School Counseling and Florida
Florida is the fastest-growing state in the U.S., with more than 22 million people. With such rapid growth in the population, the state’s school systems have also experienced significant growth.
In fact, in 2022, Florida public and charter schools enrolled around 2.75 million pre-K through 12th-grade students. With so many students in districts all over the state, there is a need for qualified school counselors to provide competent services in academic, social, and behavioral realms.
If you want to pursue a school counseling career in Florida, this guide will help you learn what to do to make your goals a reality!
What are the Requirements to Become a Licensed School Counselor in Florida?
School counselors in Florida can get the appropriate state certification in one of two ways: Plan One or Plan Two.
Plan One requires that you have at least a master’s degree in school counseling or guidance and counseling. The program must include a supervised internship of no less than 600 clock hours. The internship must have contact time with school-aged children in a pre-K, elementary, or secondary school setting.
Plan Two offers an alternative pathway to school counselor certification in Florida. This plan provides a pathway to certification if you have a graduate degree in counseling without a specialization in school counseling or guidance and counseling.
As with Plan One, Plan Two has the same 600-hour internship requirement. Additionally, you must work with both students and their families in a school setting. As a Plan Two applicant, you must also have a mentor who works with you for your first two years as a school counselor. Your mentor must have a state-issued professional certificate in school counseling.
Plan One has no coursework requirements, as the relevant courses are part of the required graduate program in school counseling or guidance and counseling.
However, Plan Two stipulates that you must have certain coursework as part of your graduate studies. This includes:
- Appraisal and evaluation methods for pre-K, elementary, and secondary students. The coursework in this area must consist of studies in interpreting and analyzing standardized test information.
- College and career planning, including an understanding of financial aid and financing college, trade school, and other post-secondary studies.
- Administration of school counseling programs, including the underlying principles and philosophy of school counseling, as well as the development and organization of school counseling programs.
- Consultation skills, including mastering techniques used when consulting with individuals and groups such as students, parents, families, and administrative teams.
As of April 2023, there are no experience requirements to qualify for the school counselor certification in Florida.
Prospective school counselors in Florida must pass the Professional Education Test, a computer-based exam with approximately 100 multiple-choice questions. The test takes around 2.5 hours to complete and costs $150.00. You can take the test at any number of locations throughout Florida and the U.S.
Alternatively, Florida allows you to meet the examination requirement if you have relevant training or experience, such as:
- A valid teaching certificate from any U.S. state or territory
- A valid teaching certification from the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence or the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards
- Two years of full-time experience (or equivalent part-time experience) teaching at the collegiate level
- Passing scores on the GRE General Test, including:
- 4 out of 6 on the GRE Analytical Writing section
- A scaled score of 147 or higher on the GRE Quantitative Reasoning section
- A scaled score of 151 or higher on the GRE Verbal Reasoning section
School Counselor Certification Renewal Requirements
A Florida school counselor certificate is good for five years. During that period, you must complete six (6) semester hours of college credit as part of the renewal requirements. At least one of these credits must be specifically in teaching students with disabilities.
All renewal credits must be earned before the expiration of the current certificate. You must submit the appropriate application and fee during the last year of the current licensure period but before your certificate expires.
Furthermore, the credits you earn toward renewal must be from an accredited institution or the American Council on Education. All credits must also be on an official college transcript.
To make renewal easier, Florida allows you to earn credit by testing out or using life experiences. These methods must also be noted as earning college credit on an official college transcript. All renewal credits must be earned with a grade of C or higher. Pass/fail courses are not acceptable for continuing education purposes.
How Long Does It Take to Become a School Counselor in Florida?
Since school counselors must have at least a master’s degree, you can expect to spend about six years getting the appropriate education (four years for undergraduate studies and two years for graduate work).
Does Florida Have Reciprocity for School Counselors?
Florida does have reciprocity for school counselors. To qualify, you must have a standard or Level II out-of-state certificate. The certificate must also be valid and display a specialty comparable to a school counselor.
Alternatively, you are automatically eligible for a Florida school counseling certificate if you have a valid National Board certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
Can You Be a School Counselor With a Bachelor’s Degree in Florida?
No. You must have at least a master’s degree to practice as a school counselor in Florida.
Are Florida Schools Required to Have a School Counselor?
School counselors are not required by law for pre-K, elementary, or secondary schools. Florida simply requires that all school districts have a “written guidance plan” and submit “online guidance reports” that outline the implementation procedures of the guidance plan.
What is the Role of School Counselors in Florida?
The Florida Department of Education outlines a broad range of responsibilities of school counselors that address the whole student. That is, as a school counselor, you won’t just focus on mental health, academic success, or behavioral management. Instead, you’re responsible for all of these tasks and many others.
For example, school counselors in Florida are expected to provide individual and group counseling to students. This might include addressing bullying or racism, substance abuse, or identity development. School counselors also engage in academic advisement, such as assisting students with exploring post-secondary options.
As a Florida school counselor, you will also provide consultative services to classroom teachers. For example, if a teacher is struggling to differentiate education for varying levels of learners, you might assist them in identifying activities for each level that are challenging and foster positive academic growth.
A significant portion of your time will be dedicated to working with parents, guardians, and other caregivers. You might provide general resources, such as parenting tips, or more specific resources, like helping parents devise an after-school tutoring plan for a child that has fallen behind their grade-level expectations.
Your job as a school counselor additionally requires you to perform a management function. That is, you’ll need to develop school-wide programs that address specific concerns (e.g., bullying), then implement, manage, and evaluate the program’s success. This part of the job is dubbed being a “change agent,” someone who seeks to improve the school atmosphere for all students.
Other responsibilities of this job include:
- Student assessment, such as helping identify students who might need remediation or special education services.
- College and career planning, such as devising academic plans for students in preparation for post-secondary education and workforce training.
- Staff development, such as teaching certified and classified staff techniques for de-escalating potentially violent situations between students.
- Advocacy, including advocating for the best interests of a student in meetings with teachers, administrators, parents, and other stakeholders.
- Data analysis, such as evaluating the efficacy of school-based academic or behavioral interventions
What are the Career Opportunities for School Counselors in Florida?
As in other states, Florida allows school counselors to work in a variety of settings, from pre-K to secondary schools. As such, there are many different employment opportunities in schools large and small throughout the state.
In some cases, you will find school counseling positions that focus more on the academic spectrum. In these instances, you might work exclusively with students in grades 9-12 and provide guidance counseling services, such as registering kids for the appropriate classes to meet graduation requirements. You might also provide career preparation advice, such as advising students about the proper post-secondary education needed for their desired careers.
In other cases, school counselors might have a roving role and work with kids throughout the district at all grade levels. For example, you might spend the morning working with K-8 students in a true counseling role, such as providing one-on-one therapy for students with behavioral, emotional, or psychological problems. Then, you might spend the afternoon with students in grades 9-12, working on school-wide programs, such as positive behavior interventions that promote positive behaviors while discouraging negative ones.
Other career opportunities might involve a greater degree of specialization. For example, some school counselors only work with specific students, like those who are identified as having special needs. Likewise, you might work specifically with students at risk of dropping out.
Of course, as noted earlier, Florida’s population is rapidly increasing, and with it might come additional opportunities to work in the state’s growing school districts. For example, your services might be needed in a rapidly growing district with a high number of non-native English-speaking students.
In that capacity, you might develop a program that welcomes students and educates them about the policies and procedures of the school while pairing them with a student mentor who can help ease the transition to school life.
These and many other opportunities await in all corners of the state, including urban districts, rural districts, public and private schools, and charter schools as well.
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