Study School Counseling in Missouri
The state of Missouri has upwards of 900,000 public school students in over 500 districts across the state. With so many students and such a wide range of school districts, school counselors are in high demand. School counselors play a vital role in offering academic, personal, and social support, while also helping students attain academic success.
Yet becoming a school counselor requires dedication, time, and effort, as Missouri has a specific set of educational and professional requirements for those aspiring to become school counselors.
This article presents a comprehensive look into the steps necessary in becoming a school counselor in Missouri, as well as an overview into the essential skills/traits required for success in the profession.
What are the Requirements to Become a School Counselor in Missouri?
Education, Coursework, and Examination Requirements
To become a school counselor in the state of Missouri, individuals must have a certain level of education and specific degrees. There are also specific criteria regarding the coursework completed. The educational and course requirements for Missouri school counselors include:
- A master’s degree from an accredited institution in counseling, student services, or a closely related field
- The master’s curriculum must include specific courses in counseling that meet the requirements outlined by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). This includes, but is not limited to, courses such as counseling theories/techniques, human growth and development, career development, social and cultural foundations in counseling, group counseling, and human development
As part of the educational requirements for obtaining a master’s degree, individuals must also participate in an internship where they will receive supervised counseling experience.
In the state of Missouri, the internship must allow for the student to complete at least 3000 hours of supervised counseling experience, with at least 1500 hours being direct client/student contact.
Once the coursework and internship hours have been completed, those on track to become a school counselor must take (and pass) the following examinations.
- The Missouri School Counselor Content Assessment
- The School Counselor Candidate Assessment
- Obtain a teaching certificate: In addition to obtaining a counseling license, Missouri law requires all school counselors to hold a valid Missouri teaching certificate. To obtain a teaching certificate, you must complete a teacher education program and pass the appropriate teacher certification exams.
Initial Student Services Certificate
Once the educational and examination requirements have been met, the next step on the path to become a school counselor in the state of Missouri is to obtain an Initial Student Services Certificate (ISS). This certificate is issued by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and is the first certificate a new student services provider can receive following graduation.
An Initial Student Services credential enables individuals to work in various student service positions in the state of Missouri, including that of school counselor. The Initial Student Services Certificate is endorsed for four years yet can only be renewed twice. Also, important to note is this certificate is applicable for work within the public school system only. Private schools have varying requirements.
Beyond completing the educational requirements (as referenced in a previous section), an individual must also fulfill the following to attain the Initial Student Services Certificate:
- Submit for a criminal background check.
- The state of Missouri requires ISS applicants to receive a fingerprint background clearance prior to obtaining the certificate.
- Receive a recommendation for certification from the university or college’s designated official.
- Complete the ISS application (accessible online) and submit it to the college or university where degree was obtained. The institution will then complete their section and forward it to the DESE for processing.
Once the above requirements have been met, individuals may apply for the Initial Student Services Certificate through the Missouri DESE.
It is important to note that depending on the school district and/or grade level one seeks to serve, the specific requirements for acquiring an Initial Student Services Certificate may differ. Thus, it is important to check with the particular district or school to be clear regarding requirements.
Career Student Services Certificate
A Career Student Services Certificate (CSS) is the higher level of school counseling certification in Missouri. The CSS certification is valid for 99 years. Many school counselors who hold an ISS certification start working on completing the career student services certificate requirements before their initial student services certification expires (after four years). The requirements for upgrading from an ISS to a CSS include:
- Obtain four years of student services work experience within the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) “approved” student services experience must be at least half-time, contracted employment.
- Participate in a district-provided mentoring program for 2 years. The school of employment will typically identify and assign a student services member to serve as mentor.
- Complete 40 hours of continuing education/professional development
- Participate in the school of employment’s annual Performance Based Student Services Evaluation process.
