Counseling is an immensely rewarding and worthwhile career path which is worth considering if you pride yourself on your listening skills and patience. Although counseling is not formally regulated in the UK, employers will expect you to be working towards professional accreditation.
Conduct research. Complete web based and library research and talk to existing counselors and career guidance officials to understand what a counselor does. There are many different types of counseling and related career paths, such as psychotherapy. The British Association for Counseling and Psychotherapy (BACP), Learndirect and Conexxions Services (under 25 year old only) are good places to start.
Check your skills and attributes. Counselors must have strong communication and listening skills, patience, sensitivity and a non judgmental attitude. Draw a matrix and mark yourself out of ten for each category. Get your friends to do the same. This will show you what skills you have, what you need to improve and how well suited you are for a counseling job.
Obtain qualifications. BACP recommends three training courses: an introductory short course, a certificate in counseling and a diploma (or advanced) diploma in counseling. All of these should be completed before practicing as a counselor. They are normally part time courses and take between ten weeks and three years depending on the level of qualification.
Gain experience. This can be voluntary or paid. Charities such as Relate and Mind offer training, voluntary and paid employment. Social Services, schools and private practices are other potential options.
Gain Professional Association Accreditation. To become an Accredited BACP Member you must have completed 450 hours of formal training and have undertaken 450 hours supervised of practice with clients. Of these practice hours, 150 must be undertaken after you have completed your diploma. The practice hours must be obtained over a period of three to six years.
During your studies get as much work experience as possible. This will improve your employment prospects when you graduate.
Check your training courses are accredited by BACP. If they are not they will not count towards professional accreditation.
Part time study alongside work is tiring and time consuming. Think carefully about the best time to start your course.
You will be dealing with other peoples emotional problems on daily basis which, although rewarding, can be physically and mentally draining.