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What Qualifications are Needed?

By: Anna Martin - Updated: 20 Sep 2018 | comments*Discuss
Counselling Qualifications Training

Before selecting a Counselling qualification it is worth considering your personal and vocational strengths, along with previous academic achievements. Many graduates end up following a career that has no reflection on their course of specialisation. Understanding that certain types of profession require a particular qualification will help you define your career choice more easily.

Before applying for a study course always research and carefully check the entry requirements. Some Counselling courses require that you complete a foundation or introductory course of study before embarking on more in-depth training. There may also be an age restriction, depending on the particular course you are interested in. Details of all the current counselling courses available will help you make an informed choice, and will provide you with all the information you will require about the course you are interested in studying.

Tools of the Trade

Qualifications are tools that help you to understand and do the work you have chosen to do, in the most effective and productive way. Counselling is made up of many specialist fields, so it is important that you select the correct course of study, that leads to the required qualification, in the field you would like to specialise in.

In order to select the ideal counselling course for you, take your time researching any relevant courses, career and occupational information and options available. Taking time to research, before embarking on a course of study, with ensure you select the ideal specialisation for your requirements.

At present in the UK however, no minimum qualifications are required to practise as a Counsellor.

Degree or Diploma?

If you prefer to learn, with an emphasis on theoretical knowledge, and enjoy research and basic scientific methods, a degree would be the ideal choice for you. A degree will prepare you for a particular professional occupation, like that of a psychologist.

If your focus is on a more practical level, a diploma could be the best choice for you. Diplomas offer training for specific careers. If you are simply looking to improve your skills and knowledge, in a specific field or area of study, a certificate, or short learning course, is also worth considering.

If you already have a degree you may consider a Masters qualification. Some counselling courses however, may require that you complete an Introductory course in the relevant subject.


Many employers, and clients, require that a counsellor is accredited. A professional qualification, and accreditation, that is recognised by a professional body like the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) will stand you in good stead when researching career openings.

In-depth training courses will reward you with an accreditation certificate. This type of course usually requires at least one full year of study, or two to three years of part-time study. A period of supervised placement is also a requirement.

Further Qualifications

Once you have gained a Counselling accreditation you may decide that you would like to continue learning and developing your skills. Many specialist areas of counselling offer training to those professionals who already work in a relevant field. You can however, add a specialist qualification to training you have already gained on a substantial training course.

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[Add a Comment]
Hi, I was wondering if I would be able to do a councilling course with Health and Social Care diploma level 3 and extended diploma?
Lucy - 20-Sep-18 @ 8:53 PM
Hi I am 46 and have been a Primary school teacher for 15 years and a Secondary History teacher for 4 years. I am considering becoming a school counselor and would like to know what I would need to do. I haVe a Bachelors degree in History and a PGCE. Thank you in advance
Dom - 13-Sep-18 @ 3:37 AM
Hi I have a degree in psychology and have been working in primary schools as a teaching assistant and as a practitioner in Nurseries. I have decided to go in to counselling but was wondering if a one year level 3/4 course would be enough and if not what are the best steps for me. Thank you.
Bb - 14-Aug-18 @ 10:38 PM
Hi, I have recently finished a level 4 diploma in counselling. I received a distinction on the course, and a part of the qualifications was a 12 week placement working with teenagers with a variety of problems. I have been looking at doing voluntary work to try and gain further experience, but it's been proving tricky! How many hours of voluntary counselling do I need to become recognized as a child/young adult counsellor? How do I then proceed in gaining accreditation from BACP, or any other accredited counselling body? Kind Regards.
Kaz - 14-Jun-18 @ 12:00 AM
I have a BA Hons in applied social sciencesand have been working in mental health as a manager for over 14 years I would like to start a career in counselling, what study path would be the best?
Lyndy - 24-May-18 @ 9:08 AM
Dave - Your Question:
I have just completed my level 3 diploma in carpentry and joinery and want to further my studies wot. is the next best choice for me h n c ? Or do I need to do any other courses ?

