School Counseling in Colorado
Colorado is a state of unmatched beauty and opportunities to enjoy recreation. It’s also a state experiencing growth – nearly 1 million people have moved to Colorado in the last decade.
With that growth comes the need for more educational professionals to address the needs of the state’s schoolchildren. And with 25 percent of Coloradoans under the age of 18, there are many kids that need the services of teachers, psychologists, and counselors.
Whether you’re from Colorado or not, there are pathways for you to become licensed as a school counselor in the Centennial State. As you will learn below, some of these pathways are easier and less time-intensive than others. Keep reading to learn more about what you need to do to begin your school counseling career!
What are the Requirements to Become a School Counselor in Colorado?
Colorado offers two pathways for becoming a school counselor. Pathway 1 is a more traditional approach – you must earn a master’s degree in school counseling. The program must be accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling or Related Educational Programs or CACREP. As a result, the master’s program must address specific competencies, such as:
- The history and development of school counseling
- The school counselor’s roles in the school environment
- Legal and ethical considerations
- Developing an effective school counseling program
- Individual and group counseling techniques
By and large, CACREP-accredited school counseling programs require you to complete 45 or more semester credits of coursework, which can be completed in two or three years. This includes practicum and/or internship experiences that allow you to gain supervised practice before graduation.
Completing these requirements makes you eligible for an initial three-year license. You might qualify for a seven-year Professional Special Services (PSS) license if you have at least three years of school counseling experience.
The second pathway available to you for becoming a school counselor in Colorado is to have a master’s degree in clinical counseling. Additionally, you must have a valid credential as a licensed professional counselor (LPC) from the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies.
A graduate degree in clinical counseling usually takes two or three years of full-time studies. As noted above, programs in this field cover a broad range of subjects, from counseling theories and orientations to ethical considerations to skills in the domains of assessment and intervention.
Work Experience Requirements
The Colorado Department of Education requires that Pathway 1 applicants complete a 100-clock-hour practicum and a 600-hour or more internship as part of a school counseling graduate degree program. The practicum and internship experiences must take place in a school setting.
Furthermore, the Pathway 1 internship requirement stipulates that you get face-to-face experience working with children in multiple grade levels. The internship must also be supervised by a licensed school counselor.
If you are applying for licensure under Pathway 2, you must have at least three years of experience working as an LPC. Provided you meet this and the other Pathway 2 requirements discussed in the previous section, you might be eligible for an interim authorization to practice as a school counselor. This authorization is good for one calendar year and is not renewable.
Pathway 1 and 2 applicants must pass the Praxis School Counselor exam (5422) as part of the licensure requirements. A comprehensive study guide from Educational Testing Service (ETS) is available here.
Background Check Requirements
The Colorado Department of Education requires anyone applying for an educator license to provide fingerprints to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for processing as part of a background check.
What are the School Counselor License Renewal Requirements in Colorado?
A Professional Special Services license is good for seven years. During that time, you must complete six semester credit hours (90 contact hours) of professional development activities. If your license expires, you can apply for renewal, provided your professional development activities occur within seven years before the application date.
Beginning on June 30, 2027, school counselors must also complete ten or more contact hours of professional development for educating disabled students in the classroom. You have the option of completing professional development in the English Learner realm, too. Doing so requires completing a Colorado Department of Education-approved program and the EL matrix, including at least 45 hours of English learning work.
What are the Reciprocity Requirements for School Counselors in Colorado?
You must have a valid Colorado license to work as a school counselor. Per Colorado’s regulations for licensure for out-of-state applicants, you must be eligible for licensure in your home state or hold a license in the state of preparation for it to be recognized as sufficient for a Colorado license.
If you have a current school counselor license from another state and you have at least three years of full-time licensed work experience in that state within the previous seven years, you might be issued a professional license as a school counselor in Colorado. If you do not meet these requirements, Colorado will evaluate your application to determine your eligibility.
How Long Does It Take to Become a School Counselor in Colorado?
Most school counseling students need about seven years to complete the educational requirements needed for a Colorado license. This includes about four years of full-time study for an undergraduate degree and an additional three years of full-time study for a graduate degree in school counseling.
While most undergraduate programs are reliably four years long, not all graduate programs in school counseling are three years. In some instances, you might only need two years to complete a graduate degree. In other instances, two-and-a-half years is required. The time frame depends largely on the school counseling graduate program you choose.
What is the Scope of Practice for School Counselors in Colorado?
As in other states, school counselors in Colorado are expected to provide services in many different realms, from academics to career preparation to social and emotional development. The specific ways in which these tasks are completed vary from one school to the next. However, all school counselors in Colorado are evaluated by the same professional standards.
These standards, which specifically outline the traits of an effective school counselor, ensure that counselors across the state are held to the same expectations. More importantly, they ensure that school counselors provide equitable and fair services for all students.
There are five standard domains in which Colorado school counselors are evaluated:
- Standard I: School Counselors demonstrate mastery of and expertise in the domain for which they are responsible.
- Standard II: School counselors support and/or establish safe, inclusive and respectful learning environments for a diverse population of students.
- Standard III: School counselors plan, deliver and/or monitor services and/or specially designed instruction and/or create environments that facilitate learning for their students.
- Standard IV: School counselors reflect on their practice.
- Standard V: School counselors demonstrate collaboration, advocacy and leadership.
Let’s explore examples that illustrate how an effective Colorado school counselor can meet these standards.
One of the criteria for meeting Standard I is to understand how the home environment, the community, and the school environment all influence a child’s academic achievement. For example, you might develop a program for parents and guardians that explores the interconnectedness of these areas and helps them take a more active role in their child’s education.
To meet Standard II, you might work with your school’s administration to develop and implement a school-wide program that emphasizes acceptance and inclusion. This might include classroom-based activities that teach students about respect, school-wide initiatives to celebrate diversity, or sponsoring assemblies that emphasize how students can take an active role in building a safe learning community for all.
The services you implement as a school counselor are highly varied and, in many cases, might be specialized to the population you work with. To meet Standard III, you must explore the services that your students most need.
For example, one of the criteria for meeting this standard is to “recognize and respond to student mental health crises.” So, let’s say a teacher refers a student to you that seems depressed. You might meet with the student for an intake interview, then meet with them several more times in a one-on-one session to explore the roots of their depression and provide coping strategies that will help the student manage their mental health.
Not all aspects of school counseling practice involve face-to-face contact with students. For example, Standard IV requires that Colorado school counselors reflect on their practice. This might involve participating in professional development activities, using feedback from your supervisor to improve your performance, or seeking professional supervision with another school counselor to examine your knowledge and skills in school counseling.
A final element of your scope of practice as a school counselor is the Standard V requirement to collaborate with others, demonstrate leadership, and advocate on behalf of others. These tasks can be fulfilled in any number of ways:
- Co-teaching with classroom instructors
- Taking the lead in creating school-based counseling programs
- Advocating on behalf of marginalized students
- Maintaining confidentiality of student records
- Supporting other school professionals in the pursuit of their goals
In other words, you will wear many different hats and be many different things to different people as a school counselor. This is part of what makes this such a rewarding and exciting job! No two days are the same, and you get to flex your professional muscles in various realms.
- Becoming a School Counselor in Alabama
- How to Become a School Counselor in Minnesota
- How to Become a School Counselor in Wisconsin
- How to Become a School Counselor in South Carolina