Career Story: Middle School Counselor

Middle School Counselor

Job Title: School Counselor

Type of Company: I work for a public school system in the suburbs of Boston.

Education: BA, Communications •• MA, Counseling

Previous Experience: I started out as a training representative for a phone, PBX and voice mail company. Nine years later, in order to make a job change, I got my masters. I started counseling by working as a substitute in 3 different school districts (not all at the same time) and worked part-time in this way for five years. (I did so by choice; I had a small child at home.) I now work full time in a tenured position.

Job Tasks: My job is to support students, teachers, and parents so that all students can successfully complete grades 6 through 8. This involves working individually or in groups with students who need ways to stop bullying, improve studying, resolve teacher conflicts, manage home issues, transition into (or out of) school, register for classes or improve their grades.

I start my day at 7:30 am and meet briefly with three other counselors, a school psychologist, teachers, the vice-principal or a parent. The students end their day at 2:30. I attend all Special Education meetings for students who are initially being evaluated for services and those who may be coming off plans, and I coordinate all 504 plans for my students. I have 250 students spread across three grades: grades 6-8. A major part of my job is to help figure out why a student hasn't been meeting his potential academically. Sometimes this means trying to figure out if a student has a learning disability or an emotional problem that is hampering his efforts. Then, together, teachers, parents and other school support people try to figure out ways to help the student be successful.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is being in a school environment where the focus of my work is on education and not on making a profit. I love kids. I love education.

Job Tips:
1. Be willing to take 2-4 years of a low-paying teaching job when you are YOUNG. It will pay off hugely when you are in your 30's.

2. Don't be put off by the "low-paying" stereotype of teaching or working in a school. By the time you've worked 10 years you'll be better off than your friends who are still changing jobs to get satisfaction. And experienced teachers who also tutor after school make well over 100K (at least in my area).

Additional Thoughts: If I could change one thing about my career I would listen to the small voice inside my head during high school and college that said "I want to teach." This time around, I'd go right into teaching.

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