School Counseling and Georgia
Georgia is a great place to live and work. On the one hand, the cost of living in Georgia is among the lowest in the U.S. On the other hand, there are ample job opportunities for school counselors. So, not only can you have your choice of jobs, but you can keep more of your school counselor salary in your pocket.
Like other states, Georgia has specific rules and regulations regarding how to become a school counselor. This includes specific educational requirements the state has established to ensure you meet the desired competencies for the job.
The guide below outlines Georgia’s requirements and explores potential career options for you once you become certified.
What are the Requirements to Become a Licensed School Counselor in Georgia?
Georgia offers different levels of certification as a school counselor, including Professional and Provisional options. Both options are discussed in detail below.
To be eligible for a Professional Certificate, you must have a master’s degree in school counseling from a state-approved certification preparation program. What’s more, the degree must be level five or higher.
Alternatively, applicants with a valid National Certified School Counselor (NCSC) credential are eligible for certification. Likewise, if you have a master’s degree in counseling and a valid Georgia Professional Counselor’s license, you are eligible for certification as a school counselor.
The Provisional Certificate is good for just one year and requires that you have a master’s degree or higher from an accredited institution in school counseling or a related area. Acceptable related areas include any counseling field or social work. You might also be eligible for a Provisional Certificate if you have a valid Georgia Clinical Social Work license.
To qualify for a Professional Certificate, you must take a special education related course and complete it with a B or higher. This is not a requirement for the Provisional Certificate.
Georgia has no experience requirements for Professional or Provisional school counseling certifications.
All applicants for a Professional or Provisional Certificate are required to pass Georgia’s GACE content knowledge assessment.
School Counselor Certification Renewal Requirements
The renewal period for a school counseling Professional Certificate is five years. To qualify, you must complete six (6) semester credits of college coursework with a grade of B or better or ten Georgia Professional Learning Units (PLUs). Completing ten Continuing Education Units (CEUs) or 100 hours of Bright From the Start (BFTS)-approved training can also satisfy this requirement.
Additionally, you can meet the continuing education renewal requirement by having a valid National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification.
It should be noted that if you have less than one year of experience, you must have your employer request your certification renewal.
How Long Does It Take to Become a School Counselor in Georgia?
The first step in becoming a school counselor is to complete an undergraduate degree in psychology, social work, or a related area. This typically takes four years of full-time studies.
The next step is to complete an approved school counseling program in Georgia. These programs range from two to three years of full-time studies (after completing a bachelor’s degree program). As such, you can expect to spend 6-7 years preparing to become a school counselor in Georgia.
Does Georgia Have Reciprocity for School Counselors?
Yes. So long as you have a master’s degree or higher from an approved school counseling program, you are eligible to apply for certification in Georgia.
Can You Be a School Counselor With a Bachelor’s Degree in Georgia?
No. You must have a master’s degree or higher in school counseling or a related program to be eligible for certification.
Are Georgia Schools Required to Have a School Counselor?
According to the American School Counselor Association, Georgia law requires school counselors at schools with students in grades K-12. The student-to-counselor ratio must be at or below 450:1.
What is the Role of School Counselors in Georgia?
The Georgia Department of Education outlines specific job duties for school counselors in K-12 settings. As is the case in other states, these roles revolve around fostering all students’ academic, social, and emotional development.
In the academic domain, school counselors in Georgia are responsible for assessing student growth. This might be done via classroom observations of students, collaborations with teachers, or by directly assessing students using measures of intelligence, like IQ tests.
What’s more, school counselors are asked to help students reach their highest levels of academic achievement. Since each student has their own academic strengths and weaknesses, school counselors must address students’ individual academic needs to help them attain optimal academic mastery. This might include organizing tutoring, providing after-school academic programs, or supplementing classroom learning with academic skills training.
Georgia school counselors are also tasked with preparing students for the workforce. One way to do this is to provide students with skills assessments and interest inventories. As a school counselor, you might go into individual classrooms and administer these assessments to the entire class, then meet with individual students at a later date to identify their unique skills and aptitudes.
These types of assessments are especially helpful for high school-aged students who are close to exiting the public school system and entering the workforce or going to college. Understanding their skills and interests can help them identify possible college majors or career opportunities.
Crisis response activities are another area of responsibility for school counselors in Georgia. For example, you might work with teachers and administrators to devise a crisis response plan in the event of a tragedy at school, like the death of a student or teacher.
These crisis plans are often developed with input from various stakeholders, including police, EMTs, administrators, and parents, to name a few. Your responsibility might be to facilitate input from these groups and collate it into a comprehensive guide for navigating emergency situations.
Many school counselors in Georgia also provide mental health counseling services for students. In most cases, counseling occurs in a one-on-one situation with students. However, school counseling programs often include a group counseling component, so you can competently provide small group counseling to students as well.
As a school counselor, you are also expected to provide resources for students and families for a broad spectrum of issues. For example, you might provide a referral for mental health counseling at an outside agency for a seriously emotionally disturbed child. As another example, you might help the family of a pregnant student identify community resources for preparing for the birth.
In many school districts, school counselors also provide direct support to teachers and staff. A good example of this is providing age-appropriate learning tools for teachers to use in their classroom instruction, such as interactive games for elementary-aged students who are learning new skills.
A broad range of other job duties are part of the school counseling job description in Georgia schools. However, the list outlined above gives you a good idea of the breadth and depth of the roles you might be required to fulfill.
What are the Career Opportunities for School Counselors in Georgia?
The good news for you as a prospective school counselor in Georgia is that certain areas of the state rank very highly in terms of the number of related jobs.
For example, Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, ranks third in the nation among metropolitan areas with the highest concentration of jobs in this field. Atlanta ranks sixth in the nation for the highest employment level of school counselors and related professionals.
Urban areas like Athens-Clarke County and Atlanta typically have a higher need for school counselors simply because of the size of their school districts – more kids mean more school counselors are needed.
However, Georgia’s urban areas aren’t the only locations that need qualified school counselors. For example, you might find employment in a rural school district that needs a school counselor to work with K-12 students (as opposed to specializing in certain grade levels, as is often the case in larger districts). The job opportunities in rural areas often come with expanded responsibilities, too.
Let’s assume you get a job in a small, rural district. In addition to working with kids in grades K-12 to improve their academic achievement, you might also be required to:
- Perform psychological assessments on students
- Conduct parent/family training to enhance their ability to support their children’s academic growth
- Develop school-wide programs that address bullying, violence, and other critical issues
- Develop staff training that enhances sensitivity to multicultural issues
- Analyze data regarding student achievement, attendance, and behavior, and create reports on that data to present to stakeholders
This isn’t to say that these and other duties aren’t part of a school counseling role in an urban district. However, the likelihood is good that the scope of duties in a smaller school will be greater – if you are the only school counselor in the district, you will have more responsibilities!
Wherever you work in Georgia, your services as a school counselor will help children learn, grow, and develop in a way that makes their future success more likely. What’s more, your skills can help improve the quality of instruction teachers provide while also enhancing teacher-parent relationships.
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