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

Counsellor Tina Malhotra shares her insight into a career in counselling with this video career profile from 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 for 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

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 Diploma in Counselling or Psychotherapy, lasting 1-year full-time or 2 years part-time. Diploma courses usually require a degree, although sometimes they may also accept a relevant certificate in counselling. Certificate courses are more flexible and entry without an HND or degree is common. Membership with the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) can also help your prospects.

Salary progression
Starting salaries are around £23,000 per year when newly qualified (but this can vary considerably).

Experienced counsellors or those with supervisory or managerial responsibility can earn between £30,000 and £40,000.

Counsellors in private practice can charge £30–£50 an hour. A lot of counsellors combine part-time employment with private practice and voluntary work.

Top Tip
It is possible to go on to specialise in a particular area of counselling, such as bereavement, family therapy or substance abuse. Experience in more than one area is beneficial for career development.

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