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Academic Advisor vs. Guidance Counselor: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

Academic advisors and guidance counselors are both professionals who work with students to help them achieve their academic and career goals. Though they share some similarities, there are several key differences between the two. In this article, we discuss the differences between academic advisors and guidance counselors, and we provide tips for choosing the right professional for your needs.

What is an Academic Advisor?

Academic Advisors provide guidance and support to students to help them succeed in their studies and reach their academic goals. They meet with students to discuss their course options, plan their schedules and provide advice on how to best utilize university resources. Academic Advisors also help students understand university policies and procedures. They may refer students to campus services, such as tutoring or counseling, when necessary. Academic Advisors typically work in colleges and universities, but some may also work in high schools or other educational institutions.

What is a Guidance Counselor?

Guidance Counselors work with students in elementary, middle and high schools to help them plan their academic and career paths. They develop individualized plans for each student based on their interests, abilities and goals. Counselors also teach students about college and job opportunities, and how to apply for scholarships and financial aid. They work with teachers and parents to identify students who may need extra support, and they provide guidance to students who are struggling academically or socially. In some schools, Guidance Counselors also provide crisis counseling and support to students who are dealing with personal issues.

Academic Advisor vs. Guidance Counselor

Here are the main differences between an academic advisor and a guidance counselor.

Job Duties

Academic advisors and guidance counselors share some of their job duties, such as meeting with students to discuss academic goals, providing academic resources and advising on educational options. However, academic advisors focus primarily on a student’s academic life, while guidance counselors typically concentrate on a student’s overall well-being. This means that while an academic advisor might advise a student about how changing majors will affect their graduation date, a guidance counselor might provide counseling on more emotional or personal issues, such as stress, anxiety, depression or family problems.

Job Requirements

Academic advisors and guidance counselors typically need at least a bachelor’s degree to enter the field. However, some employers may prefer candidates with a master’s degree in counseling, education or a related field. Many academic advisors and guidance counselors also pursue certification through professional organizations, such as the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) or the American Counseling Association (ACA). These certifications can demonstrate that professionals have the skills and knowledge necessary to excel in their jobs.

Work Environment

Academic advisors work in a variety of environments, depending on the school they work for. They may work in high schools or colleges and universities. Some academic advisors work in private institutions, such as tutoring centers or test preparation companies. Academic advisors typically work in an office environment with other professionals, but they also travel to visit students at their homes or workplaces.

Guidance counselors usually work in public schools, although some work in private institutions like community mental health centers. They often work in an office environment, but they also spend time visiting students in classrooms and meeting them in hallways. Guidance counselors can also expect to meet with students outside of school hours, either at home or at local parks.


Both academic advisors and guidance counselors need to have excellent communication skills. This is important because they need to be able to explain complex concepts to students, as well as listen to students’ concerns and questions. They also both need to have strong organizational skills to keep track of student records, schedules and deadlines.

Academic advisors typically need to have a deep understanding of the policies and procedures of their school or university. They need to be able to interpret these rules for students and help them navigate the system. Guidance counselors may also need to understand the policies of the schools they work in, but they also need to be familiar with community resources that can help students outside of school. For example, a guidance counselor may need to know about local mental health services or food pantries.


Academic advisors and guidance counselors both work in the education field, but they have different roles. Academic advisors help students with their academic goals, while guidance counselors help students with their personal and social goals. Academic advisors earn an average salary of $51,191 per year, while guidance counselors earn an average salary of $58,199 per year.


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