Working as a counsellor can be a deeply rewarding career, especially for those who can take their natural empathic abilities and use them to improve the mental health of their patients.

Yet being sympathetic and knowing how to use these skills to assist others is not something you’ll be able to do immediately. Instead, by acquiring the right skills and training, you can successfully become a counsellor and aid those around you.

Where can you work as a counsellor?

Counsellors can work within a variety of industry sectors. From educational establishments (schools, colleges, universities, etc.), health and social care services, and churches, to agencies dealing with bereavement, family relationships, and homelessness; once you are qualified you can choose to work for:

  • Advisory organisations and helplines
  • Human resources
  • Churches
  • Faith-based organisations

How can I become a counsellor?

To work as a professional counsellor you will need to have received professional training and a qualification in counselling at a foundation degree or diploma level. These will allow you to join a professional body and become accredited.

Now the way you attain these qualifications is up to you:

  • Colleges – Many colleges offer counselling diplomas that can be studied on campus during the day or as a night course.
  • Online courses – Online courses offer you the flexibility to learn on your terms, at your own pace, and from the comfort of your own home. Similar to colleges, there are some online counselling courses you can choose from which will allow you to study the subject at diploma level.
  • University – Universities allow you to study counselling at the degree level. These degrees can be accessed onsite or remotely (through an open university) and will give you the option to put your training into action.

Do you need a degree to become a counsellor?

Technically you don’t need a degree to become a counsellor, although having one will open more doors to you when applying for a post.

In turn, whilst employers appreciate you having work experience and the correct theoretical knowledge (which you can get from online diploma courses), above all else they prefer for you to be accredited. This can only be achieved by you having been supervised – while working with a client – by another qualified practitioner (according to The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy).

Another common requirement for becoming a counsellor is undergoing therapy yourself during your training. This enables you to experience therapy from a client’s perspective, helping to strengthen your personal development as well as enabling you to cope with issues and emotions that may arise whilst counselling others.

What are my learning options in more detail?

Open University

With the Open University you can complete a Foundation Degree in Counselling and a Diploma of Higher Education in Counselling. Both of these qualifications have been developed by the Counselling and Psychotherapy Central Awarding Body (CPCAB) to equip students with the theoretical understanding and skills they need to practise working as a counsellor.

In addition, these courses will supply you with the required hours of learning you need to be accredited with the BACP (following appropriate practice, supervision, and personal development), and should enable you to successfully apply for a degree course.

Study a degree

There are a variety of degrees you can do which will help to strengthen your pursuit of working as a counsellor. However, it is important to know that without counselling training, these degrees won’t enable you to practise as a counsellor immediately. Your choices are:

  • BSc (Honours) Psychology and Counselling
  • BSc (Honours) Psychology
  • BSc (Honours) Social Psychology
  • BSc (Honours) Forensic Psychology
  • BA (Honours) Criminology and Psychology
  • BA (Honours) Philosophy and Psychological Studies

Online course

Online counselling courses are typically only available up to diploma level. Common online counselling courses include:

As we mentioned before, the biggest advantage of doing an online course is being able to mould it around your existing work/social commitments and learn at a pace of your choosing. Fast or slow, you can spend as little or as long as you want on each module to ensure the information sticks.

Yet this is not all…

Online courses are also a fantastic way to build up your specialist knowledge, especially if you want to focus on one form of counselling.

For more information on online courses, please click here.


Within a college setting you will be able to apply for introduction to counselling courses which last around 3 months. These can act as a stepping stone to next completing a diploma before going on to university. Other college courses you could apply for include:

  • Level 3 Certificate in Counselling Skills
  • Level 4 Diploma in Counselling Skills and Therapy
  • Level 5 Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling

What to expect as a counsellor

At the core of their job, counsellors are responsible for helping people to discuss their problems/issues; explore their feelings, and adopt positive resolutions within a safe and confidential environment.

Should you choose to work in this field, you can expect the following:

Salary: The average counsellor receives a starting salary of £27,000 a year. With experience, you can earn upwards of £47,000.

Hours: Your working hours can range from 35 to 40 hours a week depending on the sector you work in. In addition, some employers will expect you to work some evenings and weekends, so you are more accessible to your clients who can’t make 9-5 appointments.

Specialisms: Most counsellors choose to specialise in a specific field i.e. addiction, family counselling, children, relationships, abuse, etc. Whilst these are the most common fields, additional qualifications in sociology, psychology or criminology, could enable you to work with offenders/ex-offenders and assist in their rehabilitation.

Working as a counsellor: Due to the level of competition for paid work, it is not uncommon for counsellors to do a mix of part-time, voluntary and private work. Volunteering in particular is a great way to gain experience and enhance your work prospects.

Professional bodies: Once qualified you will be expected to become a member of the Professional Standards Authority’s Counselling register.

Skills: You’ll need more than counselling qualifications to be an effective counsellor. You’ll also need to possess the following qualities and be non-judgemental; an active listener; have knowledge of psychology; gave a deeper understanding of human behaviour and reactions; have strong customer service skills; be patient; have the ability to remain calm (especially during stressful situations); be sensitive and understanding; have the ability to accept criticism; can work well under pressure, and have strong computer/software skills.

Day-to-day activities: As a counsellor you will do the following day-to-day tasks – keep records; build client trust (in person or over the phone); listen, answer questions and check understanding; help clients to talk about feelings; see things clearer so you establish effective copying methods, and work with individuals, couples, families or groups.


Whether you want to explore counselling to help improve your relationships and family life at home, or you dream of helping others to overcome their problems; there are many ways you can achieve your ambition of becoming a counsellor.

All you need to do is determine which path will offer you the best prospects: college, online courses, or university. Do that, and your desire to become a counsellor can become a real and credible thing.

For more information on how to learn from home and train to be a counsellor, visit our website today and view our breadth of online courses.

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