Out of State Applicants
At times, school counselors who possess a valid student services certificate from another state seek employment at a Missouri school. In most cases, Missouri Department of Education does not require any further examination or coursework for these individuals. Instead, out-of-state applicants will be considered for reciprocity after completing the following:
- The Non-Missouri Graduate application (available online)
- Send official transcripts from any and all universities/colleges attended, including any transfer credits to the Missouri Department of Education
- Send a copy of the out-of-state school counseling certificate (must be current/valid)
- Obtain fingerprinting through the Missouri Automated Criminal History
To work as a school counselor in Missouri, individuals must hold a valid certificate (either the Initial Student Services Certificate or the Career Student Services Certificate). If at any time one’s certificate becomes invalid (i.e. – expires, is revoked, etc.), they are no longer able to legally serve as a school counselor in the state of Missouri.
Although Missouri is not one of them, some states do require school counselors also hold a professional counseling license in tandem with their school services certificate.
How Long Does it Take to Become a School Counselor in Missouri?
The amount of time it takes to become a school counselor in the state of Missouri can vary significantly. This is because fulfilling the necessary education and certification requirements can look different for each person, depending on their individual circumstances. The following factors may impact one’s timeline for becoming a school counselor:
- Attending school on a full-time versus part-time basis
- The specific educational program
- The educational program’s pace of study
- Unforeseen life circumstances (i.e. – moving, illness, etc.)
While everyone’s timeline could look different, in general, earning a master’s degree typically takes two to three years, with an additional year to complete the other licensing and examination requirements.
What is the Role of School Counselors in Missouri?
Missouri school counselors wear many different hats in the realm of student services. Their overarching role is to help students reach academic success, plan for the future, and develop the necessary social and emotional skills for wellbeing. Yet, within this overarching role, school counselors take on many, much more nuanced responsibilities. Some of the specific roles and responsibilities of school counselors in Missouri include:
- Collaborating with other school staff (teachers, administrators) and parents to develop and implement academic plans for students.
- Providing individual and group counseling for students. These counseling sessions are typically focused around helping with the management of academic challenges, personal struggles, and social-emotional skill-building.
- Relationship building with students, teachers, school faculty, parents, and other community members.
- Helping to promote an inclusive, safe school environment. Missouri has a very diverse student population, not only in terms of racial/ethnic background but also in relation to student needs/abilities and geographic location (students from both rural and urban areas). Missouri school counselors receive special training on working with diversity among students.
- Assisting students in college/vocational school preparation (including helping with applications and providing scholarship/loan/grant information). Missouri schools are known for their strong focus on career/technical education. Missouri school counselors play a critical role in helping students identify interests and skills, and supporting students as they explore and prepare for life after high school, either in the workforce and/or higher education
- Supporting the mental health needs of students through counseling, crisis intervention, and community referrals
- Identifying student needs and areas of growth, and providing necessary resources (i.e. – study skills resources, career exploration information, etc.)
Missouri school counselors function in a variety of capacities and have a range of dynamic responsibilities in their work of supporting the social, emotional, and academic wellbeing of students. And while their role is similar to that of school counselors in other states, Missouri has developed a comprehensive counseling program model that sets the state’s school counselors apart from others.
This comprehensive counseling program emphasizes the importance of an evidence-based, data-driven approach to school counseling. Missouri school counselors use this model as a framework for developing and implementing their counseling approaches and programs.
What are the Career Opportunities for School Counselors in Missouri?
Missouri school counselors typically work in K-12 schools, fulfilling the roles previously mentioned. Yet, there are other career opportunities for school counselors in Missouri, including:
- College and career counselor – specifically working with high school students on preparing for life after graduation, providing information of career planning, college admissions, and financial planning.
- School administration – school counselors who gain additional experience may choose to work as a school administrator, such as an assistant principal or principal. In these roles, individuals have the opportunity to form/change school policies and create programs for student success.
- Department head – some school counselors may choose to move into the role of department head, overseeing a team of school counselors. Counseling department heads may also implement student programs and manage the department’s budget.
The demand for school counselors in Missouri is constantly growing, creating more and more opportunities for those seeking to join the career of school counseling.
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