£19,000 Starter - £47,000 Experienced
35 to 40 a week (evenings / weekends attending events or appointments)
Where to start
You can get into this job through
a university coursea college coursevolunteeringtraining with a counselling organisation
You could do a diploma, degree or postgraduate course in counselling or psychotherapy.
Some undergraduate courses offer counselling in combination with other subjects, for example psychology, sociology or criminology.
You should look for a course that includes practical skills training and supervised placements.
You'll usually need 2 to 3 A-Levels, or equivalent, for a degree. For postgraduate study, you'll need a degree in any subject.
You can start by doing an introduction to counselling course, which can last up to 12 weeks. After that, you can extend your training by completing courses like:
- Level 3 Certificate in Counselling
- Level 4 Diploma in Counselling Skills
- Level 5 Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling
Colleges set their own entry requirements but most will expect you to have completed the introductory and Level 3 counselling courses to go further. Entry requirements for these courses vary.
Paid or unpaid experience is essential for course and job applications. Many counselling bodies offer volunteering opportunities.
Some counselling organisations, like Relate, Samaritans and Cruse offer training, which can give you valuable experience to help you get into paid work. You'll be expected to undergo counselling yourself and regularly reflect on your practice with a supervisor, as this is needed for accreditation.
Counselling is often a second or additional career, and life experience is highly valued.
Professional and industry bodies
Becoming a member of a body on the Professional Standards Authority's counselling register can improve your chances of getting a job.
What it takes
Skills and knowledge
- counselling skills including active listening and a non-judgemental approach
- knowledge of psychology
- the ability to understand people’s reactions
- active listening skills
- patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
- sensitivity and understanding
- the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
- excellent verbal communication skills
- to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently
Restrictions and Requirements
You'll need to pass enhanced background checks, as you may be working with children and vulnerable adults.
What you’ll do
You might use one particular type of therapy or a combination of methods to:
You could work one-to-one, or with couples, families or groups. Counselling can be done face-to-face, online as well as over the phone.
- build non-judgemental relationships of trust and respect
- agree what will be covered in sessions
- help clients to talk about their feelings, think about their choices and find ways to cope
- listen carefully, ask questions and check your understanding
- empathise but challenge when necessary
- help clients to see things more clearly or in a different way
- keep confidential records
You could work in a therapy clinic, at a GP practice, at a school, at a college or from home.
Your working environment may be emotionally demanding.
Career path and progression
Competition for full-time paid work is strong and many counsellors do a mix of part-time, voluntary and private work.
It's important for newly qualified counsellors to get peer support to develop their skills, so it's unusual to go straight into working for yourself.
Counsellors often specialise in a particular area, for example bereavement support, relationships or addiction. With experience, you could set up your own practice.
You could choose to train as a counsellor supervisor or trainer. You could also move into a management or consultancy role.