Our Response:
You have quite a high level of skill at NVQ level three. Much depends upon what area you wish to specialise in, if any and try to follow that route. The gov.uk link here gives a little more information with regards to career path progression. A HNC is a good qualification to have if you wish to move into construction proper.
TheCounsellorsGuide - 19-Apr-18 @ 11:07 AM
I have just completed my level 3 diploma in carpentry and joinery and want to further my studies wot. is the next best choice for me h n c ? Or do I need to do any other courses ?
Dave - 18-Apr-18 @ 9:28 AM
I have a friend, they are currently working as a therapist\advisor, for a national charity, they have worked in their current job for 6 years giving one to one support, altogether they have 20 years experience in a social care, local authority and mental health setting, they have a degree in psychology and a post graduate in applied systemic theory and is trusted and respected by their peers. They are however now looking to gain a full counselling qualification on a BACP registered course at a London establishment. My question is does anyone have advice on what course is best for someone that has 20 years experience working in a social care, local authority and mental health setting. All the best Richard
Casbah - 2-Apr-18 @ 2:48 PM
@Tessa - unless you can do a post-graduate course transfer, you'd have to begin again at the beginning. The thing about counselling is that anyone can train to a minimum level and set up as a 'counseller' or 'therapist'. But if you want to be taken seriously then you have to get the best training and best experience possible and that's at degree level and beyond. Plus, it's a massively overpopulated field, so applications for the good jobs are competitive. I've been there, done that and got the tee-shirt!
StellB - 15-Mar-18 @ 2:09 PM
@Kim - the natural progession is to apply to access year two of the HND in Counselling. Backed up with some voluntary work, this should get you back into the profession.
GeorgiaO - 15-Mar-18 @ 10:21 AM
Hey there. I have a HNC in counselling that was completed in 2014 and I'm now looking at getting back into my studies. I have been working in retail for the past few years and it's now time for me to look at my options as a counsellor again. I enjoyed the CBT side of counselling but I'm open to options on where and what I can do next. I also like the idea of psychology. What direction do I go? Or can you suggest.
Kim - 14-Mar-18 @ 12:20 PM
I am looking into doing a counselling diploma, but have no qualifications in this area. I have a BSc and MSc in a completely unrelated subject and would like to avoid doing another degree. I would have to take the diploma part time as I have a child. At what level would I be qualified enough to get a job?
Tessa - 13-Mar-18 @ 9:35 PM
I am in my last year of university studying business management degree, however I have kind of changed my mind of what I want to do and was thinking to do conselling as a masters degree. Would still be able to do it or would I have to have some qualification in conselling before
Sharon - 6-Feb-18 @ 9:37 PM
Hi, I am currently a Children's nurse working in a busy ED department. Who is looking into adding a counselling qualification to my CPD. I decided this after the loss of my own child (almost 2 years post loss). I want to be able to offer support to Children and families through and after loss. Is there any bereavement specific counselling courses I can do. Or any advice you can give me. Kind regards
Vee - 6-Feb-18 @ 1:09 PM
@Flo - you sound as though you have the right qualifications to set you on a further course of study. Specialising is good. But it's a long, hard, comeptitive slog and you would have to do further study, maybe even a second degree. What about an MA in counselling? They do one in London Goldsmiths.Best of luck.
RaV - 5-Dec-17 @ 10:50 AM
Hello there, I am a 34 year old female and mother of three young children. Two of our children are of school/nursery age and I have just a few years before our last child will follow suit. I have been a stay-at-home mum for the last six years and I am thinking now about what I will do when I return to work when our youngest is at nursery full-time. I have a BA in Theological Studies - a II:I from Exeter University; I also have a PGCE in Secondary Religious Education, although I never taught full time afterwards and did not, therefore, gain my full qualification with QTS. I have always been interested in counselling as a career and yet now, a little older and with mor elide experience - particularly that of parenting perhaps - I feel in a better position to make a more rounded application. There seems to be an increased interest in and effort from the government around issues of mental health generally, and particularly in children's mental health and early intervention within schools. I would love to gain the correct qualifications that would enable me to apply for school counsellor positions, for example. What would my best training options be? I am based in London. Many thanks indeed for any input or advice you are able to give.
Flo - 3-Dec-17 @ 8:19 PM
Hi. I am nearing 40 and am looking to change career and counselling is something what I want to get in to. Have no qualifications regarding counselling so would be starting from scratch. I have diploma in Nursing studies. Thanks
PD - 9-Nov-17 @ 12:46 PM
Hello, I am 55 and been social work qualified for many years. I also have an advanced diploma in counselling and group work -2years part time whilst practicing as a. Social worker so in full time placement. I am now in a position where I can choose to leave work. I would like to establish a wellbeing retreat, available to professionals looking for 1:1or group time out. Would offer physical treatments, as well as talking therapies, and coaching. Do I need to acquire additional counselling qualifications to offer private counselling group work or life coaching? Many thanks Lel
Lel - 29-Oct-17 @ 9:11 AM
@Ali27 - it would take a long time as in order to work professionally you would really need to get to degree standard and more to be able to get a job. I don't wish to dampen your enthusiasm, but it's also a really competitive field. There are a lot of university open days currently for next year, why don't you go and speak to someone and see what the best path is. At least it will put things into context and where there is a will, there's always a way.
ToddJ - 23-Oct-17 @ 11:54 AM
