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What qualifications do I need to become a counsellor?

If you are thinking about becoming a counsellor, your main aim as such a professional will be to help people who are suffering from poor mental health. You will discuss their problems and provide them with advice on how they can improve their lives.

In some cases, you may become a counsellor that deals with specific mental health problems; however, others may prefer to focus on more general issues. So, the main question is, what sort of qualifications do you need to become a counsellor? That’s what you’re going to find out below.

Do I need to be trained by a university to become a counsellor?

Honestly, there is a wide variety of courses available that would enable you to become a counsellor. Counselling trainer courses can be undertaken at universities, colleges and through online courses, social work or volunteering opportunities. You may even be able to take counselling courses online through professional groups.

If you intend to become a counsellor, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) will expect you to be registered with a professional organisation. They will also expect you to go through training.

We will discuss some of the other routes later, but just so you are aware, the BACP recommends that you undertake this three-step training route if you intend to become a counsellor:

  • Introduction to counselling skills: an 8–12-week course that can help you understand an overview of what is required of a counsellor, as well as basic skills that you will need for your career.
  • Counselling skills certificate: to help you understand the theory of counselling before you take on core training.
  • Core practitioner training: allowing you to hone your skills through practical training. These courses should take a year full time or two years part-time.

University qualifications

You can become a counsellor through a university qualification. Options include diplomas, degrees, and postgraduate certificates. You can combine a psychology or psychotherapy course with other subjects, like criminology or sociology. Make sure to pick a course that includes training and supervised placements, as well as theoretical lessons.

To join an academic course for counselling, you must possess 2-3 A-levels or an undergraduate degree.

College courses

If you are interested in starting a course that can be completed in around 12 weeks, it’s best that you focus on college courses. These can be used as an introduction, or even to extend any previous training. You will find entry requirements for these courses are varied, but they range in levels, depending on the amount of experience you have in counselling. You can obtain a diploma or certificate for undertaking these courses.


Outside of professional qualifications, it is wise to undertake training that can help you learn what counselling is like on a day-to-day basis. Organisations, like Samaritans, can offer you volunteering work to see how you can develop your skills.

Make sure to be specific when it comes to what sort of position you want when you volunteer. That way, you can make sure that your time is put to good use.  

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