If you are debating whether to pursue a career as a school counselor or a as teacher, one thing is clear: you have a strong interest in working in the field of education. The duties and responsibilities of counselors and teachers are quite different, but they still require dedication to improving the lives of young people. Job opportunities for both teachers and school counselors vary depending on location and what educational level they are working with; however, both school counselors and postsecondary teachers are expected to have the most prospects, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Roles of Teachers & School Counselors
No matter what age group you choose to work with, as a teacher you are charged with the task of instructing students, understanding how they learn and helping to shape their socialization. As a counselor, you can assist with teachers with some of these responsibilities by providing support to students in situations or conditions that affect their ability to succeed in the academic environment. Counselors handle educational issues and academic or personal difficulties.
In general, school counselors earn a higher salary when compared to the average earnings of K-12 teachers. The BLS 2009 data reveals that kindergarten and elementary school teachers earn an average salary of $50,380 and $53,150 per year, respectively. Middle and high school teachers earn a bit more, at $53,550 and $55,150. Both elementary and secondary school counselors, however, take in $61,190 on average, according to the BLS.
Although counselors typically earn more in the elementary through secondary grades, the tables turn when looking at the figures for those working at colleges and universities. Counselors working at community colleges earn $56,130 per year on average while those at four-year institutions actually earn less at $49,050, based on 2009 BLS figures. Postsecondary teachers, however, can earn considerably more. In fact, many of these professionals, including those teaching math, biology, English and business courses, earn more than $60,000 on average even at the community college level.
Preparation and regulation is another consideration as you plan your career goals. Both careers require state licensure, but you can work as an elementary or secondary teacher with a bachelor's degree. You must earn a master's degree in counseling, however, to be eligible for licensure as a school counselor. Keep in mind that you can earn more as a teacher in postsecondary education, but at least a master's, and in some cases a doctorate, is required to obtain these positions.