Counselling and Psychology

How to Become a Counsellor UK

Abu Sayed Naiem
Abu Sayed Naiem

Thinking about how to become a counsellor in the UK? Awesome choice! Becoming a counsellor is a journey that involves understanding people’s emotions and helping them through tough times. It’s a job where you can make a real difference in people’s lives.

So, if you’re interested in pursuing this profession, you’ll need to follow certain steps and meet specific qualifications. In this guide, we’ll explore the overall processes of being a counsellor in the UK, including alternative routes for those who don’t want to go to university.

Let’s get started.

Counsellor and group of young people at a Therapy Session

Who is a Counsellor?

A counsellor is a friendly guide who helps people deal with their problems. They’re there to listen without judging and provide a safe place for you to talk about whatever’s bothering you. Plus, they help you figure things out on your own.

BACP (British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy) says that counsellors help people with emotional and life challenges. Clients, like those going through a divorce or dealing with anxiety, meet with them in private sessions. During these sessions, counsellors listen, empathise, and sometimes challenge clients to see things differently. The goal is to help clients understand themselves better and find their own solutions.

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Roles of a Counsellor

So, before starting to focus on your question, “How do I become a counsellor?,” let’s understand the duties you’ll handle as a counsellor. As a counsellor, your main job is to:

  • Build a trusting and respectful relationship with your clients.
  • Work out a counselling plan, including what you’ll talk about and keeping things confidential.
  • Encourage clients to open up about things they might not tell others.
  • Really listen to what clients have to say and understand how they feel.
  • Be fair and not judge what clients tell you.
  • Point out any inconsistencies in what clients say or do.
  • Support clients in making decisions and choices about what to do next.
  • Keep records and use reporting tools to keep track of your work.

Counsellor and group of young people at a Therapy Session

How to Become a Counsellor in the UK?

Here’s a simplified, step-by-step guide on how to become a counsellor:

Volunteering and Experience Basis

  • Many people in the professional counselling sector start as volunteers in counselling bodies.
  • Having a volunteer record helps you qualify for a course in relevant institutions and gain practical experience. This experience prepares you for paid jobs with the training and confidence you need.
  • Voluntary work can be paid or unpaid, depending on where you do it. The real benefit is the experience and exposure it provides, which is more valuable than money.
  • You can look for volunteering opportunities in counselling on Do IT.

Start with College Courses

  • Stage 1: After some successful volunteer work, you can level up your skills by taking an Introduction to Counselling Course at a college. This gives you a taste of counselling qualifications and basic skills. These courses usually last around 12 weeks.
  • Stage 2: You can then go for a Certificate in Counselling. It’s like the next level and helps you understand counselling theories, ethics, and self-awareness. Also, it can help if you work in a job where you support or guide people, even if you don’t plan to become a therapist. It’s part-time and takes about a year at nearby colleges.
  • Stage 3: To become a full-fledged counsellor or psychotherapist, you’ll need to complete a core practitioner training program. This training program usually needs a diploma in counselling or psychotherapy, but it can also be a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate degree.

It covers a lot of stuff like psychological theories, ethics, and practical skills. These programs are usually offered at further or higher education colleges and universities and should meet international quality standards. Your training includes:

  • Learning about psychology and how it applies to real-life situations.
  • Developing therapy skills and building relationships with clients.
  • Understanding research and how it affects counselling.

The requirements to join these courses can be different depending on the college and who they want to teach. Sometimes, you might need to show that you finished earlier training to move on to the next level.

For example, to get a level 4 diploma, you’ll need to prove that you finished both the beginner’s course and the level 3 training.

A young male student standing with books in front of a university building

Consider the University Route

  • You can also start your career in counselling by doing a degree or postgraduate course in psychotherapy or counselling at a university. These programs often include practical placements and internships, which are great for learning.
  • Getting a counselling degree from a university is seen as a big deal compared to just having a diploma. To start a bachelor’s degree, you usually need to have completed two to three A-levels. If you’re thinking about postgraduate studies, you’ll generally need a bachelor’s degree in the same subject or have a lot of experience in the field. The more education you get at university, the better your chances are of finding a job with a good organisation.

Switch From a Different Profession

Also, if you’ve had a successful career in another field and want to switch to counselling, that’s possible too. For example, if you’ve been a nurse for a while, you can make the switch to being a counsellor. These two jobs are similar in some ways, especially when dealing with patients who have different needs.

