QUOTE(red_velvet @ Aug 28 2008, 02:26 PM)
thirtiesgirl: i was going to go the route you went. i was going to get my master's in school counseling only, and then eventually get my LPC. i was warned by a few professionals that i shouldn't go that route, even if i did want to be a school counselor, because it would limit my career options and LPC's can't accept insurance (although i think this is changing). how do you like school counseling? what type of school do you work in? a list of pros/cons would be much appreciated since i think working in a school is in my future
Well, as I wrote in my previous post, MSWs can work as school counselors in any capacity - elementary or secondary (which includes middle school and high school). All they need to do is get their PPS (Pupil Personnel Services) credential, aka school counseling credential. They can also work as PSA (Pupil Services and Attendance) counselors; they just need to get the PSA credential.
I work for a public middle school (aka junior high) for the Los Angeles Unified School District. LAUSD is a very large and disorganized school district with a lot of monetary waste, but it's one of the highest paying school districts in my area (there are several other school districts within LA County), and because it's so large, it's fairly easy to find employment.
In my experience so far, my job enjoyment is dependent on the school where I work. Each school administration and APSCS (Assistant Principal over Secondary Counseling Services; the school counselor's boss) has a different management style and level of organization. The past two schools where I worked did not have very organized administration, and the jobs I did were a mix of counseling and many other things - paperwork, event planning (assemblies, activities, etc.), and classroom assisting/teacher support. The one good thing about working for a larger school district is that there are so many schools to choose from, so if I'm unhappy, I can move on and see how things are at another school. This is the start of my third year at my current school, and I plan to start seeking work at a new school for the coming school year. I hope to find a school where I get more counseling experience and the administration is more organized. I'm currently working with a *very* disorganized, scatterbrained AP. We're given many assignments last minute, without consideration of how much time it will take to put them together and do them well, and then sometimes yelled at when things don't go as planned. I'm tired of that kind of behavior, and it's time for me to move on.
I also have my PSA credential, sometimes also known as a CWA (Child Welfare and Attendance) credential, which I plan to put to use after I spend a few more years as a school counselor. MSWs can work as PSAs if they obtain that credential. PSAs make more money than school counselors (at least they do in LAUSD), and the purpose of their job is to work on improving a school's attendance rate. They identify students with chronic attendance issues and counsel them on finding ways to help them continue coming to school. PSAs also, to a point, function as a "hooky cop," as they're often part of the legal process with students who have serious chronic attendance problems and have been ditching school for weeks. Not all school districts employ PSAs, since not all districts have the money to afford them, or have a serious enough attendance problem to need PSAs. But it may be worth getting your PSA credential, if you're interested in it, to have another employment option where you can still work for a school district.
Middle school and high school counseling also have their differences. Middle school is mostly discipline and behavior management, while high school tends to focus on career/college planning and academics, with some behavior issues. After having some experience with middle school counseling, I think my next job search will be for a high school job. LAUSD does have elementary counselors, but not many. It's kind of a specialized area, and not easy to find a job, since it's a very coveted position. That may not be the case in your school district, and it may be easier to find a job as an elementary counselor.
MSWs are sometimes also employed by school mental health, if your school district has a mental health program. They function as a social worker for the school district and have a case load of students that they see weekly at either one or several schools, and do individual personal counseling with their students. You'd have to talk with your school district to find out if they have a school mental health program. This is not something that a school counselor without an MSW can do. Those of us with an MA in education or counseling and the PPS credential solely function as school counselors - meaning our primary purpose is academic counseling, not personal. Although, of course, the personal always comes into it. But the school counselor will redirect the student back to academics and school performance, whereas a school mental health professional will delve further into the issue.
I should also mention that those of us with a MA in counseling can also work as college counselors, an option that MSWs and LCSWs don't have. Although, from what I've heard, it's extremely difficult to find a college counseling job, as, again, they're extremely coveted positions, and most college counselors, once in, don't leave until they're ready to retire.
Anyway, 'nuff said. Hope that answers some of your questions.