Michigan high school counselors to get training in college and career advice

Michigan high school counselors are not required to have training in giving advice on college or careers after graduation. A new law would change that.

Michigan high school counselors will be required to have training in college advising and career counseling, under a law expected to be signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Rick Snyder.

Advocates of the new requirement see it as a step toward addressing Michigan’s poor record on college attainment, a stance supported by education experts interviewed by Bridge, and in a survey of state residents by The Center for Michigan, Bridge’s parent organization.


Michigan ranks in the bottom half of states in adult college attainment. Michigan would need 287,328 more adults to hold a bachelor’s degree or higher just to reach the national average. Those with a bachelor’s degree earn, on average, 70 percent more than those with a high school diploma ($1,108 per week versus $651 per week).

Just raising Michigan to the national average in college attainment, then, could add $6.8 billion to the state economy.

Counselors are now required to get 150 hours of professional development training every five years. The new law requires 25 of those hours to be in college preparation and selection, and 25 hours in career counseling. The new requirement takes effect in two years.

House Bill 4181 passed the Senate unanimously Oct. 17, and the House 101-6 Oct. 24.

“Kids who are preparing for the professional world need to know that there are plenty of different options available to them,” said Rep. Brett Roberts, R-Eaton Township, who sponsored the bill.

“There are thousands of career opportunities in Michigan’s skilled trade industries. These careers pay well, have great security, and allow recent graduates to kickstart their professional lives right out of high school. This legislation will give school counselors the tools that they need to properly prepare students for the career that suits them best.”

Patrick O’Connor, assistant dean of college counseling at Cranbrook Kingswood School in Bloomfield Hills and a past president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, has lobbied for a college and career advising training requirement for high school counselors for years.

“HB 4181 will give school counselors the information they’ve asked for that will keep them on top of the latest career and college trends in Michigan,” O’Connor said. “Inclusion of this counselor-specific professional development will help students create bright futures that will be based on their best talents, all while advancing Michigan’s economy.”

Equipping high school counselors to better dispense college and career advice is also a priority for Michigan residents. In 2015 Community Conversations conducted by The Center for Michigan, two-thirds of residents surveyed rated college and career advice in high schools as “lousy” or “terrible,” findings shared by a majority of K-12 educators.  

But extra training may not help if counselors don’t have enough time to use that training. Michigan has one of the worst student-to-counselor rates in the nation. As Bridge has reported, the Michigan College Advising Corps tries to fill that gap by placing college advisors in low-income and rural high schools where college-going rates are low.

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Wed, 11/08/2017 - 11:47am

My 3 sons attended a great high school and on to success in college and their jobs. But all 3 agreed that even at a great school their counseling advice was slim to none. Glad to see steps are being taken to help this. But as the author states, can the counselors find the time when most schools are woefully understaffed in this area.

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 11:58am

You are incorrect. Every graduating school counselor has extensive training in college and career advising, including career development theory, you can easily fact check this by accessing any Michigan university course requirements for counseling degrees. No, there is currently no law enforcing that counselors receive this training in their graduate programs, but there are accreditation requirements that ensure it.

Much like there is no law stating that a math teacher must teach number sense, they do it because it is a part of their job, not because there is a law on number sense.

This new requirement was not endorsed by the Michigan School Counselor Association, and it was not drafted with input from school counselor groups in the state. This law will do nothing to address the real issue: school counselor ratios. The recommended ratio is 250 to 1. Michigans average is over 700 to 1. It doesn't matter what pd you require, if we aren't given appropriate case loads, you will not see an increase in efficacy in the schools.

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 12:32pm

Ditto exactly what Lynn said. I am a school counselor and was going to parrot exactly what she stated.

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 9:19pm

One of the challenges our daughters had with school counseling was the lack of knowledge about careers and the degrees that were most beneficial to succeed in a particular degree or the personal interests the proved most beneficial in different degrees. Their counselors were knowledgeable in how to prepare [build their resume] for particular schools and the application process. What our daughters [and we] had hope for was more about the types of and nature of careers to consider.

What kind of preparation are the counselors getting from a career stand point? We hear much about STEM, are the counselors encourage to meet and bring in people in the related fields, like engineers, chemists, biologists, electronic equipment technicians, mathematicians, medical professionals of from a variety of careers, etc.?

