If you are thinking about making the transition from teaching to counseling, there are significant differences between the teaching and counseling roles you will want to consider carefully. Not only will the nature of your work differ, but you will likely need to pursue additional training to develop the skills needed to fulfill that role. Counselors work in a multitude of settings ranging from schools to agencies to hospitals, therefore if you are considering changing tracks, you will want to determine what work setting best fits your interests.

Nature of the Work

It is important to keep in mind that advising and counseling are not the same thing. Many teachers find themselves in an advising role--one that involves active problem solving and recommendation of a course of action. Counseling is not as directive as advising. In counseling, you will not tell a client what he should do or show him how to do it, which, after directing students in a classroom setting, can be a difficult adaptation.

Teaching follows a set curriculum with an established means of evaluating progress. Counselors do not enjoy the same clarity when it comes to evaluating the work they do with clients. If you prefer objective evaluation and derive satisfaction from seeing tangible results, this aspect of the work may be frustrating for you.

Teaching is a fairly social role as it promotes interaction with colleagues on a regular basis. The role of counselor can be more isolated. Due to the confidential nature of the work, as a counselor, you may not be able to share information with colleagues. In some schools, you may find yourself to be the only counselor on staff, which can be challenging.


Teacher training requires coursework in your subject area as well as in educational methods and classroom management. To make the transition to counseling, it is likely that you will need to pursue additional coursework, perhaps even an additional degree, to serve in that capacity. Most counseling roles require a master's degree and usually two semesters of practicum and internship experience. There are part-time programs that allow you to pursue your degree while working, however, this approach can double the time it takes for you to make the transition.

Work Settings

When making the transition from teaching to counseling, consider what kind of counseling environment interests you. If you want to continue working in the school environment, you will likely want to enroll in a school counseling program. Be sure to talk to existing counselors in your school to understand the nature of the work they do. In some schools, the school counselors do not do individual counseling with students, rather they offer classroom guidance programs, refer to outside counselors and oversee school testing. Some school districts bring in community or agency counselors as independent contractors to serve the therapy needs of students. If you choose a non-school counseling path, you will find that agency and private practice settings have very different work cultures than schools. You will want to acquaint yourself with different settings during your practicum and internship semesters.

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