School Counselor Certification in Missouri

Missouri school counselors are certified by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). Credentials are issued at two grade levels. Elementary certification is valid in grades K-8; secondary certification is valid in grades 7-12. Educators have the option of earning both credentials

School Counselor Educational Requirements

There are multiple educational pathways. The most direct is to complete an approved school counseling program (

Missouri programs are approved by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The program will include at least 42 semester hours of guidance and counseling coursework with at least 12 semester hours at the level sought (elementary or secondary). It will include at least three semester hours of supervised practice at the grade level sought. Secondary school counseling programs will include the following:

  • School guidance foundations
  • Elementary and secondary school counseling theories and techniques
  • Group counseling theories and techniques
  • Orientation to counseling personal and professional development
  • Practicum

Elementary counseling students are expected to develop competencies identified by DESE. The following were identified in 2014 and will go into effect in 2017:

  • Student development
  • Program implementation
  • Professional relationships
  • Leadership and advocacy
  • Professional and ethical conduct

Expectations are described in Code of State Regulations 20-400.640 (

Elementary and secondary students who do not have undergraduate degrees in education will need to complete additional coursework in the following: teaching practices, classroom management, and psychology of the exceptional child. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has provided a list of Missouri-approved programs ( Those that accept individuals who do not have teaching backgrounds are listed separately.

School counselors may also be licensed on the basis of degrees in closely related fields like counseling, education, and counseling psychology, provided that they take additional coursework that is specific to school counseling. Candidates with related degrees will need to complete internships or supervised field experiences in school settings; the minimum requirement is 300 hours. The Department of Education does not evaluate transcripts of individuals who do not have degrees in school counseling but instead refers them to universities with approved programs.

Certification is granted on the basis of education, examination, and experience. While Missouri school counselors are not required to first hold teaching credentials, those who do not have additional requirements.

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Examination Requirements

Missouri school counselors typically pass two examinations in route to certification. They are expected to pass a basic skills examination before admission to an educator preparation program. They must pass a content examination before certification. Missouri has adopted new state assessments, which are administered in cooperation with Pearson VUE.

The general skills examination is the Missouri General Education Assessment (MoGEA). It assesses proficiency in language arts, writing, mathematics, social studies, and science. All subtests except writing are in multiple choice format. It is necessary to pass all subtests. The candidate may register for the full assessment for $49 one time ( Thereafter, subtests cost $25 each.

The content examination is Missouri Content Assessment Examination #056: Counselors ( While the Missouri Content Assessments have replaced the Praxis, those who took Praxis tests by August 31, 2014 may have their test scores accepted through 2016; they will need to have completed their educational programs by this time as well (

The new school counselor examination is a computer-delivered multiple choice test, available throughout the year at Pearson VUE testing sites. Candidates may register and pay the $77 fee online. Pearson VUE has provided a content outline and other preparatory materials ( Candidates receive scaled scores between 100 and 300; 220 is the threshold for passing. DESE will receive official results directly from the scoring company.

Background Check Requirements

Missouri requires fingerprint-based criminal background checks. The approved vendor is 3M/Cogent. Candidates initiate the process by registering online with Missouri Automated Criminal History Site, or MACHS ( They can then go to the most convenient site for electronic fingerprinting (

The fee is currently $43.05. Some applicants may be exempted on the basis of fingerprint background clearance granted within the prior 12 months.

Out-of-state candidates should have their fingerprints made on two standard FBI cards ( They will then send the cards to 3M/ Cogent. Pre-registration through MACHS is required. Out-of-country applicants may email ‘machs at’ for instructions.

The Application Process

Candidates may apply online ( DESE has published a help guide for using the online system.

All candidates must provide an institutional recommendation unless they are currently credentialed in another jurisdiction. There is a separate application and checklist for non-Missouri graduates. They will need to send official transcripts. They pay an application fee of $100.

Supplemental materials are to be mailed together in a single envelope to Educator Certification, PO Box 480, Jefferson City, MO 65102.

Reciprocal Credentialing of Out-of-State School Counselors

Professionals who hold current credentialing in school services in other states can be granted reciprocal credentialing in Missouri. The Department notes that in most cases, additional requirements such as examination are not required; therefore, that if one is completing an out-of-state program, it is generally best to first seek credentialing in the other state ( In many cases, online programs are considered out-of-state.

School counselors with current credentialing will provide copies of their certificates. Those who have experience in school services will need to complete an out-of-state verification form as well.

Individuals can use the online system to monitor receipt of background information, view pending applications, and print out certificates, once issued.

Progressing from Initial to Career Continuous Student Services Certificate

Professional will first qualify for initial certificates. They are eligible for career continuous certificates after completion of four years of employment, required professional development coursework, and successful annual performance assessment. They receive mentoring for the first two years.

Additional Information

Certification is available on the website of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education ( Educator Certification can be reached by email at 'certification at' or by telephone at 573-751-0051.

The Missouri School Counselor Association is an additional resource for the state’s school counselors ( The organization partners with DESE to run the statewide mentoring program (

You may also be interested in the Missouri Professional Counselor license requirements.

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