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 3:11pm

Yes, we absolutely need more school counselors, no argument there.
However, we also need better trained counselors. School counseling programs may offer a course, but it is not typically required of students to obtain a degree in school counseling.
"Of Michigan’s ten school counselor training programs, only one offers a required course in post-secondary counseling."
(Source: http://www.bridgemi.com/guest-commentary/how-can-students-get-ready-coll...)

Sat, 11/11/2017 - 10:51am

Not true. Patrick is not considering any course those colleges offer but one as sufficient, according to know ones standards but his own. Every nationally accredited program CACREP School requires these courses. We have several CACREP programs in the state. So the training is sufficient on the national scale but not Patrick O Conners made up standards. He has a vested interest in this bill, and you can easily survey Michigan’s university catalogs yourself to see the truth. I did not attend the college that Patrick refers to and I most certainly had to take career development theory, and a post secondary counseling course in order to graduate. In fact, my grad requirements were more rigorous then the current PD offerings available today from MCAN.

This bill gives School counselors NO training. It taxes the counselors to meet a new requirement. That is all. Now counselors have to find appropriate training according to the law THEMSELVES.
Coincidentally, the ONLY current pd offering comes from MCAN, the group that pushed this bill forward.

So now instead of being able to work in our districts, with local universities, to develop career guidance relevant to OUR students, for free, we now have to pay MCAN. We have to pay to take their sub-par course, taught by people with NO school counseling degree in order to keep our license.

This bill does nothing to train or prepare or provide relevant professional development and will do nothing to help our students, but take away more time and resources and give their school counselor more busy work.
This is why people leave the education field in Michigan. Bills are passed telling educators how to do their job, by people who don’t bother to research the real issues, or consult with the professionals on what they really need.
I have heard more comments about people who were jaded from their school counselors from 20-30 years ago (prior to today’s current licensure requirements). Back when un-trained teachers were able to call themselves “guidance counselors”.
You cannot understand how completely frustrating this is.

Wed, 11/29/2017 - 2:37pm

I would expect graduate-level coursework to be more rigorous than workshops offered by a nonprofit. That should be a given.

How much is the course that MCAN puts on? Everyone I know that has taken it has not paid anything and was never asked for payment. I've also heard them advocate for lower counselor ratios several times, so it doesn't seem like they're the enemy you make them out to be.

Wed, 02/19/2020 - 1:56pm

You are absolutely right, Lynn. Just another clever way to mask the real problem.

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 12:12pm

Our small town high school guidance counselor was there primarily to coach basketball. It took a few years as a young adult to realize I was able to achieve what I wanted all along. Guest speakers/mentors would also help to remove self-perceived barriers and limits.

chester marx
Wed, 11/08/2017 - 12:13pm

My kids had a high school counselor who couldn't mask his disdain for me, or my sons. Tried to prevent them from talking the ACT, and was really angry when I go them signed up, he was even angrier when they both got awards for their high scores. After 4 children going thru the school system, I realized why home schooling was gaining popularity.

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 11:03am

My granddaughter visited Williams College as part her search. As a result a Williams' admissions counselor visited her high school for the first time. She was the only student to show up to talk to this prestigious liberal arts college representative. Her counselor had done nothing to promote his visit. I doubt Williams will come again.

Brian Casterline
Fri, 11/10/2017 - 7:28am

Several paragraphs in this perfectly illustrate the problem. State Rep. Brett Roberts speaks of the wide availability of jobs in the skilled trades. Patrick O'Connor, the college counselor from Cranbrook explains that this bill will improve college counseling overall. But I would like to ask him how many student he advises to take up auto mechanics or welding. I find it hard to believe that any parent after spending $30,000.00 per year at Cranbrook wants their child to enroll at junior college or trade school. Upper-middle class high schools boast of the number admitted to the Ivies not the number admitted to community college. Improving the remuneration of jobs will increase their uptake.

Brenda Redding
Sat, 11/11/2017 - 7:47am

I hope the up state and U.P. Schools take advantage of these new counseling skills where the students have to leave town to get a decent job/education. Job ideas and diversity of careers needs to be introduced by the early grads so kids can find areas where they can get a foot hold in the job market, and even thrive.

