Job Description:

Counsellors help people discuss their problems and feelings in a confidential setting.

Job Category:
Health Care & Social Assistance

What you will do:

As a counsellor, you could use different types of therapy to:

  • agree what will be covered in sessions and keep records
  • build trust with a client in person, online or over the phone
  • listen carefully, ask questions and check understanding
  • help your client to talk about their feelings, see things clearer and find ways to cope
  • empathise but challenge when necessary

You could work with individuals, couples, families or groups.


You’ll need:

  • counselling skills including active listening and a non-judgemental approach
  • knowledge of psychology
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently

As well as:

  • the ability to understand people’s reactions (adaptability skills)
  • 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 (leadership skills)
  • customer service skills
Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

To become a Counsellor, specific subjects are not typically required for entry into this field. Instead, the path to becoming a Counsellor usually involves higher education and specific qualifications in counselling or a related field. However, having a strong foundation in certain subjects and skills can be beneficial if you’re considering a career in counselling.

Counsellors work to support individuals or groups in addressing emotional, mental health, or behavioural issues. Here are some relevant subjects:

  1. English Language: Strong written and verbal communication skills are essential for counselling, as effective communication is a key component of the profession.
  2. Psychology: Although not typically offered, if available, courses in psychology can provide valuable insights into human behaviour and mental processes.
  3. Biology: A basic understanding of biology can be helpful in understanding the physiological aspects of mental health and well-being.
  4. Mathematics (Maths): Basic math skills are useful for conducting assessments, analysing data, and managing client records.

Post School

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • a college course
  • training with a counselling organisation


You could do a diploma, degree or postgraduate course in counselling or psychotherapy.

You might be able to study counselling alongside another subject like psychology, sociology or criminology.

You should look for a course that includes practical skills training and supervised work placements.


You could start by doing an introduction to counselling course. This can last up to 3 months and can help to work out if counselling is the right career for you.

After that, you can do further training and complete courses. In the UK, for example, courses include:

  • Certificate in Counselling Skills
  • Diploma in Counselling Skills and Theory
  • Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling

Entry requirements for these courses vary.

Other Routes

You can volunteer and do training courses with organisations.

This can be useful experience before you take up professional counselling training.

Career tips

There’s a lot of competition for paid work. Many counsellors do a mix of part time, voluntary and private work.

Counselling is often a second or additional career, and life experience is highly valued.

You’ll also be expected to do counselling yourself and reflect on your experience with a supervisor as this is needed to become accredited.

Working Hours and Environment:

A typical week consists of 35-40 hours of work. You could be required to work evenings/weekends attending events or appointments.

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 & Progression:

If you’re a new counsellor, It’s important to get peer support to develop your skills. It’s unusual to go straight into working for yourself.

With experience you could:

  • specialise in an area like bereavement support, relationships or addiction
  • set up your own practice and work for yourself
  • become a counsellor supervisor or trainer
  • move into management or consultancy