Become a Member of a Professional Body

In the final stage, become a member of the below professional bodies, for example,

  • British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP)
  • UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP)
  • National Counselling Society (NCS)

Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

After your core counselling training, you might want to specialise in something specific, like Addiction, Bereavement, or mental health counselling, which might need more training. Or if you plan to run your own counselling practice, you can get training on how to start and manage a business.

Even if you don’t need new skills, it’s a good idea to keep learning to get better and know more. You can check out Study Plex for online counselling courses that you can do at your own pace. These courses are accredited by CPD, which is recognised worldwide by employers and schools.

Female counsellor consulting a young woman in a modern clinic interior.

Career Tips

Here are some career tips for you-

  • Finding paid counselling jobs in the UK can be tough. Many counsellors do a mix of part-time, volunteer, and private work.
  • Counselling is often a second career, and having life experience is a big plus.
  • You’ll also need to have your own counselling and talk about your experiences with a supervisor to become accredited.

Professional and Industry Groups

To boost your chances of landing a job, you can become a member of a group listed on the Professional Standards Authority’s counselling register.

How to Become a Counsellor Without Going to University?

To become a counsellor without going to university, follow these steps:

  • Complete an accredited course and gain hands-on experience.
  • Check if the course allows membership with a counselling association.
  • Make sure the course covers essential topics like psychological theories, laws, ethics, and health conditions.
  • Ensure the course evaluates your therapy skills, including building relationships and reflective strategies.
  • After qualification, gain practical counselling experience.

 Female counsellor with a notepad in her hand consulting a young woman.

Why Should You Choose Counselling as a Career?

Here are the main reasons to think about becoming a counsellor:


So, how much do Counsellors get paid in the UK? This profession has a prospective salary range like this:

  • Starting Salaries: When you begin, you might earn around £20,000 to £26,000.
  • Experienced Counsellors: If you have more experience, you could make between £30,000 and £40,000.
  • Specialist Roles: Some special counselling jobs, like addiction counselling, can pay even more than that.
  • NHS Counselling: If you work in the NHS, they follow a pay scale called Agenda for Change. Depending on your qualifications and experience, you could be at Band 5 (£28,407 to £34,581), Band 6 (£35,392 to £42,618), or Band 7 (£43,742 to £50,056).
  • Private Counselling Practice: In private practice, fees can vary a lot. Normally, private counsellors charge between £40 and £80 for a 50-minute session.

Remember that the price ranges might change based on where you work and the client’s situation. If you are interested in learning how much counsellors earn, check out our informative blog on this topic.

Job Opportunities

There are lots of job chances in counselling, and it’s growing faster than many other careers. In the last five years, counselling jobs went up by 57.1%, while other jobs only went up by 10.9%. In the next five years, it’s expected to keep growing by 3.2% each year.

Diverse Options

Counsellors can work in different places like schools, hospitals, or even on their own. You can also work with people of all ages, from kids to seniors. You can even do freelance or volunteer work to gain experience.

Flexible Schedule

Counselling lets you make your own schedule, so you can balance work with your personal life. On average, counsellors work about 34 hours a week, and you can plan client appointments around your other commitments.

Wrapping Up

To wrap it up, if you’re wondering, How to Become a Counsellor in the UK? here’s what you need to know: Start with volunteering, and consider college courses or even a university degree. Gain experience, keep learning, and explore different opportunities. Remember, counselling can be a rewarding path, no matter if it’s your first career or a switch from something else.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How long does it take to qualify as a counsellor in the UK?

Becoming a counsellor in the UK can take around 3 to 5 years, depending on your chosen training path and level of education.

Is counselling in demand in the UK?

Yes, counselling is in demand in the UK, with increasing job opportunities in workplaces, educational settings, and specialised fields, making it a promising career choice.

What is the qualification to become a counsellor?

To become a counsellor, you can take courses like a diploma, degree, or postgraduate program in counselling or psychotherapy. You can also study counselling alongside subjects like psychology, sociology, or criminology.

How to find counselling courses near me or counselling jobs near me?

To find counselling courses or jobs nearby in the UK, search online or check with local colleges and job websites.

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Abu Sayed Naiem