School Counseling in Alabama
School counselors are in the unique position to provide detailed services to students that run the gamut from classroom skill-building activities to one-on-one counseling and everything in between. As a school counselor in Alabama, you will play a pivotal role in the development of the students at your school.
In Alabama, you can be licensed to work with children in pre-kindergarten through the 12th grade. This wide range of age and developmental levels presents further opportunities for you to aid children at every point in their academic, social, and emotional development.
Before you can practice as a school counselor in Alabama, though, you need the proper education and experience. This guide outlines the steps you need to take to be eligible for a school counseling certification.
What are the Requirements to Become a School Counselor in Alabama?
Applicants for an Alabama school counseling certificate must graduate from a state-approved regionally-accredited school counseling program. Additionally, you must do so with a GPA of 3.25 or higher. The National Association of State Boards of Education notes that the program must include a survey course in special education unless the course was completed as part of your undergraduate studies or prior certification.
The specifics of approved programs are not outlined beyond that. However, most school counseling graduate programs are 45 or more credits and require two or three years to complete (after completing a bachelor’s degree). Upon completing an approved program, you must submit official transcripts.
Work Experience Requirements
To be eligible for certification as a school counselor in Alabama, you must have a valid Class B Professional Educator Certificate in a teaching discipline or a valid Class A Professional Educator Certificate in a teaching discipline or instructional support, meaning you will likely need at least a year of classroom experience.
Moreover, Alabama requires approved school counseling programs to include a practicum experience of at least 100 hours in a school environment. This must consist of at least 40 supervised hours of group and individual counseling with students in pre-K through the 12th grade.
A 600-hour internship in an elementary or secondary environment is also required. The internship must be 240 hours or more of direct work with children conducting school counseling-related activities. After completion of the internship, you must complete two years of full-time work experience in an educational setting.
New school counselors must complete the Alabama Class A Program for initial certification from the Alabama Educator Certification Program. As part of that process, you will take the Praxis Subject Assessments. The exam includes four components:
- Praxis Subject Assessments
- Praxis Principles of Learning and Teaching
- Educative Teacher Performance Assessment
- Foundations of Reading
Background Check Requirements
Alabama requires all school counseling certification applicants to be fingerprinted as part of the background check process. This process includes background checks through the Alabama State Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
What are the School Counselor License Renewal Requirements in Alabama?
To renew a professional educator certificate in Alabama, you must have three or more years of full-time experience, including 50 or more hours of professional development, three semester hours of college credit, or both. You can also complete six semester hours of college credit or earn national board certification to qualify for renewal.
What are the Reciprocity Requirements for School Counselors in Alabama?
Alabama offers certificate reciprocity, meaning the state will recognize a valid professional out-of-state educator certificate. To qualify, the certificate must be at a commensurate degree level and in the same field as the Alabama certificate being sought.
How Long Does It Take to Become a School Counselor in Alabama?
Everyone’s educational journey is different; however, it’s a good bet that it will take you six to seven years to complete the requirements for certification as an Alabama school counselor. This includes four years of undergraduate studies and two to three years of graduate work.
Remember, though, that full certification isn’t granted until you have at least two years of work experience as a school counselor in an Alabama school setting. This pushes the timeline to eight or nine years for a professional certificate in school counseling.
What is the Scope of Practice for School Counselors in Alabama?
As mentioned earlier, school counselors in Alabama work with students in pre-kindergarten through the 12th grade and offer services related to the social, emotional, and academic development of students. This means your job will be highly varied as you strive to meet the scope of practice requirements.
In the social realm, you will be responsible for developing programs that foster a positive school environment accepting of all learners. For example, at the start of the school year, you might work with classroom teachers to implement a program that focuses on acceptance as a means of creating a sense of belonging for students. A program like this might focus on multiculturalism, for example, to teach students the value of seeing things from others’ perspectives and instill in students an appreciation of our differences.
In the emotional realm, you will provide individual and group counseling services to students. This can take many different forms. For example, you might provide short-term counseling to a student or a group of students that have recently experienced loss, like the death of a friend or a family member.
On the other hand, you might provide long-term counseling for an emotionally-disturbed student or a student struggling with another mental health issue, like dysthymia or an eating disorder. What’s more, you might provide long-term group counseling to students with a shared mental health issue, such as children with ADHD or autism. You might even lead student support groups, such as those for children whose parents have divorced.
The academic component of the job can take many different forms, too. For example, in an elementary school setting, you might be part of an evaluation team that seeks to identify children with learning delays or learning disabilities. You might work with a school psychologist to test children, develop appropriate interventions, and track their academic progress after inclusion in remedial education activities.
An example of an academic-related job duty for middle school counselors might be tracking student progress in core areas like math, science, and social studies to identify children that have not met standards of performance. Once identified, you might help devise an intervention program that helps these students build essential skills in preparation for entering high school. This might be anything from working one-on-one with students to build the necessary academic skills, providing training to teachers to implement interventions in their classrooms, or developing home-based interventions for parents and guardians.
At the high school level, the academic component of a school counseling program might lean heavily into career and college preparation. For example, you might meet with each student to explore their college or career goals and connect them with resources for exploring those goals further.
Alternatively, you might work with career and technical education teachers to organize a job fair for high school seniors so they can explore what jobs are available for them after they graduate. A similar fair could be developed for college-bound seniors to learn more about the admissions process, financial aid, and academic programs available from colleges and universities in the region.
Of course, as a school counselor, you won’t solely focus on students. Your scope of practice includes supporting teachers, paraprofessionals, administrators, and other stakeholders in the school community to build the necessary skills and understanding to do their jobs to the fullest.
Likewise, school counselors are often asked to work directly with parents and guardians on a variety of issues, from enhancing parenting skills to academic support training to developing improved communication techniques.
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