How to Become a School Counselor in Montana

If you have ever found yourself searching for more meaning in your career, enjoy working with youth, or dream about living in Big Sky country, then read on to learn how to become a school counselor in Montana.

Montana offers a promising employment environment for school counselors. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), approximately 660 school counselors ply their trade in the state, earning an average annual salary of $48,000. Furthermore, the BLS projects a 13% increase in the number of school counselor positions nationwide between 2016 and 2026.

This guide to how to become a guidance counselor in Montana covers topics such as licensure, education, and experience requirements.

Counseling License and Career Requirements in Montana

Explore more pathways to becoming a counselor in Montana here

Education and Experience Requirements

The following section includes more information about how to become a school counselor in Montana. Read on to learn more about education and experience requirements that you must complete before applying for professional school counselor licensure.

Education and Coursework

The Montana Office of Public Instruction does not list any particular undergraduate degree requirements for future school counselors in the state. As such, licensure applicants do not need bachelor's degrees in any particular field. However, future Montana school counselors must have a master's degree in school counseling from a regionally accredited university or a master's degree with an equivalent amount of graduate-level counseling courses. The state does not budge on these educational requirements.

Montana school counselors must have a master's degree in school counseling or a master's degree with an equivalent amount of graduate-level counseling courses

In most cases, a student can complete a master's program in school counseling in 18-54 months, depending on enrollment type. Most master's-level school counseling curricula require students to complete around 48 credits before they graduate. The Office of Public Instruction does not list any particular coursework or content requirements for candidates in school counseling programs. Unlike some other states, the Office of Public Instruction in Montana also does not require applicants to get institutional recommendations from their master's programs to become licensed.

For more information about possible counseling careers and educational paths, please consult this webpage.


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


Practicum and Internship

All prospective Montana school counselors must complete an internship with at least 600 supervised hours in a school or school-related setting. Most master's-level school counseling programs fulfill this requirement. Beyond an internship, the state does not list any specific experience requirements.

Application and Exam Requirements for Montana School Counselors

The Montana Office of Public Instruction (OPI) is the Montana counselor board, overseeing all matters related to school counseling licensure in Big Sky Country. In addition to earning a master's degree in school counseling from a regionally accredited university and a 600-hour supervised internship in a school setting, requirements for school counseling licensure in Montana include a criminal background check and an application. In addition to a background check, all candidates must also demonstrate "good moral and professional character" for their licensure applications to be approved.

Candidates do not need to complete any standardized tests to earn initial professional school counseling certification in Montana. A student can submit official college transcripts demonstrating a master's in school counseling either electronically or by mail to the OPI. Licensure candidates can also find all the necessary application forms and paperwork on the OPI website.

Candidates do not need to complete any standardized tests to earn initial professional school counseling certification in Montana

Out-of-State School Counselor Candidates

Montana offers reciprocity to school counselors who hold professional licensure in other states. These professionals can apply to transfer their licensure through the Montana OPI website. To meet the requirements for school counselor licensure in Montana, an out-of-state counselor may be asked to submit the following materials:

  • A copy of their professional school counselor license in their home state
  • Transcripts demonstrating a master's in school counseling
  • Proof of completion of a 600-hour supervised internship

School Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal Requirements

Each Montana school counselor certificate lasts for five years, no matter the experience level or age of the individual counselor. During each five-year renewal period, all Montana school counselors must complete 60 renewal units approved by the OPI. OPI renewal units convert to traditional credits based on the following scale:

  • One semester credit = 15 OPI renewal units
  • One quarter credit = 10 OPI renewal units
  • One hour of attendance at a professional development workshop = one OPI renewal unit

Resources and Organizations for School Counselors in Montana

The following section includes a list of 10 resources and professional organizations that can aid guidance counselors with elements of their jobs, such as networking, professional development, and continuing education.

  • ACT As one of the two main entrance exams for college admissions in the United States, the ACT has nearly equaled the SAT in terms of prevalence in recent years. As such, high school counselors should familiarize themselves with the ACT and how it functions.
  • American Counseling Association ACA counts itself among the field's most prominent professional organizations. This association offers continuing education opportunities, access to publications, advocacy, and a jobs board.
  • American School Counselor Association A national organization with a branch in most states, ASCA is the preeminent professional organization for school counselors. It offers professional development and access to publications.
  • Montana School Counselor Association As a branch of ASCA, the Montana School Counselor Association serves as Montana's main professional organization for the field. Its members benefit from professional development, publications, and yearly awards.
  • Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs CACREP gives its stamp of approval to various college counseling programs after vetting them against a set of standards. Prospective school counseling students can check the CACREP website for up-to-date accreditation information.
  • DrugRehab.com DrugRehab.com publishes a wide range of evergreen articles that deal with topics such as drug addiction, treatment, and counseling. High school counselors should familiarize themselves with the website's content to best perform their duties.
  • Montana K-12 School Counselor Standards This government website lays out the standards by which Montana school counselors are measured and evaluated. School counselors in the state should familiarize themselves with these standards.
  • Montana School Counselor Licensure Requirements Just like the standards page, this government website provides key information about licensure for future school counselors.
  • The National Association for College Admission Counseling NACAC provides members with comprehensive, up-to-date information about best practices in the field. High school counselors, in particular, can benefit from membership in the association.
  • The National Board for Certified Counselors NBCC awards various badges and credentials to school counselors who complete certain courses. These credentials allow them to stand out in job interviews and for promotions.

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