School counselors play an important role in America’s public school system. The scope of their duties has changed greatly since the days when their primary responsibility was to help students plan and prepare for higher education. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the rise of many social justice movements have presented new challenges in the day-to-day professional lives of school counselors.
To help students overcome the challenges they encounter, aspiring counselors will need an advanced education like the Master of Education in School Counseling online program at Southeastern Oklahoma State University. Completing the M.Ed. degree online equips students with the “ability to plan a comprehensive school counseling program.”
How Has the Role of a School Counselor Changed Over Time?
The major responsibilities of school counselors have drastically changed in recent years. In the past, counselors primarily helped students make changes to their academic schedules or prepare their materials for college applications. In the event of local or national tragedies, schools might have engaged counselors to help students process their emotions.
While these duties were important, counselors currently play a much more important role in students’ lives. According to the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), “Today’s school counselors are vital members of the education team. They help all students in the areas of academic achievement, career and social/emotional development, ensuring today’s students become the productive, well-adjusted adults of tomorrow.” Without properly educated school counselors to aid in their academic and personal growth, students are at an incredible disadvantage that could leave them unprepared for the future.
What Are the Main Challenges Facing School Counselors Today?
Historically, one of the major challenges school counselors face has been the number of students they’ve been responsible for helping. While limited counseling personnel is still an issue that roughly half of surveyed counselors deal with, a new set of challenges have emerged — many of which are related to COVID-19. Based on the results from an October 2020 survey by the ASCA, here are the most daunting challenges facing counselors today:
- Connecting with students in the virtual learning environment
- Offering counseling to students remotely
- Narrowing opportunity and achievement gaps
- Following up with students who have not returned to school since they reopened
- Conducting health-related duties such as temperature checks
- Implementing essential social or emotional learning programs
What Challenges Might School Counselors Face in the Future?
As communities change and social dynamics become more complex, school counselors must be prepared to deal with a wide array of new challenges. Here are some of the most likely problems counselors will face, if not already:
Addressing the issues of racism and social biases. As social justice issues are at the forefront of public conversation, counselors will play a key role in combating racism and inequity. Providing counseling for individual students, monitoring behavior and racist speech and advocating for the elimination of policies (or school systems) that negatively affect students of color will be among the most important responsibilities for counselors.
Dealing with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. Severe budget cuts could be a major issue for schools across the country. This trend may particularly impact counselors. According to Brennan Bernard of Forbes magazine, “as revenue dries up in many states that fund their public schools through tax dollars, we need to find ways to support these institutions amid budget cuts and protect the very individuals we will rely on to guide tomorrow’s leaders and workers.”
Promoting diversity, equity, inclusion and access. In addition to combating racism and social biases, school counselors will be tasked with building more inclusive communities at their schools. Creating specialized training, revamping school curricula, advocating for diversity specialist positions and creating new policies for students and faculty will be key components of this important initiative.
School counselors play a significant role in promoting student success, fostering emotional health and shaping the leaders of tomorrow. An advanced education degree in school counseling is a great way to help professionals hone their skills in this field.