As you explore a potential career serving children and adolescents, you may wonder about how to become a guidance counselor in Wisconsin. This guide offers the information you need to get started and plan your academic and professional journey, including how you can best approach higher education. You can also find insights on school counselor licensing requirements, the exams you need to pass, and resources for entering and advancing within this career field.
Check out the information below to learn how you can become a school counselor and make a positive impact on the world around you.
Counseling License and Career Requirements in WisconsinExplore more pathways to becoming a counselor in Wisconsin here
Education and Experience Requirements
Below you can find information on how to become a school counselor in Wisconsin, including which undergraduate and graduate degrees to seek, the state licensing process for practicing in public schools, and internship and practicum requirements. You can also learn about common coursework and time it takes to graduate from a master's program in school counseling.
Education and Coursework
Pursuing a career as a Wisconsin school counselor means first completing a bachelor's degree, usually in counseling, psychology, or education. Public schools also require each candidate to possess a master's degree in school counseling or educational psychology, while private schools may provide more flexibility. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) requires each licensed guidance counselor to secure a master's degree from one of 12 approved programs.
Public schools also require each candidate to possess a master's degree in school counseling or educational psychology, while private schools may provide more flexibility
Additionally, students should look for undergraduate and graduate programs with accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.
Wisconsin counseling master's programs typically include 48-60 credits, with students completing the degree in two years or less. Coursework covers subjects such as human growth and development, career development counseling, group counseling, working with children and adolescents, and examining the needs of multicultural populations. Students must also complete supervised practicum experiences, through which they learn directly from licensed Wisconsin counseling professionals in schools.
The Wisconsin DPI requires guidance counselors to take the professional school counselor examination before receiving a license to practice in the state's public schools. Each prospective counselor must also pass a background check.
Interested in pursuing an education in school counseling? Check out the following pages to explore available academic programs by level:
Practicum and Internship
Practicums are an important component of starting a career as a Wisconsin guidance counselor. Completed as part of a master's program, these experiences involve working in a K-12 setting alongside an established school counselor, observing the professional's daily activities and interactions with students and families. The number of hours varies depending on the program, but generally, each Wisconsin student can expect to spend 120 to 300 hours in a practicum.
Application and Exam Requirements for Wisconsin School Counselors
The state DPI Pupil Services division serves as the Wisconsin counseling board. The agency offers three levels of licensure — initial, educator, and professional educator — based on the state's Quality Educator Initiative.
Initial Educator License
You can qualify for a five-year initial educator license upon securing a master's degree at a regionally accredited school and receiving an institutional endorsement. You also must take the Praxis II exam and demonstrate proficiency through a portfolio review.
After five years, you will need to prepare a professional development plan (PDP), detailing progress on your proficiency across all relevant areas of school counseling. A PDP team reviews this plan. You'll also work with a peer mentor to ensure continued professional growth and that you effectively prepare yourself for the next level of Wisconsin counseling licensure.
Professional Educator License
Once you complete all PDP requirements, you will qualify for a professional educator license, which is also valid for five years. You may renew the license after five years if you wish to remain at this level. As long as you continue to meet the requirements, you can keep your professional educator license for your entire career as a guidance counselor.
Master Educator License
Although the state does not require a master educator license to practice, you can pursue this advanced level by meeting the requirements of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) or the DPI's master educator standards. Both options involve demonstrating mastery of school counseling, verified through the approval of a formal assessment team. You must renew a master educator license every 10 years.
Out-of-State School Counselor Candidates
If you wish to become a Wisconsin school counselor from outside the state, you must provide evidence that you passed the necessary exams in your home state. If you earned your out-of-state license recently, the Wisconsin DPI may require you to submit passing scores on the Praxis II exam. The state accepts endorsements from non-Wisconsin institutions.
Finally, out-of-state school counselor applicants must achieve a satisfactory score on a widely accepted academic skills test, such as the GRE, ACT, SAT, or Praxis I.
School Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal Requirements
All three types of Wisconsin guidance counselor licenses come with expiration dates, after which you must apply for a renewal or a more advanced level of licensure. The first two levels expire after five years. The most advanced license features a 10-year term.
The first two levels of Wisconsin's guidance counselor licensure expire after five years, while the most advanced license features a 10-year term.
While you cannot renew the initial license, you may renew the professional license as many times as you wish. To do so, you must prepare a professional development plan that a DPI-approved team reviews. Securing a master educator license requires successfully completing the NBPTS certification process.
Resources and Organizations for School Counselors in Wisconsin
The resources featured below can help you on your journey toward becoming a school counselor in Wisconsin. They include state and national associations, Wisconsin state licensing guidance, continuing education information, and forums and discussion boards.
- Recovery and Addiction Professionals of Wisconsin A state affiliate of the National Association for Addiction Professionals, this group advances the interests of school counselors and other professionals who work with young people battling substance abuse and related issues.
- American School Counselor Association ASCA delivers resources, training, and networking opportunities that allow school guidance counselors to effectively serve students' social-emotional, academic, and career planning needs. Members can connect with their fellow national and Wisconsin counseling professionals through the organization.
- Counselors Chatboard This online discussion board, available through Teachers.net, allows guidance counselors to ask questions and give advice quickly and easily. The board connects counselors who assist students with a wide variety of issues and needs.
- DPI Pupil Services This group serves as the Wisconsin school counselor board, approving licenses to practice in public schools statewide. Here, students can find all licensing, examination, and continuing education requirements.
- NAMI Wisconsin The state chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness promotes greater education and the removal of negative stigmas around mental health. Many school counselors join the organization to build their knowledge of mental health issues.
- University of Wisconsin Continuing Education The state's public university system offers a variety of courses to help Wisconsin counseling professionals meet continuing education requirements for licensure. These courses count toward professional development plan requirements.
- UWHelp The University of Wisconsin system offers resources to allow high school guidance counselors to help students apply for admission to any of the 26 UW campuses statewide.
- Wisconsin Comprehensive School Counseling Model This model offers a framework for guidance counselors, focused on the areas of academics, personal and social life, and career. The model guides the work of school counselors as they work with students in grades K-12.
- Wisconsin School Counselor Association WSCA provides advocacy, leadership, and professional development opportunities to school counselors across the state. The organization includes more than 1,200 members, many of whom regularly interact through an active Facebook group.
- Wisconsin Praxis Test Requirements This webpage offers all the information you need to prepare for and take the Praxis II exam, including practice tests, scheduling, and the minimum scores needed to secure a Wisconsin school counselor license.