20 Roles of Counselors in Schools (Secondary, Elementary & Tertiary)

The counselor is one of the key guidance personnel in the school system. If the roles of the counselor are not clearly defined and effectively played by a competent counselor, there would be lapses in the guidance processes of the school.

I’ll be highlighting 20 roles of the school counselor in elementary, secondary, and tertiary schools below.

Most of these roles apply at all levels of school not just specifically in elementary, secondary, or tertiary institutions. However, they’re categorized based on where they are most needed.

Related: What Is Guidance and Counseling? (Overview, Scope, and Types)

Roles of the School Counselor in Elementary Schools

1. Assist the teachers in developing the affective domain of pupils

One goal of education is to develop the three domains of the child— cognitive, affective, and psychomotor.

While the teacher tries to contribute to the affective domain of students, their effort will be more effective with the support of a counselor who focuses wholly on that.

Beyond support, the counselor can also be at the front of ensuring pupils develop high self-esteem, develop healthy friendships, and so on.

2. Identify strengths and weaknesses of pupils

For pupils to truly maximize their potential, one of the roles of the counselor in elementary school is to pay attention to them to identify their strengths and natural inclinations, to assist them in developing those strengths.

This happens by remaining in contact with their class teachers, receiving and relaying information from/to them about individual students on what can be done to assist their development.

Strategies will also be developed to assist with their weaknesses.

3. Offering guidance to pupils and parents

The function of the guidance counselor in elementary school goes beyond just pupils. They also offer guidance to parents on decisions to take in the best interests of their children.

This can cut across helping the child improve academically or curbing certain behavioral maladjustment rising in the child.

4. Monitoring the progress of students with difficulties

It is not enough to identify the strengths and weaknesses of pupils— it is not a one-time responsibility.

The elementary school counselor must continue to monitor pupils who have started receiving help to notice if they’re making any improvement. And if they aren’t, the counselor comes up with new strategies to help them.

5. Recommended psychological help when needed

If patterns are noticed in pupils that need dedicated attention, it is the duty of the counselor to recommend help for them. This help could be either through individual counseling sessions with the school counselor or external intervention.

Also, whenever other school guidance personnel like the school health worker need to intervene, the counselor brings up the recommendation.

6. Interact with parents to understand how their wards are doing

Because only a good amount of time is spent in school, to fully understand how the child is faring, the counselor must interact with parents from time to time.

This information can assist the counselor in helping the child even better and provide better guidance to parents.

Roles of the Counselor in Secondary Schools

7. Oversee the school guidance program

Although the school counselor cannot single-handedly organize and implement the guidance programs of the school, it is the counselor’s role to oversee the activities of all guidance personnel and committees.

The counselor plays important roles in setting up the committees, determining the needs of the school, evaluating the success of the programs, as well as giving reports to appropriate quarters (e.g. the school administrators and parents) alongside other guidance personnel.

8. Keeping and updating the Cumulative Record Folder

Although in many schools the cumulative record folders are kept with teachers, it is the duty of the school counselor to keep and update them.

The counselor retrieves important information from teachers, parents, health workers, boardinghouse masters, and so on and ensures that the record of each student is up-to-date.

Related: 15 Importance of Guidance and Counseling In Education

9. Career guidance 

This is the role of counselors in secondary schools that is most known. Career guidance is basically helping students choose and progress in careers that they are best suited for depending on their potential, interest, experiences, and personality. 

The counselor helps the students see the opportunities that lay before them and help them in making the best decisions.

10. Placement service

Similar to career guidance (on a continuation of it), another function of counselors in high schools is placing the students in classes that will take them toward the career that best suits them.

Because career guidance already focuses on the personality and potential of the students, whichever class they are placed in afterward (science, art, or commercial) will also be where they will best maximize their potential and find their interests.

11. Organise orientation programs for new students

Orientation is one of the 7 core guidance services in schools. Another function of counselors in secondary schools is to ensure that every student that enters the school has enough information that will help them adjust to their new environment and maximize all the structures put in place in the school.

12. Counsel students in overcoming behavioral/psychological maladjustments

The school counselor is also at the center of helping students stay free from various anxieties, stress, and psychological disturbances they may be going through. This role is, in fact, one of the 9 goals of counseling.

These include cases like depression, loneliness, stress disorders, and examination tension, among many others. It can be done through individual and group counseling sessions.

13. Interpret various test items for continuous assessment

Because continuous assessment seeks to measure every aspect of the student’s development, not just their cognitive growth, the counselor is saddled with the responsibility of interpreting various tests that measure the affective domains of students to use them for continuous assessment.

This includes measuring traits like leadership skills, teamwork, emotional intelligence, and so on.

14. Speak in assemblies on societal issues

The Counselor also gets to speak to students on the assembly ground on issues arising in society like drug abuse, sex education, bullying, rape, and the like.

He or she gives them practical tips on how they can avoid these issues, and what to do if they arise, like visiting appropriate authorities among which is the counselor.

15. Guide students in developing effective study habits

The academic performance of students is determined to a large extent by their study habits and techniques.

Students who are unable to develop study habits that fit their personality will find it difficult to understand or recall what they have been taught and this can be mistaken for a low level of intelligence.

However, the school counselor can come in to help them in developing the most suited habit.

Roles of School Counselors in Tertiary Institutions

16. Oversee Student Personnel Work and Service

Student personnel work and service (SPWS) refers to the group of activities that help students in the university balance schooling with work. That’s just a general overview of it and it is a major role of counselors in tertiary education.

University students who need to work in jobs while going to school find the best options available for them from the counselor through SPWS.

17. Assist students with special needs

The university system encourages students with disabilities to not abandon their academic pursuits, but this can be very challenging for them if the appropriate support systems are not set in place. 

The presence of counselors in tertiary institutions can however help the situation. Counselors can provide the emotional and moral support they need, as well as assign people to assist them e.g someone who understands sign language to follow hearing-impaired students to classes.

18. Settle student-lecturer disputes

It is almost inevitable for students of tertiary institutions not to have misunderstandings with lecturers. This can be in common cases like attendance of lectures or more serious cases like sexual harassment or demands.

Counselors can stand in the gap and pick up the cases of students who may not be able to speak up for themselves.

Related: 22 Principles and Professional Ethics of Guidance and Counseling

19. Relationship and emotional counseling

Another role of counselors in tertiary institutions is counseling students with relationship or emotional issues. Students in universities are most likely in romantic relationships and cases of break-ups cannot but happen.

If not handled well, they can affect students’ concentration and decrease their academic performance, but with professional counseling, the effects of such cases can be cushioned.

20. Follow-up for university students

The university is the transitioning point between school and working for students and if that transition doesn’t happen well, it can redirect the course of the lives of students negatively.

So the counselors and other guidance personnel must ensure the follow-up students to see that they enter and progress in satisfying careers and life after school.


We have seen the roles of counselors in elementary, secondary, and tertiary schools but these roles cannot be performed by just a single counselor; it is more of a collective effort of all guidance personnel headed by the counselor.

Read Next: 5 Tips To Set Up A Minimalistic School Counselor’s Office

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