How to Become a School Counselor in Oregon

School counselors fill an important societal niche by helping children and young adults deal with difficult academic and personal issues. In many states, their skills are in high demand. For instance, the National Center for Education Statistics reported in 2019 that for the 2016-2017 school year, Oregon's high school graduation rate of 76.7% lagged behind the national average of 84.6%. If you aspire to tackle this and other similar challenges, consider becoming a school counselor in Oregon.

Read on for more information about education, experience, and licensure requirements for becoming an Oregon school counselor, along with helpful professional resources.

Counseling License and Career Requirements in Oregon

Explore more pathways to becoming a counselor in Oregon here

Education and Experience Requirements

Oregon maintains rigorous education and experience requirements for school counselors interested in pursuing a career as a licensed professional counselor or teacher. Read on for detailed information on Oregon's high standards for counseling and teaching experience and graduate-level expertise for practitioners of school counseling.

Education and Coursework

Oregon requires prospective school counselors to earn at least 30 credits in school counseling as part of a graduate-level program. The state also expects school counseling programs to hold accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). Candidates do not need to complete the accompanying master's degree to begin working as a school counselor, but they must first complete all the coursework for the concentration.

Oregon requires prospective school counselors to earn at least 30 credits in school counseling as part of a graduate-level program

Many schools offer a licensure-only program that may require candidates to present a master's degree in teaching or another relevant field. Some schools give students the option to complete the concentration as part of a master's in teaching program.

Coursework for becoming a school counselor covers topics like parents, teachers, and communities in schools; counseling students with diverse needs; and at-risk youth. Students' choice in electives can influence what endorsement they receive on their school counselor license. It typically takes 1-2 years to complete the track, depending on the candidate's level of documented teaching experience. The curriculum often gives students the choice between documenting two years' teaching experience or completing a 200-hour teaching practicum. The track generally follows a cohort model and involves the completion of a 600-hour internship in school counseling. The internship component may require students to complete an application for the field placement.

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

Practicum and Internship

For most prospective school counselors in Oregon, two years of teaching experience suffices to meet experience requirements. Candidates without teaching experience, however, must complete 600 hours of supervised counseling work in an internship or practicum, along with 200 hours in a teaching practicum. For 75 of the 200 required teaching hours, the candidate must assume direct teaching responsibility.

Application and Exam Requirements for Oregon School Counselors

Prospective licensees earn preliminary school counselor licensure, a special endorsement differentiating counselors from other non-teacher personnel, through the Teaching Standards and Practices Commission (TSPC). The TSPC issues endorsements that may authorize the bearer to teach:

  • Early childhood and elementary students through grade eight.
  • Grade five through high school.
  • All grades from pre-primary through high school.

School counselor licensure also permits holders to substitute teach. To secure preliminary licensure, candidates complete the Protecting Student and Civil Rights in the Educational Environment test on Oregon and national law, offered through Oregon Licensure Assessments (ORELA). The state also typically requires students to complete a verbal and computational skills test, such as the National Evaluation Series Essential Academic Skills from ORELA or several other nationally-recognized tests. The state no longer requires a competency test for the preliminary license.

Prospective licensees must also include a state and national criminal background check with the application. The application for licensure entails a character and professionalism questionnaire and a $100 fee. The TSPC does not issue paper licenses, and candidates must check online to verify the status of their license. In Oregon, school counselor licensure differs from the Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) credentials available.

Out-of-State School Counselor Candidates

Out-of-state counselors must provide the TSPC with license information, such as documentation of teaching experience in other states where they once resided. Afterwards, the state may provide candidates with a transitional license allowing them to work while meeting TSPC requirements, such as passing the civil rights examination.

The state might also grant preliminary licenses to candidates presenting unrestricted licensure, allowing them to progress towards continuing licensure on a more conventional track. Out-of-state applicants who hold a bachelor's degree qualify for the transitional license. Out-of-state candidates pay an application fee of $120.

School Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal Requirements

The preliminary license remains valid for three years; licensees may renew it continuously or decide to progress to the professional school counselor license. To maintain preliminary licensure, the candidate must complete and verify 75 professional development units (PDUs) and complete a PDU survey related to suicide prevention, treatment, and management. To progress to professional school counselor licensure, they must complete six credits in a school counselor licensure program in addition to completing the same PDU survey as those renewing preliminary licensure. Professional school counselor licenses remain valid for five years and entail completing 125 PDU credits, along with completing the same PDU survey as other licensees.

The preliminary license remains valid for three years; licensees may renew it continuously or decide to progress to the professional school counselor license

Resources and Organizations for School Counselors in Oregon

You can better prepare for a career as a school counselor by bookmarking helpful resources throughout your state. The following list profiles some organizations that can offer continuing education, informational guides, and networking opportunities.

  • American School Counselor Association The ASCA promotes excellence among school counselors through webinars, an annual conference, and site-based training. Many counselors also take advantage of ASCA's coaching services to develop their teaching and counseling skills.
  • ASPIRE Oregon's ASPIRE network provides mentoring and access to postsecondary financial aid and training for students statewide. It also provides prospective school counselors with opportunities for volunteering, internships, and employment.
  • George Fox - Northwest Center for Play Therapy Studies Established in 2003, the Northwest Center for Play Therapy Studies constitutes one of the largest centers for play therapy in the Pacific Northwest. Counselors can seek continuing education credit through two large conferences held in June and November.
  • The Heritage Institute Founded in 1976, the Heritage Institute offers professional development courses to school counselors in the Pacific Northwest, including live workshops, webinars, and email correspondence courses. Many courses utilize a forward-thinking group collaboration model.
  • Oregon Office of Student Access and Completion The OSAC offers post-high school mentorship and financial aid to in-state students. It can either assist prospective counselors in degree completion or offer mentoring opportunities to recent graduates.
  • Oregon School Counselor Association Founded in 1967, OSCA provides financial aid, advocacy, and training to Oregon school counseling students and professionals. The organization's online forum provides valuable resources for connecting with established professionals.
  • Portland DBT Institute The Portland Dialectical Behavior Therapy Institute provides workshops and training to counselors in a range of specializations and holds NBCC approval as a continuing education provider.
  • Portland State University - Continuing Education PSU offers counseling-related continuing education courses. Seminar topics include multicultural issues, trauma, and community and family in school counseling.
  • TZK Seminars TZK Seminars specializes in offering continuing education credits to Oregon counselors, psychologists, and nurses in the form of live and recorded webinars. Topics include juvenile delinquency, supervision, and addiction.
  • University of Portland - Administration Licensure Program The University of Portland offers programs in counseling administration licensure at the graduate and doctoral level. These programs serve school counselors and educators looking to advance to the executive level at their school.

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