Each month we take a look at one of the 650 career pathways featured within Indigo. This month we’re exploring the role of a Counsellor.


Find out what’s involved in the role from in this excerpt from the career profile on the Indigo Careers module.

So what is a Counsellor?

Counsellors listen to what their clients say and ask questions in response, to help them explore, talk about and eventually resolve their problems.

You will help your clients to see things more clearly, perhaps from a different point of view. You will not tell people what to do but will help them work out their next steps themselves.

You might work with people with a range of problems or specialise in a particular area, such as bereavement, gambling, relationship difficulties or eating disorders.


Most counselling sessions last 50 minutes.

You may work in the evenings and at weekends and many counsellors work part-time.


You will work indoors, usually sitting in a quiet, comfortable room in places such as advice centres, schools, colleges, outpatient clinics and health centres. If you are self-employed, you might work from home, visit your clients at home, or both. Some counselling work is done exclusively over the phone.

Type of work

You will be people-facing, potentially working with people with a range of problems.

Things to consider


The work can be very rewarding.

Stressful aspects

Despite the work being rewarding, it can also be highly stressful.

Potential knock-backs

You must be able to take constructive criticism from an experienced counselling worker, therapist or psychoanalyst – both during and after completing training.

Heavy responsibility

Some clients may become dependent on therapy or analysis sessions and will have to be carefully assisted to refocus.

Little progression opportunity

Larger units may have limited opportunities for you to move into management roles but, on the whole, counselling units tend to be flat structures with not much room for promotion.

Most people have a postgraduate degree and you will need years of experience in the field

There are no formal entry requirements, but most counsellors are graduates. While counselling is open to all graduates and those with an HND qualification, a pre-entry qualification in counselling is almost essential. This could be a master’s degree or a professional certificate or diploma. Undergraduate degree subjects such as psychology, social studies or education are most useful for entry onto a master’s course.

Previous counselling experience and skills are just as important for getting onto the courses as qualifications. This could be gained through volunteering or pre-arranged work experience programmes. It is rare for someone to enter a full-time position in this field before their mid-20s. Counselling is often a second career, and maturity and experience are beneficial.

The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) runs a three stage training system. The first stage is an Introduction to Counselling course lasting 8–12 weeks. The second stage is a 1-year part-time course, the completion of which earns you a Certificate in Counselling Skills. The final stage is the Core Practitioner Training, lasting 1 year full-time or 2 years part-time. This should be at the minimum level of a diploma, but may also be a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or doctorate. Entry requirements for degrees in counselling vary; some courses may require a Certificate or Diploma in Counselling. Membership with the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) can also help your prospects.


Salary progression

Starting salaries can vary considerably, ranging from £20,000 to £26,000 per year when newly qualified. Counsellors who are employed by the NHS will have a starting salary between £28,407 and £34,581. Experienced counsellors or those with supervisory or managerial responsibility can earn between £30,000 and £40,000. Counsellors in private practice can charge £40 to £80 an hour. A lot of counsellors combine part-time employment with private practice and voluntary work.

Click here to explore the full library of over 650 career profiles, including multimedia content and LMI data for students to interpret and discuss.