Hi. I am nearing 50 and am looking to change career and counselling is something wanted to get into.Keep getting pulled in that direction! Have no qualifications egarding this so would be starting from scratch.Unfortunately can’t do this full time as still need to work How would I go about this part time/evenings and how many years would this take? Thanks
Ali27 - 22-Oct-17 @ 9:38 AM
These are the courses i have nearly completed. How far can i get with these? I will be continuing my learning on various seminars with Cruse to help families and children with bereavement. The BSY Professional Certificate of Merit in Basic Counselling. Award 1- The professional ASC Advanced Counselling Skills Diploma and will become a Registered BSY Advanced Counselling Skills Practitioner (level 3) Award 2- ABC certification of achievement at Level 3. Award 1 – The BSY Professional Certificate of Merit in Bereavement Counselling. Award 2- ABC certification of achievement at Level 3 for Bereavement Counselling. I have been told i can practise with these qualifications? (not that i would for a further couple more years training etc)
stef34 - 3-Oct-17 @ 2:09 PM
Good evening, Firstly, thank you very much for your very helpful article. I have completed an Hons degree in psychology & i have decided to pursue a career in counselling. I have completed Level 2 & 3 Certificates in counselling and i am due to do the level 4 diploma starting in September. I have been offered a place for a BACP accredited master degree in counselling & psychotherapy. I am really struggling to decide between the Diploma & the Master degree, I do understand the difference in terms of academic expectations and work load but i am still unclear about the difference in career prospects or outcome between the two routes. Would you be able to clarify what is the difference in terms of prospect & outcome between these two types of training? Thank you very much for your help again. Kind regards, Frenchuk
Frenchuk - 8-Jun-17 @ 7:10 PM
Hello, I have been teaching for 24 years, 10 of which in international schools. I came back to the UK 5 years ago, went back to college to do a Professional Diploma in Therapeutic counselling (BTEC 5) giving me the chance to become school counsellor. Since then I was able to teach Health and Social Care and Psychology in a college. Itching to go abroad again, I am now applying for positions as counsellor in international schools but most of them seem to require experience in career guidance and college applications, which I don't really have. I am thinking of doing an accredited online course at level 4 in Career Counselling to gain the knowledge and confidence. If you are or have been in this situation, I would be grateful for any advice. I have worked as a school counsellor for many years now in the UK and abroad but just don't feel confident about the career side of the job.
mincepie - 5-Jun-17 @ 8:47 AM
Hi, I competed an access to HE diploma in counselling. I don't want to move onto the degree and was wondering if the BACP would accept this qualification to start counselling privately with this under my belt. Regards, Tommy
Tommy - 10-May-17 @ 2:20 PM
i have recently completed an online course for counselling and an advanced course for counselling through a british companycalled bsy will i be able to get a job with this
biggirl - 2-May-17 @ 7:55 PM
Heya, just wondering what courses would be best to start to learn counselling? Would it be better to start on a level 2 to give me a understanding of it? Or go straight to level 3/4 and do open university? I have my level 3 in health and social care... have worked in mental health and ex offenders and rehab places... all for about 7 years, but I'm 24 and want a change and counselling would probably be best! Let me know, would really help. Thank you
Matt - 5-Apr-17 @ 2:46 PM
I completed a BS degree in Psychology at San Francisco State Uni in 2003 and a MA degree in Counseling from John F Kennedy Uni in Oakland in 2006. I completed approx 750 supervised hours between 2005 and 2007. Since 2006 I've been working in a behavioral health organization doing telephone crisis counseling. I am interested in relocating to the U.K. and completing any requirements for accreditation then working in a group practice or center. What is the best way to proceed with accreditation? Do I need to secure a position somewhere first? Thank you.
Lisa - 29-Mar-17 @ 6:22 AM
I have decided to tsje up s level 3 counselling course, do I need s placement, how can I source counselling organisations that provide placements for student's. I was also looking inti counselling internships, but I do not quite understand how internships work.
Mel - 15-Jan-17 @ 11:52 PM
i am completed diploma nurse, iwanna become a psychiatric counceller. so,what degree should i need to complete. pls,provide me a good suggestion.
yuva - 30-Dec-16 @ 12:28 AM
Jude - Your Question:
I am 57 and want to develop a new career as a psychotherapist, as I love working and helping people and have done throughout my career. I graduated at 22 in English/Sociology BA hons. I have run my own outplacement / career management company for 18 years where I've worked with people up to director level, helping them gain self esteem, achieve and sort out problems to get to a level where they are happy. I've helped people who are totally despondent gain direction and reach a place where they are happy. I am s good listener, empathetic motivational and love helping people. As a budiness coach at director level I've helped people develop and grow. My mother has is controlled I bipolar and I've helped her regain her life for 20 years. My nephew has mental problems too and I have always been a pillar for him. ive also helped anorexic family member. I've always helped people and would love to change career direction to be a psychotherapist. I've seen the BSY advanced psychotherapy course and diploma - would attaining this help towards practising as a psychotherapist?

Our Response:
As specified in the article, while counsellors and psychotherapists are not regulated by law, it means in theory anyone can practice. However, most employers, and increasingly clients, understand the importance of using a therapist who is professionally trained and qualified, and is a member of a professional body. You can see more via the BCAP link here. You obviously have the right grounding, but we cannot comment on the BSY course and how recognised the qualification may be in professional circles, as it comes under the banner of 'complementary therapies'. Therefore, I advise you do some more research regarding what stage of the profession you wish to reach and whether a one year Masters course may be more professionally beneficial.
TheCounsellorsGuide - 18-Nov-16 @ 12:40 PM
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