School Counseling in Virginia
Virginia is one of the states with the best public school systems in the United States. So, it takes schooling very seriously, which is why having good school counselors is a priority.
Working as a school counselor is a privilege. After all, it is one of the most important things for all students in the educational system. School counselors help students with any academic problems they may face while offering them life and career advice.
But in order to become a school counselor, you must consider getting the right education. You must be dedicated and work hard, but also show that you truly want to help students.
If you want to become a school counselor in Virginia, this article will explain the steps you need to take.
What are the Requirements to Become a Licensed School Counselor in Virginia?
If you want to become a school counselor in Virginia, you must meet certain requirements first. These include educational requirements and experience requirements. Bear in mind that without the right education and experience, you may not be able to obtain your dream job.
The first thing you have to do is look for schools in your area that provide bachelor’s degree in counseling, psychology, or any other related field. Although enrolling in a counseling program right now is not exactly mandatory, you must start preparing for your career choice – so, a bachelor’s degree in a related field is something to consider.
Here are the post-bachelor’s requirements you must meet in order to become a licensed school counselor in the state of Virginia:
Once you get your bachelor’s degree, you will need to earn a master’s degree from an accredited college or university in a state-approved school counselor preparation program.
During your master’s program, you must fulfill at least 200 clock hours of field experience. This should include 100 hours with preK-6 grade levels, as well as 100 hours with 7-12 grade levels. This clinical experience will be supervised, and you must complete it through a preparatory organization.
Bear in mind that many universities in Virginia offer master’s degree programs for people who aspire to become school counselors.
One popular option is Capella University which offers a master’s program in school counseling. You can also find other universities closer to your home. For instance, you can opt for Rivier University with a Master of Education in School Counseling degree program, the USC – Rossier School Education with a Master of Education in School Counseling degree program, and so on.
Work Experience Requirements
You need two (2) years of full-time teaching experience OR two (2) years of full-time professional experience in the field of school counseling in a public or an accredited private school. So, if you are able to complete two years of counseling and guidance experience, it can help you meet the experience requirements for becoming a school counselor.
Earn a master’s degree from an accredited college or university and complete an approved school counselor preparation program certificate.
You need to ensure that the counselor preparation program has at least 200 clock hours of field experience. This should include 100 hours with preK-6 grade levels, as well as 100 hours with 7-12 grade levels. This clinical experience will be supervised, and you must complete it through a preparatory organization.
Work Experience Requirements
Two (2) years of full-time teaching experience OR two (2) years of full-time professional experience in the field of school counseling in a public or an accredited private school.
How Long Does It Take to Become a School Counselor in Virginia?
The journey to becoming a school counselor in Virginia is different for everyone. In general, it takes several years of studies and experience until you are able to work as a school counselor in the state.
Now, the first thing that you may want to do is obtain a bachelor’s degree in counseling. Usually, this takes 4 years to complete and the programs can take part on campus or online.
Then, you can enroll in a master’s degree in school counseling. Typically, master’s degrees take two years. But aside from the actual degree, you should also take care of the experience requirements as an aspiring school counselor. You must complete a total of 200 hours of clinical experience as well as two years of teaching experience.
That being said, all in all, the process of becoming a licensed school counselor in Virginia may take 7-8 years.
What are the Requirements for School Counselor License Renewal in Virginia?
According to the Virginia Code, any individual who wants to renew their school counselor license in the state will have to go through the process of getting training in recognition of behavioral distress and mental health disorders. These include substance abuse, violence, trauma, youth suicide, and depression.
There are two categories when it comes to training options for people who seek license renewal, respectively:
- Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) Pre-Approved Training
- Local Education Agency (LEA) Approved Training
Let’s take a look at the VDOE Pre-Approved Training options for school counselors seeking license renewal in Virginia:
- Your Mental Health First Aid Training – This training option is created for individuals who did not get a mental health degree, but who have interactions with young people quite frequently. It meets every category necessary.
