How Do Guidance Counselors and School Psychologists Differ?

guidance counselor vs school psychologist

The inclusion of a guidance counselor and a school psychologist in an educational institution is in high demand and need around the country. Both the school psychologist and the guidance counselor must have an understanding of instructional processes and methods, intervention and assessment methods, and an understanding of the individuals, families, and communities with which they work.

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Education and Training

Guidance counselors are typically part of the kindergarten through twelfth grade education institutions. While education requirements might vary, many positions will require a candidate to hold a master’s level degree. In most master’s programs, students take courses such as crisis intervention, emergency management, group counseling, life planning, counseling and advocacy, and an internship or practicum in the field.

School psychologists are likely to be required to hold a master’s or doctorate level degree. In graduate programs, students complete a wide range of courses to prepare for the various responsibilities of the position. Typical courses include child development, cognitive development, social competence, child language, psychopathology, preventive intervention, and child and adolescent assessment. Programs also include clinical training and opportunities to teach or conduct research. With the combination of psychology and educational theory and concepts, school psychologists are uniquely prepared to work in education.

Role of a School Guidance Counselor

Guidance counselors are most often placed in a school in order to individually meet with students in order to provide support with academics, social development, career advice, and personal issues. The majority of a guidance counselor’s time is spent on meeting with students, completing reports, performing home visits and assessments, and observation. Guidance counselors might also make referrals for students and families to gain outside assistance with an issue, or work with community outreach programs on behalf of the school or for individual students. For additional information, visit the American School Counselor Association.

Role of a School Psychologist

Much like the school guidance counselor, the school psychologist’s role is to work with children in order to ensure that each individual child is able to succeed in the academic environment. The school psychologist not only provides counseling for students and their families, but also works to develop intervention and developmental plans along with teachers, administrators, other agency representatives, and communities. From consultation with teachers to assessments of students and programs to recommendations made to administration, school psychologists are responsible for a number of tasks.

School psychologists are able to help every student within a school or district, but these professionals are often available in particular to help students with disabilities, learning difficulties, behavioral problems, or life and family stressors outside of school that impede educational progress. For additional information, please visit the American Psychological Association information on school psychology.


Although school psychologists are often most focused on those populations of students who are considered at high risk for not succeeding academically and guidance counselors are in place to help every student with direct contact, the positions require similar skills, education, and abilities. Pursuing a career in as a school psychologist or guidance counselor will provide anyone wanting to help children with an in-demand, rewarding career.

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