Difference Between School Counselors and School Psychologists

Difference Between School Counselors and School Psychologists

The two terms “School Counselor” and “School Psychologist” are often used interchangeably, Yet, there is a distinct difference between them that most people aren’t aware of. It is essential for people to understand the distinctions between each, especially if you are considering starting a career in one of these fields.

Role of the School Counselor

School counselors serve the entire school community, not just their students. They help to ensure that all students succeed academically, are physically fit, and are emotionally healthy.

They also help promote their students’ safety, wellness, and well-being. One of their primary goals and objectives is to help students to reach their full potential.

School counselors are typically employed in positions that support grades at all levels. For instance, school counselors are hired to work with and support children in elementary to high school.

Typically, when a counselor is hired, the duties and responsibilities will vary depending on the age of the student. For example, if a school counselor is hired to work with elementary kids, they normally focus on helping to develop effective study skills and social skills.

On the other hand, if a school counselor is hired to work with high school students, they must help students with a wide range of essential services. For instance, some of the critical services provided by school counselors to high school students include the following:

  •  Finding the right college or career school that best meets their academic needs and preferences
  •  Helping to navigate the student through the admissions process,
  •  Helping students select the best major and minors based on their interest
  •  Introducing students to special certificate programs to enhance their future job prospects
  •  Assisting students with finding financial aid and other resources needed to attend a university or a college
  •  Assisting students with identifying their strengths and interest so that they can develop a career plan for their future

Education Requirements for School Counselors

It is also important to note that the term school counselor can be used in a broad sense. This is because their roles can vary depending on the school and the responsibilities assigned. Therefore, to prepare for this career, the requirements must be met.

  •  Earn a bachelor’s in education, social science, or a behavioral field
  •  Complete an MD program in school counseling
  •  Obtain grad internship experience to meet licensure and cert requirements
  •  Pass specific exams to obtain a license and certification
  •  Apply for the license
  •  Keep up with school counseling trends with continuing ed

Role of the School Psychologists

As mentioned above, school psychologists may be referred to as school counselors. However, the duties and responsibilities of each are vastly different. Since today’s kids deal with a wide range of issues at school and home, these professionals are trained to diagnose and treat disorders. Therefore, it is essential to understand exactly what a school psychologist does.

First off, school psychologists are trained to work with school counselors to help their students in many different ways. Their job is to act in capacities that advocate for the student’s personal and educational advancements.

In order to be successful in this role, they will need to actively listen to the student’s concerns. And as a psychologist in the school system, these specialists are trained to recognize the signs that a student is struggling emotionally.

For example, if a student is having a hard time in school and their behavior changes drastically, the school psychologist can meet with the student to determine what is happening. For instance, here are some of these issues that many school psychologists may be required to address at one point.

  •  Discusses behavior, social and learning problems with the child’s parents.
  •  Provides counsel to parents on topics like substance abuse issues
  •  Implements behavior management techniques based on the information that they have learned.
  •  Establish learning programs after conducting the required research
  •  Advises the school teachers and admin on topics like disciplinary actions to students with troubling behavior.

Educational Requirements for School Psychologists

Unlike other psychologists in this career field, the school psychologist is not required to complete a doctoral program. Instead, school psychologists are only required to complete a Master’s program before obtaining a state license.

This is because their roles can vary significantly from other psychologists that must complete their practicum to get hands-on experience.

It is also important to note that school psychologists are not required to complete an extensive internship to practice their craft.

Here are the requirements that the school psychologists must complete.

  •  Earn a bachelor’s in psychology or a related field.
  •  Complete a graduate program (at least 60 hours)
  •  Earn State Licensure

Difference Between School Counselors and School Psychologists

School Counselor RolesSchool Psychologists Roles
Behavioral, Academic, Aptitude, and College/Job CounselingListening to students’ concerns about academic, emotional, or social issues.
Bridge Between Students, Administrators, Teachers, and ParentsProviding individual and group counseling as appropriate.
Maintain Student RecordsAdministering and evaluating psychological tests and preparing reports.
Make Referrals to Outside AgenciesHelping students to process and overcome their problems.

Median Salary for a School Psychologist

The median salary for school counselors and school psychologists can vary significantly from one another. Here’s a sample of annual salaries broken down by state.

StateSchool PsychologistSchool Counselor
New York$99,665$63,517
New Hampshire$94,145$61,448
New Jersey$88,055$53,959
North Dakota$81,555$53,853
South Dakota$77,306$52,281
South Carolina$75,518$50,905
Source: https://www.linkforcounselors.com/average-high-school-counselor-salary-by-state/ and https://www.ziprecruiter.com/Salaries/What-Is-the-Average-School-Psychologist-Salary-by-State


As you see, there is a huge difference between school counselors and psychologists and their roles. Both professionals are required to provide support to the students in their schools. However, the school counselor’s focus is usually geared toward students performing at their full potential academically. On the other hand, school psychologists are concerned about their student’s emotional, social and mental stability.