How to Become a School Counselor in Washington

School counselors support students in meeting career and college readiness goals, including advising high school students on the college admission process. In Washington, over 5,000 professionals work as school and guidance counselors. School counselors must hold a master's degree and complete a state-issued educational staff association certificate to work in Washington public schools. They must also pass an examination. This guide covers how to become a school counselor in Washington.

Counseling License and Career Requirements in Washington

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Education and Experience Requirements

School counselors must meet several requirements to work in Washington public schools. The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction grants school and guidance counselor certifications in the state. This section covers the education and experience requirements to earn Washington first-tier and second-tier school counselor certifications.

Education and Coursework

First-tier school counselors in Washington need a master's degree in counseling. However, candidates with a master's or doctorate in another field who meet the coursework requirements for a master's in school counseling can also apply with verification from the head of their institution's school counseling department. The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, which issues certifications, does not perform transcript evaluations, so candidates must submit school verification of meeting the requirements.

Candidates for the second-tier school counselor certificate also need a master's in school counseling plus a school counselor certificate from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Washington mandates certain coursework for the professional certificate, including suicide prevention training approved by the Professional Educator Standards Board. Candidates must also complete an issues of abuse course, which must cover the identification of physical, emotional, sexual, and substance abuse.

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


Practicum and Internship

Washington state does not mandate a minimum number of practicum or experience hours for school counselor licenses.

Application and Exam Requirements for Washington School Counselors

The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) grants educational staff associate certificates in Washington, which includes school counselors. The state grants school counselor certificates at two levels. The first-tier residency certificate recognizes candidates with a master's in counseling who meet the state's examination requirements. School counselors with a National Board for Professional Teaching Standards school counseling certificate qualify for the second-tier certificate, also known as the professional certificate.

all prospective school counselors must provide evidence of a master's in school counseling

During the application process, all prospective school counselors must provide evidence of a master's in school counseling. Applicants must complete a comprehensive examination during their master's program to demonstrate their proficiency as a school counselor. Candidates who graduate from counseling programs that do not require a comprehensive examination must take the Praxis II specialty area test in guidance and counseling, offered by the Educational Testing Service. Washington requires a minimum passing score of 156. Candidates can also meet the testing requirement by passing the national counselor examination offered by the National Board for Certified Counselors.

Out-of-State School Counselor Candidates

Washington offers reciprocity to candidates with an out-of-state school or guidance counselor license or certificate. OSPI certifies out-of-state school counselors with at least three years of school counseling experience. Candidates must complete a comprehensive exam and submit fingerprints for a background check.

Out-of-state school counselors with a National Board for Professional Teaching Standards school counselor certificate can apply for second-tier certification in Washington. Applicants must complete an issues of abuse course and suicide prevention training. Out-of-state counselors use the same application forms as first-time Washington school counselors and must meet the same requirements.

School Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal Requirements

The first-tier counseling license expires after five years. To renew the license, school counselors must complete an issues of abuse course and 100 continuing education clock hours or equivalent college credits. Candidates can also complete professional growth plans as part of the continuing education requirement.

The first-tier counseling license expires after five years

Second-tier school counselors must also meet continuing education requirements and complete an approved suicide prevention training every five years. Alternatively, these counselors can renew by submitting a valid National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certificate.

Resources and Organizations for School Counselors in Washington

School counselors benefit from resources and organizations in the field, which offer continuing education, professional development, and networking opportunities. These resources include career and college readiness guidelines, licensing procedures, and educational information.

  • American School Counselor Association A national professional organization, ASCA offers professional development resources for school counselors, publications and research on counseling, and advocacy. ASCA also provides career planning resources for school counselors.
  • International School Counselor Association ISCA represents school counselors, providing professional development resources, networking opportunities through conferences and events, and a code of ethics.
  • School Counselor Essentials Run by the OSPI, this site provides information on state performance indicators, graduation requirements, and career and college readiness planning.
  • WashBoard A nonprofit scholarship site, WashBoard connects Washington students with scholarship opportunities. School counselors can create an account to identify scholarships for college-bound students, including in-state and out-of-state scholarships.
  • Washington Career Bridge Run by the state government, Washington Career Bridge provides career planning information, a quiz to explore careers, job trends and salary resources, and information about educational programs.
  • Washington Graduation Toolkit The graduation toolkit provides information on Washington state graduation requirements, including testing requirements, minimum credit requirements, and graduation alternatives.
  • Washington Professional Educator Standards Board PESB sets standards for Washington educators, including school counselors. The site provides information on approved educator preparation programs in the state, educator pathways, and district workforce data.
  • Washington School Counselor Association Founded in 1965, WSCA represents school counselors in Washington. The association provides training and professional development opportunities, grants awards, and offers information on scholarships and job opportunities.
  • Washington School Safety Plan The school safety center offers resources on promoting safety plans and emergency operations in schools. The site's tools include training and professional development resources on addressing student social and behavioral problems.
  • Washington State Board of Education The SBE oversees public education in Washington and offers resources for educators, including career readiness goals and anti-bullying policies.

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