For students who are aspiring to help others by pursuing a career in counseling, the hardest decision is often choosing which of the various counseling specialties and career path options is right for them. Some of the most popular specializations that counselors can decide to focus their practice in include substance, career, clinical mental health, marriage or couple, school, community, gerontological, and student affairs counseling. Undergraduate students who have a strong passion for student leadership and involvement on campus often have an interest in making a career out of those experiences by becoming a student affairs counselor. The following is a guide to a career as a student affairs counselor and how students can become engaged in this exciting profession.
Student Affairs Counselor Duties
Student affairs counselors assume a variety of positions throughout higher education in culturally diverse settings as experts at promoting the intellectual, emotional, recreational, social, and spiritual facets of student development. Some of the duties that student affairs counselors are typically responsible for include assisting in management activities, developing organization budgets, offering student leadership activities, providing counseling for career guidance, and supporting diverse learners in multicultural programs.
According to the Association of College Unions International, student affairs counselors can find employment in various college departments, such as college unions, Greek life, first-year student orientation, organizations or clubs, service learning, rape crisis centers, career placement programs, support centers for students with disabilities, housing or residence life, recreation centers, commuter student offices, student government advising, and study abroad programs.
Qualifications to Become a Student Affairs Counselor
After fulfilling a bachelor's degree in a related major, students who want to become student affairs counselors are required to have a master's degree in counseling, student services, or college counseling. It is highly recommended that students obtain their master's degree from a program that has been accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) in Student Affairs and College Counseling. Within an accredited program that prepares students specifically for positions in student affairs offices in higher education, counselors gain the much-needed knowledge in college cultures, organizational dynamics, administrative structures, and student development. Most programs towards a student affairs career also require students to complete a graduate assistantship or internship and a thesis project.
In addition to fulfilling these necessary education requirements, aspiring student affairs counselors must have excellent written and verbal communication skills, strong organizational abilities, discipline to meet deadlines, and knowledge of college academic and social procedures. Student affairs counselors with experience in college admissions, school counseling, teaching, and event planning will be sure to have the greatest job prospects. Employers also prefer hiring professionals who have been involved in campus activities and held leadership positions in campus organizations for unparalleled insight into the field.
If you have a strong passion for working with students in a college or university campus environment, have the initiative to pursue an advanced graduate degree in counseling, and possess strong communication and leadership skills, a career as a student affairs counselor might be the perfect fit for you. Although jobs for student affairs counselors vary greatly from campus to campus, it is guaranteed that this career path will enable you to make a difference in the lives of college students in higher education.