What are the Differences Between School Psychologists and School Guidance Counselors?

The school counselor is always one of those iconic people that somehow find a way to sink into your head and never leave. Unlike other school administrators, counselors tend to show a bit more apathy towards your personal goals and even more important, your feelings towards education. Yet there seems to be a bit a confusion between a person who is a school counselor and the school psychologist. Often enough, the same person plays both roles but the job itself is often quite different.

What exactly is a school guidance counselor?

The primary role of the school guidance counselor is to provide direction in their students’ education choices. In this, they follow and track their students’ class choices and work habits while maintaining a open mind regarding what the student wants to do with their education once they have completed their schooling. They work with the teachers, parents and the students themselves to develop positive study habits that orientate them towards being a good student. This eventually progresses into the goal of developing positive work habits. While the most guidance counselors are present within the high school system or below, there are a number of guidance counselors in the upper levels of learning. These are referred to as career advisers rather than counselors. A masters degree in education, child development, or public administration is often the required level of education to become a school guidance counselor and the median wage is around $50,000 a year.

How does this differ from a school psychologist?

The school psychologist often works in conjunction with the guidance counselor. In some cases they are one in the same person as both roles are similar in the way of interaction. They both require an amount of psychology knowledge but the school psychologist is more of a clinical position. The school psychologist is responsible for the mental health of the students where the counselor’s main concern is their students’ education path. The psychologist tackles such topics such as learning disorders and depression. They are there to diagnose potential mental problems that could hinder the learning process of the student themselves or others. Where a counselor is part of the school administration, the psychologist is clinical practitioner. They often have their Masters in psychology but more than likely are doctorates. Psychologist are also paid slightly more at around $60,000 a year.

The line between what is a school counselor and what a school psychologist is blurry at best. In many schools, one person provides the both services as one job often doesn’t occupy enough time to justify a full days work. While it can be said that a psychologist can easily be a guidance counselor, the counselor may not particularly be qualified to be psychologist. The reason, simply put, is that the psychologist is required to deal with complex matters of the childhood mind. They would need to be able to diagnose certain behaviors and situation. Which could be the result of deeper seeded issues that an education adviser may simply not be qualified to handle.