Pat Dillon
Sun, 11/12/2017 - 2:15pm

Is having a licensed school counselor a law? I️ have been in education over 35 years and the role of the counselor has changed. In the early 80s HS counselors, by the way there was usually more than one to meet a reccomemended ratio of students to counseling services, focused on student transitions to post secondary whether college, military, or employement. I️ would say a bigger issue is the student/counselor ratio. I️ am aware of districts employing 1/2 time counselors. Even more sad counseors working two days a week. Hard to build needed student and family relationships with this type of arrangement. Add 25 hours of training -another 5 days out of school and counselors will be even futher limited. Why when one seeks a MA degree in counseling isn’t there a program requirement for this type of training? Sounds to me that we are wasting time and spending double because of a dis connect with higher ed.

Tue, 11/14/2017 - 9:56am

Career Development is very much needed in our schools BUT it is a K -12 integrated curriculum issue not simply departmental. Early and often career exploration and reflection throughout K -12 helps students make confident and appropriate next step decisions when these decisions need to be made. School Counselors have an integral role but should not be held solely responsible? Teachers and Administrators need PD in Career Development as well; along with PD in understanding the new role of School Counselors. School Counselors too, need to take an active role in developing an achievable and deliverable Guidance Program.
College "attainment" that MCAN has been tasked with IS NOT Career Development. "Attainment" doesn't address career development or the talent gaps MI Employers are experiencing. MCAN College Advocates working with high school students, are typically under employed college grads NOT using their degree. They have "attained college" but are unable or not interested in pursuing the degree in which they paid a high price to achieve. The skills of their degree may be helpful in their college advocate role but it's the blind leading the blind under the umbrella motto, "attainment". Career Development teaches a life long process of decision making and transitioning successfully school to school, school to work, and work to work. It is not a one time "apply and decide" mantra purported by MCAN. There are other well- defined, standards based Career Development and Comprehensive Guidance training courses available for all educators at all levels. MCAN would be well served to work cooperatively with these instead of pushing a single focused self-serving bill and training program forward!

Wed, 11/29/2017 - 5:25pm


Aren't the MCAN Advisers AmeriCorps members? Are you saying that doing a year of service makes you "underemployed?" I thought the whole point was that they are volunteering for their community by taking a year out of their career, not because they can't find a job. I'm really concerned about your cynical presentation of these issues. I'd be proud for any of my kids to forego a high-paying career to do a year or two of volunteer service to the schools that you are arguing are so underserved. I've interacted with several of these young professionals. I hope they don't get as negative about this work as you clearly have.

Phil Holm
Wed, 11/29/2017 - 1:09pm

Although more training often seems like it will be 'good' training, I don't believe that is true in this case. Most (all?) counselors have at least a masters degree in counseling along with several years of experience. Suggesting that they must attend more courses to do their job better, will undoubtedly only benefit the institutions providing the training, and the government agencies formed to monitor the increased training. Those agencies will make money from providing and monitoring the increased required training... If a person with a masters degree and several years of experience, doesn't already know that high school graduates may and should choose from the many options available, then that person should be required by THEIR administration to seek additional information and training. Making every counselor do this is like telling every adult to take sex education courses before marriage. Some might need it, but certainly most don't. This only takes a counselors time, money and energy away, from doing their job. As another writer suggested, the net effect will likely be to drive the most qualified, away from this profession, to choose one that hopefully doesn't require such a waste of time and money.

Denise Verner
Thu, 11/30/2017 - 9:11am

I agree that the counselor ratio issue is the bigger issue that does need to be addressed. It has been a growing problem for a number of years. It is true that counselors need to stay abreast of the latest information in career and college advising but if they are managing a caseload of 400 or more students it is challenging to then deliver information. I do not believe that every university counseling program offers "extensive training in college and career advising." It is true that Career Development Theory is required for accredited programs but usually they do not include "college planning and advising." Also, I disagree that MCAN is the only provider for professional development or that their trainings are "sub par." There are a number of free trainings offered through the College Board, ACT, and the colleges themselves. I would imagine (and hope) that attending these types of workshops will count towards the new requirement. Also, MCAN has offered an excellent FREE course, far from being sub par, over the past several years and hundreds of counselors have completed the course. Along with it being free came the opportunity to earn SCHECH's, at no cost, for those that wanted that option. I know this first hand from taking the course and also subsequently being a facilitator of a course.
It would have been helpful if this bill mandated that schools provide this required training through the yearly DPPD, but unfortunately it does not. I am concerned that counselors that aren't given the opportunity through their schools DPPD will then have to seek out and possibly pay for the required training. This could become a burden for some. My hope is that other free opportunities will be developed by the professional organizations throughout the state.