Can I Become a School Counselor with an MSW?

Updated November 16, 2022 · 2 Min Read

There are a few different degree paths one can take to become a school counselor, but are there school counselor jobs for MSWs? is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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A school counselor is also qualified to be a teacher, or has at least completed teacher training and a supervised counseling program in a school setting. There are school counselor jobs for MSWs, but they are also certified educators and some school counseling and training is required in nearly every state. A Master's Degree in Social Work (MSW) is an excellent degree if you plan to work with at-risk students or as part of a school-based counseling team or specialized program. Most states require you to be able to meet the requirements to teach as well as provide counseling and therapy, usually as part of a school-based team that includes administrators, teachers and counselors.

MSW Course and Degree Focus

Social work programs focus on training candidates to provide individualized therapy and understand adult mental health and wellness, the needs of children, youth and families, and how to respond to social change. They also always include a practicum, which is usually at least 1,000 hours of unpaid, supervised therapy with individuals and groups in your field of specialty. Following your education, training and practicum, each state has licensing requirements and examinations to provide you with the right to work as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). Most social workers are trained to work individually with clients and to focus on the client's emotional strengths and abilities. A social work framework always includes a view of the client and their family and the larger community, which in a school setting includes teachers, peers and neighborhood/community.

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School Counselor Course and Degree Focus

School counseling degrees focus less on individual clinical therapy and more on theories of learning, educational research, educational testing, and collaboration and consultation regarding individual student needs. School counseling degrees also offer a practicum and internship which consists of specific hours of supervised, unpaid training. A school counselor can work with elementary, middle, and high school students. They can also work as counselors in college, technical and professional schools. The American School Counselor Association provides information on degree programs and licensing requirements in all 50 states.

Teaching Requirements

If you have a Master's Degree in Social Work (MSW) you will also need to have teacher training and certification to work as a school counselor. This is one of the biggest differences between a clinical social worker and someone who has completed a master's degree in school psychology. School counselors work as part of the school's administrative and teaching team. Nearly every state requires school psychologists to have some classroom teaching experience. They also need to be certified to teach in their state, which includes meeting educational requirements and passing credentialing requirements and license exams.

You can find a number of school counselor jobs for MSWs, but their titles are frequently school social worker or clinical social worker, instead of counselor. A school counselor in public school systems is a specific type of counselor who is experienced in working as part of an educational team. They are also almost always classroom teachers. You may remember a sports coach in high school who also served as a school counselor, or an English teacher who left the classroom and moved to an office where she advised students on college admissions or future careers. You can become a school counselor with a Master's Degree in Social Work but will also need to complete teacher training and certification.

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