issues like achievement data and counselor effectiveness.
  • School Counselor Toolkit This website offers several tools for school counseling students and professionals, including journals, lesson plans, and research.
  • Stopbullying.gov As an initiative of the U.S. Department of Health and Social Services, this site provides advice for education professionals on how to set school bullying policies and rules, build a safe environment, and respond to bullying.

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