- VDOE’s Office of Student Services’ Career and Learning Resource Center – There is also a webinar series library that is currently still growing and can meet all the renewal. requirements. One series will have three webinars, and there will also be a knowledge check. Besides, it will meet one of the five category areas, respectively violence, substance abuse, youth suicide, trauma, and depression. All participants should complete training in each topic area.
- Training Identified by Superintendent’s Memo #313-17 – This can also be used for satisfying the renewal requirements. All school counselors seeking license renewal should submit their corresponding certificates, and the school division will look over them and review them.
When it comes to local education agency-approved training options, there are different routes for those who are employed by an accredited nonpublic or public school in Virginia and for those who are not employed.
LEA Approved Training is available only to individuals who are part of accredited public or nonpublic schools in Virginia. They must also meet some requirements, respectively:
- One training can cover one or more topic areas or categories. This means that counselors can train on both depression and substance abuse at the same time. This will count for both topic areas as long as the training covers at least three hours. In essence, there should be 90 minutes allocated for each category, and an extra 90 minutes for each additional one.
- The training should be pre-approval by a school counseling division superior.
- You should have some evidence of participation or attendance (some good options include assessment reports, reflection activities, and certificates of attendance).
Can You Be a School Counselor With a Bachelor’s Degree in Virginia?
Although many people would like to become school counselors as soon as possible without having to go through the trouble of enrolling in a master’s degree program, a master’s degree is necessary for the state of Virginia. There are several bachelor’s degree programs in Virginia that prepare you for working as a school counselor, but this preparation is not enough.
All school counselors in the state must earn a master’s degree from a university or college that is accredited regionally. Furthermore, they must go through a school counselor preparation program that includes practicum experience and an internship.
Can You Be a School Counselor in Virginia Without a License?
All individuals who want to become school counselors in Virginia should know that obtaining a license is mandatory. One cannot operate as a school counselor in the state without obtaining the necessary licensure.
Students can apply for their state license once they have graduated from their master’s program. The Virginia Department of Education is the entity that regulates school counselor licensure in the state.
School counselors who have their licensure and work in different states may be able to transfer their licenses to Virginia. This process is known as “reciprocity”. Anyone who wishes to transfer their school counselor license should check out the VDOE website to find out more details on the matter.
The licensure application can be downloaded from the VDOE website, where people can also get some instructions on how to apply.
What is the Role of School Counselors in Virginia?
Now, you may be wondering what a school counselor does in Virginia. This profession is unique, and since you need so much training and so many study years before you can apply for a license, you may be curious to find out what it involves.
School counselors are responsible for offering counseling to K-12 students who are dealing with mental or emotional issues. On top of that, they offer counseling for post-secondary and academic success.
Usually, school counselors are kind, compassionate professionals who are extremely important in all K-12 school systems, whether they are private or public. School counselors offer individual or small-group counseling, as well as consultations and crisis responses. These experts go through years of studies and training before they can get a school counseling job.
There is a high need for school counselors in the state of Virginia, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects school counselor employment in Virginia to grow by 3% between 2021 and 20231.
What are the Career Opportunities for School Counselors in Virginia?
There are many career opportunities in Virginia for those who study and work hard to become school counselors. There is more than one career choice to opt for, so you do not have to limit yourself to being only a school counselor. In fact, there are a few jobs you can settle for, including:
- Career Counselor
- Therapeutic Day Treatment Counselor
- Intensive In-Home Counselor
- Health Educator
- Social Service Manager
- Social Worker
- Mental Health Case Manager
The Bottom Line
Becoming a school counselor in Virginia is a process that requires years of study and preparation. Aspiring counselors must go through degree programs, more specifically a bachelor’s and master’s degree program in order to help them qualify for a school counseling career. On top of that, they must satisfy experience requirements by getting field experience in counseling.
All in all, despite the long journey, working as a school counselor is worth it, as you get to help children and young adults in need of help or guidance.