Alaska school counselors hold Type C Special Services Certificates, issued by the Alaska Department of Education & Early Development. In order to be certified, a professional must hold a baccalaureate degree and meet specific program and coursework requirements.
An individual who lacks some state-specific coursework can be issued a Provisional Special Services Certificate.
A counselor who has met all requirements for the standard certificate and has also achieved national certification can be issued an Advanced Type C Certificate.
All applicants have background checks at the time of certification.
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The foundation for a school counseling certificate is a degree at the bachelor's level or higher (http://www.eed.state.ak.us/teachercertification/typeC.html). The degree must be awarded by a regionally accredited institution.
Additionally, the professional will need to complete a special services program in school counseling. The program may hold one or more accreditations or approvals. The graduate will note, at the time of application, what agency standards the program was based on (for example, NCATE or state standards).
An Alaska school counselor will need some coursework that may not be included in a traditional school counseling program. Alaska mandates three semester hours in each of the following:
The Department of Education has provided a list of courses that meet the Alaska studies requirement (http://www.eed.state.ak.us/teachercertification/pdf/Approved_Alaska_Studies_Courses.pdf). The list is current as of June 2014. The Department notes that some courses are available through distance learning, but that programs that do not appear on the list have not been approved.
The Department has also provided a list of courses that meet the multicultural requirement (http://education.alaska.gov/TeacherCertification/pdf/Approved_Multicultural_Ed_Courses.pdf).
Alaska has a recency requirement. Six semester hours, or the equivalent, must have been taken in the five years prior to application. Courses used to fulfill the Alaska studies and cross-cultural communications requirements may also be credited as meeting the recency requirement. However, the same course cannot be double credited as meeting Alaska studies and cross-cultural communications requirements.
An individual who has completed a bachelor's degree and a qualifying school counseling program may be eligible for a provisional certificate. It will not be necessary to meet the recency requirement or demonstrate cross-cultural communications or Alaska studies coursework. Provisional type C certificates are issued for two years.
The Department of Education requires background checks, to be carried out by the Alaska Department of Public Safety and the FBI. Fingerprint clearance cards issued by other states cannot be accepted. The Department has provided detailed instructions about the fingerprinting process (http://education.alaska.gov/TeacherCertification/forms/Fingerprint_Instructions.pdf). The applicant may visit a local fingerprinting site and use a standard FD-258 card. In many cases, the correct card will be provided by the fingerprinting agency. The Department notes, however, that an applicant must make sure that the available card is one intended for applicants and not for the criminally accused. Applicants who need fingerprint cards may email the Department.
The Department of Education has given candidates the option of submitting fingerprints and background fees prior to application. Those who choose this option will download the “background check” form (http://www.eed.state.ak.us/TeacherCertification/apply.html).
Special services application forms are available on the site of the Alaska Division of Teaching & Learning Support (http://www.eed.state.ak.us/teachercertification/ssp01.html). The applicant will list the endorsement sought (for example, school counselor – K-12).
Official transcripts must be included in the application package. The certification analyst will use these to determine whether the applicant qualifies for the requested endorsement(s).
The prospective school counselor will also need an institutional recommendation. The institution will include information about the degree level, the approving or accrediting institution, and the grade levels that the program offered preparation for.
Applicants must submit $185: $125 for the application, and $60 for the background check.
The application includes questions about professional disciplinary actions and criminal convictions or charges. Applicants who answer ‘yes’ to any questions will be required to provide detailed information.
The application form must be notarized or authorized. A postmaster may sign if a notary public is not available.
Applicants receive "yellow postcards" once they have moved beyond the initial stage of the review process and their fingerprints have been submitted to the appropriate agency. The postcard will, in many cases, allow for up to 90 days of employment with an Alaska school district. A provisional certificate may be issued in cases where the process is delayed; this can authorize an additional 60 days of employment.
The Department of Education notes that it typically takes two to six weeks for the initial postcard to be sent, but that volume is highest in June, July, and August. It is recommended that applications be submitted three months before the start of the contract year (http://www.eed.state.ak.us/FAQ/TeacherCertification/All#q16).
An applicant for advanced certificate must first hold a regular Type C certificate. The applicant must also hold national certification.
The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards awards national board certification in school counseling (http://boardcertifiedteachers.org/certificate-areas). The University of Alaska is an additional resource (http://www.uaa.alaska.edu/coe/degrees/graduatecertificates/counselor-education.cfm).
Some costs will be incurred as part of the national certification process. Alaska does not charge a fee to issue an advanced certificate. However, the applicant will need to submit a $66 background check if fingerprint clearance is not currently on file. A school counselor who is unsure of fingerprint status may email or call the teacher certification unit.
The teacher certification unit can be reached at (907) 465-2831 or by email at ‘tcwebmail at alaska.gov’.
The Alaska School Counselor Association is an additional professional resource, but is not directly involved in the certification process (http://www.alaskaschoolcounselor.org/main/summary).