School Counseling in Massachusetts
Like many areas of the nation, Massachusetts is experiencing a shortage of qualified teachers and other staff members, like school nurses and counselors. Though this is a serious problem that poses difficulties for schools regarding the delivery of essential services to students, it means that you might find your pick of positions upon graduating from a school counseling program.
Before you can consider where you might work as a school counselor, you must complete the required education and get the appropriate training. In Massachusetts, this involves having a master’s degree or higher in counseling, including completing an internship component.
There are many other elements to becoming a school counselor in Massachusetts. These elements are outlined in detail in the guide below.
What are the Requirements to Become a School Counselor in Massachusetts?
Massachusetts offers two distinct school counselor licenses: an Initial License and a Professional License.
The Initial License is reserved for new counselors that have a master’s degree in counseling. The degree program must meet the State’s Subject Matter Knowledge guidelines. These guidelines stipulate that approved school counseling graduate programs have coursework on the following topics:
- Curriculum frameworks, including how these frameworks are used in advising students in a guidance capacity.
- The Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System and other academic tests.
- Psychology of learning.
- Diagnosis and treatment of behavioral and learning disorders.
- Theories of social, emotional, and intellectual development.
- Strategies to prevent and treat serious mental health issues, such as mental illness, violence in schools, substance abuse, physical abuse, and sexual abuse.
- School guidance counseling and its underlying practices and principles.
- Educational laws and regulations at the school, municipal, state, and federal levels.
- Career counseling.
- Making referrals within the school system or the larger community.
- Group leadership and group counseling techniques.
- Consultative strategies with parents, guardians, teachers, administrators, and other stakeholders.
- College counseling.
The Professional School Counselor License has more stringent eligibility criteria. You must hold a valid Initial License and have at least three years of school counseling employment. In addition, you must fulfill one of the following criteria:
- Complete 60 or more graduate credits in school counseling or related fields, such as school psychology, mental health counseling, or clinical psychology.
- Complete the requirements to earn certification from the National Board of Certified Counselors.
- Complete the requirements to earn certification from the National Board for School Counseling.
Work Experience Requirements
You must complete a 450-hour practicum in a school setting to qualify for an initial school counseling license in Massachusetts. As mentioned above, the Professional License also has a three-year experiential requirement.
All prospective school counselors in Massachusetts must pass the Communication and Literacy Skills test to receive an Initial License. Pearson offers this test as part of the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure program.
Background Check Requirements
A background check is not required in Massachusetts as part of the licensure process. However, a national background check is completed during the hiring process. You must pass the background check to be offered a position as a school counselor.
What are the School Counselor License Renewal Requirements in Massachusetts?
The Initial License for school counselors is valid for a period of five years. This license can be renewed once for another five-year period, contingent upon approval of the Commissioner of Education.
This extension is available only to those who have been employed with an Initial License, are in their fifth year of employment, and have yet to complete the qualification requirements for a professional license. You can apply for an Initial License renewal by using the Massachusetts Educator Licensure and Renewal (ELAR) portal.
A Professional License is also valid for five years. To keep the license active, you must complete 150 professional development points (PDPs) during each five-year licensure period. PDPs must be approved by your direct supervisor. PDPs must include the following:
- 15 or more PDPs in the subject matter content area.
- 15 or more PDPs in pedagogy.
- 15 or more PDPs related to English as a Second Language or Sheltered English Immersion.
- 15 or more PDPs related to working with children with disabilities.
Again, you must log in to the ELAR portal to complete the application for licensure renewal.
What are the Reciprocity Requirements for School Counselors in Massachusetts?
Massachusetts participates in the NASDTEC Interstate Agreement, which facilitates the mobility of educators between members of the compact. Currently, 47 states and the District of Columbia are members (New York, New Mexico, and South Dakota are not members). As part of this agreement, you must provide the following to qualify for reciprocity:
- A completed out-of-state approved program verification form
- A copy of your out-of-state license
- Verification of three years of employment (within the last seven years)
How Long Does It Take to Become a School Counselor in Massachusetts?
You need about seven years to complete the educational and training requirements for an Initial License as a school counselor. This timeframe assumes you study full-time during your undergraduate (about four years) and graduate programs (about three additional years).
Remember that this is for the Initial License. A Professional License in Massachusetts requires you to have three or more years of work experience as a licensed school counselor. Factoring that requirement in, the process of obtaining a Professional License extends to about 10 years.
What is the Scope of Practice for School Counselors in Massachusetts?
The scope of practice for Massachusetts school counselors is guided by the Massachusetts Model 3.0. This model is a framework that outlines the duties and expectations of school counselors in districts throughout the state. The model incorporates aspects of the American School Counseling Association model and Massachusetts state standards.
School counselors across the nation are responsible for a wide range of tasks; it’s no different in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Model 3.0 organizes these tasks into four primary areas:
- Define – School counselors utilize state and national guidelines to develop and implement comprehensive school counseling programs.
- Assess – School counselors are responsible for data-driven program assessment and monitoring the efficacy of their counseling programs, curriculum, and individual performance.
- Manage – School counselors in Massachusetts are expected to develop short-term and long-term programming, devise smart goals and strategic action plans, and eliminate achievement and opportunity gaps.
- Deliver – School counselors provide all students with competent services and well-designed programs that are developmentally appropriate, proactive, and comprehensive.
In Massachusetts, school counselors can be licensed for elementary grades (pre-K through 8th) or secondary grades (5th through 12th). Though there is some overlap between the two, your duties and expectations as a school counselor can vary depending on your license.
For example, as a secondary school counselor in a Massachusetts high school, your school counseling program is likely to have a robust career and college readiness component. As part of your program, you might administer interest inventories and aptitude tests that help students identify potential careers or college majors to pursue after high school.
But as an elementary school counselor, your career and college readiness activities might look much different. For example, rather than testing kids for their interests or aptitudes, you might devise a simple classroom-based activity that exposes students to different types of jobs and college majors to serve as a “first look” to pique their interests.
Regardless of the level of practice, school counselors in Massachusetts are also responsible for providing targeted interventions for students with social, emotional, behavioral, or mental health needs. A good example of this is providing crisis intervention services for students that have experienced a significant event in their life, such as the death of a loved one.
In many cases, the services you might provide in this example would be short-term individual counseling. If a death occurs that affects a larger group of students (e.g., the death of a classmate), larger-scale interventions, such as group counseling, might be utilized.
Massachusetts school counselors are also charged with providing support for classroom teachers. For example, you might develop a training program that helps teachers build the skills needed to differentiate instruction for learners of varying academic abilities. As another example, you might work with the school’s administration to develop a training program for new teachers that gives them the tools needed to develop good working relationships with parents.
But a school counselor’s job also includes lower-level tasks. For example, you will be responsible for helping children develop goal-setting capabilities, improved communication skills, and deeper relationships with their peers. Likewise, the programs you devise will help students learn how to study more effectively, manage their time better, and become more self-aware, too.
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