Counsellor: job description

Counsellor: job description

Counsellors work in confidential settings with individuals who are experiencing personal difficulties, to help them overcome their problems and to make appropriate changes to their life.
Part-time and unpaid counselling opportunities outnumber full-time jobs.

Counsellors listen to, empathise with, encourage and help to empower individuals. The nature of problems encountered varies according to the setting, but counsellors do not deal with seriously disturbed clients and they do not give advice. Referral and liaison with other agencies is a feature of the work.

Vacancies arise within dedicated counselling services, general practices, hospitals, secondary schools, colleges, universities, or larger companies. Promotion is normally into managerial roles, but opportunities are limited as most counselling departments are very small.

Vacancies are advertised in a variety of publications including The Guardian, Community Care, Nursing Times, and Opportunities.

Some counsellors are successfully self-employed, although this is only possible if you have a good network of contacts for referrals.

Qualifications and training required

As further experience is required, counselling is not normally a first career choice, and many people enter the profession later in life. Experience can be gained through direct approaches to employers, voluntary work, job shadowing and networking.

That said, you can become a counsellor both with or without a degree. For graduates, it’s possible to enter the profession with a degree in any subject. A mature attitude and relevant experience is considered to be as important as degree subject you studied, although a psychology or social science degree can be advantageous. 

Becoming a member of an organisation such as the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) will aid your entry into the profession. Membership is open to both university graduates and school leavers, with counselling courses available at foundation level through to postgraduate. Further professional training is then usually required to gain accreditation from the BACP.


Key skills for counsellors

  • Listening skills
  • Sensitivity and empathy
  • Patience and a calm manner
  • Ability to cope with emotional situations
  • Ability to relate to a wide range of people