813. A Day in the Life–What's It Really Like to Be a School Counselor?
Dr. Carolyn Jerdan
“I’m able to work with a child, in any of the levels [Kindergarten through 12th grade], who is having an issue with something, and then help them work through it—and maybe include the parent, the teacher. Once they can work it out on their own, they feel so much better, and it’s just very rewarding. It’s a very rewarding career.”
Carolyn Jerdan has been in the educational field for over 20 years serving as a teacher, counselor and school administrator. She has worked in private and public schools, ranging from preschool to adults. She is presently the School Counselor at the Atlanta Classical Academy, an Atlanta Public Charter School. As a school counselor she works with students K-12 and helps with academic, social and emotional issues. Carolyn also works with the College Counselor and guides high school students through the college search and application process. Counseling students ranging from Kindergarten to 12th grade can be challenging but Carolyn enjoys working with all the grade levels and watching the students mature and develop. Carolyn’s passion is to help students realize their “uniqueness” and God-given talents so they can be actively involved in their own learning and strategically plan for their future.
After completing a B.A. and M.A. at Northwestern University, she earned a Ph.D. in School Psychology at the University of Maryland.
The Most Impactful Turning Point?
“After I graduated from Northwestern with a degree in health education, I got a position at a wonderful school in Glenview, Illinois, teaching health and PE to students in the 9th through 12th grades. I loved the engagement with the students, and the sports. They also had me teaching a class called Peer Leadership, where I got to work with the students in a different dimension of their lives. This was my turning point into counseling because I realized I could really help these youngsters get through some of the most difficult times in their lives.”
Ideas and Insights When Considering This Career Path
1. Number one is to plan your college experience and career with who you are in mind.
- I have found that when the kids are applying to college—often in their senior year—they have not really thought about what they want to do with their life. They are just picking a college. Maybe their parents went there, and their friends are there. But they have not even considered what majors are offered at the college they choose, or what they are really interested in. So, I have been trying to work with them to help them learn more about themselves first.
- Self-knowledge is immensely valuable when choosing a career. You would do well to take one or more assessments to discover more about yourself. One of the programs I have experience with is the Highland’s Ability Battery that’s a really good tool to sharpen your understanding of what you are naturally good at. My school is using a program for students going to college called Naviance that has a lot of career inventories that kids can take to figure out what it is they are interested in.
2. Then choose the schools to apply to based on what you want out of your education.
- The college choice part is challenging, and I really encourage you to get to know what it is you are looking for. For example, if you are interested in three things and you might change your major while in school, make sure that the college you pick has those three possibilities, or you are going to have to transfer schools.
3. Once you identify one or more career fields you think you would be interested in, get to know all about those careers.
- There are usually multiple types of jobs within a field. If you think you are interested in school counseling, for example, there’s a psychology part, the social work part. There’s the research part. You really have to sit down with someone in the field or a school or career counselor and really go through all the different areas that you would want to explore.
- I suggest that you shadow somebody in the field so you can see what job you like the best. One of my students decided she was going to be an orthopedic surgeon, but when she shadowed the orthopedic surgeon, the minute the blood came, she fainted. So, she decided that wasn’t going to be her choice. And I’ve had friends go through education as a major and then get in a classroom and decide that they can’t stand it. It is so important that you know all about the career you think you want.
4. Personal natural abilities that are very helpful in being successful and fulfilled as a school counselor include:
- Make sure you really like to help people. This is essential. If you don’t like people, you should not get into this field.
- Be a good listener.
- Be a patient person.
Facts and Figures About the Occupation
1. #63 of 100 Occupations and Professions
2. 36,700 Projected Jobs
3. Unemployment Rate 2.2%
4. Median Salary $55,400
Employment for School Counselors is expected to grow 8% from 2018 to 2028, which is faster than average for all other occupations.
Connecting With Dr. Carolyn Jerdan
Atlanta Classical Academy Website: atlantaclassical.org/
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