An academic counselor is an education professional who provides advice and assistance to students who are struggling with academic matters. Counselors are available for everything from helping students develop a course schedule that will allow them to meet degree requirements to connecting students with disability services so they can get the accommodations they need. Many colleges and universities have an academic counseling office with drop in hours, as well as appointments available for their students.
Special credentialing is not necessarily required to become an academic counselor, although many have college degrees and may have received some training so they can serve students more effectively. The counselor needs to be familiar with policies at the school, including the requirements for graduation and the prerequisites for various programs. Additionally, knowledge of legal matters like accommodations for disabled students is helpful. At a community or junior college, counselors are expected to know about the requirements for transfer so they can assist students who are preparing to apply to four year institutions.
When a student approaches an academic counselor for assistance, the counselor can pull up the student's records and use them as a reference during sessions. The student is asked about the needs that brought her to the counselor's office and the counselor will work with the student on a strategy. For a student who is having trouble in school, for example, this might include tutoring, taking advantage of the writing lab, or encouraging a student to meet with instructors during office hours.
The academic counselor's goal is to provide students with the tools they need for college success. This can include referrals to services students may find helpful, along with advice about classes and possible careers. If a student has special circumstances like a death in the family or an emergency, the counselor can help the student work with the school to get necessary accommodations like time off, rescheduled tests, or extended due dates on essays.
This job generally has very regular office hours, and academic counselors are not expected to be available after the office closes. It does require people to be indoors much of the time and computer skills are a necessity in most offices, as student records are often stored on computers. People who enjoy helping others, solving problems, and networking to cooperate on resolutions to situations may enjoy careers in academic counseling. Salaries for an academic counselor vary by region and experience, and usually come with benefits like reduced or free tuition for family members.