Career outlook for counsellor

UK Salary Ranges





Currently employed in Scotland


Salary information is provided by the "National Careers Service". "Oxford Economics" supplies job forecasts and employment figures. Due to COVID-19 the jobs market is constantly changing. Some of the information may not reflect the current situation.

What's it like?

You would help people understand their feelings and choices so they can find their own ways to make positive changes to their lives.

You would spend time with people - your clients - and help them talk about their feelings in a safe and confidential environment. You wouldn’t tell people what to do but you’d help them look at the choices they have made and change their future behaviour.

People could come to you for many reasons including relationship difficulties, the death of a loved one, or to improve the way they deal with everyday life. You might help with a wide range of issues or specialise in an area such as eating disorders or addiction.

You’d need to build trust with people, make them feel relaxed and know that they’re not being judged.

You would:

  • Build a relationship of trust and respect with a clients
  • Agree what will be covered in the sessions
  • Encourage clients to talk about their feelings
  • Listen carefully, ask questions and check that you understand a client's situation
  • Empathise with a client’s issues but challenge them when necessary
  • Help them to see things more clearly or in a different way
  • Refer clients to other sources of help if suitable

You’d also go to regular meetings with your counselling supervisor and keep confidential records of your cases.

In most cases you would counsel clients on their own and face-to-face, but you could also work with couples, families or groups, or counsel people over the phone or on the internet.

Working conditions


In many full-time jobs you would work standard office hours Monday to Friday, and would see clients for around 20 hours a week. Part-time work is also very common. You might see clients in the evenings and at weekends as well as during office hours.


You could work in various locations like schools, colleges, GP surgeries, hospitals or advice centres. If you work for yourself (private practice), you could work from your own home or an office.

UK employment status





Self employed


Create a qualification route

We've found some examples of the qualifications that could help you get this job.

Discover my route

Search course options

Thinking about your future? There are lots of courses available that could interest you. Use our course search to explore course options.

Find courses

Search job opportunities

If you're looking for your new career our job search can help you. Discover interesting opportunities and decide your next steps.

Find a job

Here are some of the skills needed for this job. Sign in to see how your skills match up.

  • Positive attitude
  • Reflecting
  • Building relationships
  • Mediating
  • Supporting
  • Listening
  • Verbal communication
  • Questioning
  • Empathising
  • Developing a plan

Skills Explorer

Your skills can help you choose the career that's right for you. You can build your skills through work, study or activities you do in your spare time.

Our Skills Explorer tool will help you understand what skills you have and match them to jobs that might suit you.

Use the Skills Explorer tool

Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you'll need.

Foundation Apprenticeships

Choosing a Foundation Apprenticeship as one of your subjects in S5 and S6 can help you get a head start with this type of job.

You'll get an SCQF level 6 qualification (the same level as a Higher) plus valuable work placement experience and skills you can't learn in a classroom.

Interested? Find out what's on offer at your school on


There are no formal qualifications needed to work as a counsellor. Although, most counsellors are accredited by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP). A lot of clients expect their counsellor to be BACP accredited, so it’s a good idea to investigate this.

Some counsellors have a degree. To get into a psychology or counselling degree (SCQF level 9 or 10), you’ll need National 5 qualifications and at least three Highers at grades AAB. Entry to a counselling postgraduate course (SCQF level 11) requires you to have a relevant degree. Some postgraduate courses also ask for relevant experience. 

All relevant HND courses in Scotland meet BACP’s entry criteria. Be aware though, as there’s a difference between BACP-approved and BACP-accredited courses.

You may want to start working as a counsellor while you're a student. To become a BACP student member, you must be taking a core practitioner course in counselling or psychotherapy. Unfortunately, they don’t accept courses in areas like psychology, hypnotherapy, social work or coaching. Your course also should not be fully online or distance learning.

The most common qualification the BACP accepts is a Level 4 Diploma in Counselling. This is the minimum academic level of qualification they look for. But foundation degrees, advanced diplomas, BA/BSc, Masters or doctorates are also well thought of by BACP.

To be BACP approved, your course must:

  • be at least one year’s full time or two years’ part time
  • be either 100% face-to-face or at least 70% face-to-face and 30% online training
  • include an integral, supervised placement of at least 100 client hours

Want to get into a psychology and counselling degree (SCQF level 9 or 10)? You’ll need National 5 qualifications and at least three Highers at grades AAB. Entry to a counselling postgraduate course (SCQF level 11) requires you to have a relevant degree. Some postgraduate courses also ask for relevant experience.

Useful subjects

  • English
  • Maths
  • Social studies such as philosophy
  • Health and wellbeing subjects such as psychology and care

You will also need

A Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) certificate from Disclosure Scotland.

Helpful to have

You can improve your prospects for getting a job by working towards membership of a professional body like the

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

beginning with an introductory counselling course and working up to a Diploma, Advanced Diploma or Postgraduate Diploma in Counselling.