How to Become a School Counselor in Pennsylvania

School counselors help students develop the academic and social skills necessary for professional success. These educators provide elementary and secondary school students with resources to facilitate career exploration and vocational development.

Pennsylvania school counselorcandidates must fulfill requirements mandated by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) and outlined in the state's educational codes and regulations. After completing education requirements and passing an exam, candidates can apply for educational specialist certification in school counseling. This credential authorizes educators to perform guidance counseling duties in elementary and secondary schools throughout the state.

This page provides an overview of the certification process for individuals exploring how to become a school counselor in Pennsylvania. It outlines educational requirements, details the application process, and lists professional resources for counselors.

Counseling License and Career Requirements in Pennsylvania

Explore more pathways to becoming a counselor in Pennsylvania here

Education and Experience Requirements

All school counselors in Pennsylvania must meet state-mandated education and experience requirements. PDE, in conjunction with entities such as the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), develops these requirements to ensure that state guidance counselors meet acceptable standards of quality.

Education and Coursework

Pennsylvania school counselors need a graduate degree in the field. Many school counselor candidates also possess significant teaching experience and a bachelor's degree in counseling, education, or a related field. Prospective guidance counselors should become familiar with available education paths to select the best option for their professional goals.

All school counselors in the state must hold a master's degree in school counseling from a regionally accredited institution

All school counselors in the state must hold a master's degree in school counseling from a regionally accredited institution. Candidates must also complete a PDE-approved teacher and school counseling preparation program.

School and guidance counseling programs typically comprise 60 credits, which include formal training and instruction designed to develop field-specific skills and knowledge. Most programs cover human development, foundations and methods of counseling, assessment, intervention techniques, communication strategies, curriculum development, and career preparation techniques.

Some programs also require an internship or field placement. Practicum requirements vary by institution and by student's previous professional experience.

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

Practicum and Internship

Prospective school counselorsin Pennsylvania must satisfy experience requirements outlined by PDE and ASCA. Candidates must complete at least 300 hours of supervised field and instructional experience and 70-75 hours of direct service with elementary or secondary school students. Some candidates complete this component during their master's programs while others undertake supervised experience after graduation.

Application and Exam Requirements for Pennsylvania School Counselors

After meeting all education and experience requirements, school counselor candidates can begin the application and examination process. Like many states, Pennsylvania assesses educators, including school counselors, using the Praxis exam.

Counseling candidates must take and pass two Praxis exams before applying for certification. First, candidates take the core academic skills test, which evaluates basic competencies in reading, writing, and mathematics. Next, the professional school counselor exam assesses candidates' abilities in guidance counseling, career preparation, and vocational instruction. ETS provides a variety of exam preparation materials, and PDE supplies an extensive chart that outlines minimum passing scores for each exam.

After passing both exams, Pennsylvania counseling candidates can submit an application for certification as an educational specialist in elementary and secondary school counseling through PDE's online platform, the Teacher Information Management System. Applicants must create an account and provide documentation indicating completion of all education, experience, and exam requirements. Applicants must also submit to a background check and pay a $200 application fee.

Out-of-State School Counselor Candidates

Pennsylvania does not maintain reciprocity agreements, but the state does participate in an Interstate Agreement with 44 other states. The agreement is based on mutually agreed upon conditions set forth by the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education Certification. Abstaining states include Connecticut, Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri, Montana, and South Dakota. Credentialed teachers and counselors from any of the 44 participating states can obtain certification as a school counselorin Pennsylvania with little to no remediation.

Pathways to certification for out-of-state counselors depend on the candidate's education level and current credentials. All out-of-state applicants must submit their materials using PDE's online platform and must fulfill Pennsylvania's testing requirements.

School Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal Requirements

All guidance counselors in Pennsylvania must maintain their certifications to remain authorized to practice. According to the state code, initial level-one certification lasts six service years. After six years, professionals must convert their certifications to level two. Counselors can continually maintain their level-two certifications as long as they satisfy the requirements outlined by PDE.

Every five years, Pennsylvania professionals must complete at least 180 hours of professional education through PDE-approved service providers

Act 48 of 1999 requires that all Pennsylvania teachers, including school counselors, participate in ongoing professional education. Every five years, professionals must complete at least 180 hours of professional education through PDE-approved service providers.

Resources and Organizations for School Counselors in Pennsylvania

The list below samples the resources and professional organizations available to school counselorsin Pennsylvania. These resources provide tools that enhance counseling endeavors. They also facilitate peer networking and career development opportunities.

  • American School Counselor Association The nation's premier school counselor organization, ASCA provides a comprehensive database of state requirements. Additional resources include best practices guidelines.
  • Education Planner Sponsored in part by the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, this resource provides state-specific tools designed to help counselors and students plan for postsecondary education.
  • LINK for Counselors This resource includes a database of tools for guidance counseling, including college profiles and blog content. LINK for Counselors also publishes a magazine and a biweekly newsletter.
  • National Board for Certified Counselors NBCC supports school counseling professionals and promotes nationwide certification standards that advance quality and excellence in the field. The organization also provides continuing education opportunities.
  • Pennsylvania Association for College Admission Counseling PACAC specializes in college admissions preparation. It offers professional development resources, hosts conferences and workshops, and confers grants and awards.
  • Pennsylvania Career and Technical Education This organization promotes technical and vocational readiness throughout the state by providing testing resources and technical assistance programs. It also offers workshops and professional development opportunities.
  • Pennsylvania Department of Education Guidance Counselor Resources This website aggregates resources for guidance counselors provided by state governmental bodies and educational agencies. Site visitors can access career resource links, curriculum resources, and guidance counseling plans.
  • Pennsylvania School Counselors Association Pennsylvania's preeminent school counselor organization, PSCA offers a variety of professional development opportunities and hosts regular events throughout the state. The association also offers job boards and career planning tools.

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