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Foundation Degree in Counselling

The value of counselling to improve wellbeing and quality of life is increasingly recognised. From everyday worries to serious mental health issues like chronic anxiety and depression, counsellors and psychotherapists are helping us cope. This foundation degree, developed in partnership with the Counselling and Psychotherapy Central Awarding Body (CPCAB), will prepare you to become a professional counsellor – equipping you with the theoretical understanding and practical skills required to work in this field.

Key features of the course

  • Enables you to qualify as a professional counsellor
  • Combines prior work-based learning at a local college with OU knowledge-based modules
  • If you already have the required CPCAB qualifications, you can top up to the foundation degree by studying just the OU theory modules
  • Builds a solid foundation for further study

This programme of study is also offered as the Diploma of Higher Education in Counselling (W09)which might be of particular interest to those living and working in Scotland.

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Foundation Degree

Course code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
120 or 150 (CPCAB study) + 120 or 90 (OU study) = 240
How long it takes
Part time – 4 years
Full time – 3 years
Time limit – 12 years
Study method
Classroom based (CPCAB courses) +
Distance learning (OU study)
Course cost
See Fees & funding
Entry requirements
For details see Am I ready?

Register for this course

Start dates

Credit transfer: apply by 13/08/2015

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Course details

This qualification has two stages, each comprising 120 credits. Stage 1 provides the underpinning knowledge and skills needed for more advanced study at Stage 2.

If you have little or no knowledge or experience of studying, you may prefer to start your studies with an Access module as an additional preparatory stage.

Stage 2 (120 credits)

In Stage 2 you can choose a CPCAB Level 5 Diploma (either Psychotherapeutic Counselling, or Cognitive Behavioural Therapeutic Skills and Theory), or an OU module that explores the issues around death and dying or looks at mental health by focusing on the brain’s functions. You’ll then examine how different counselling approaches work with the issues of fear and sadness, and finish with a choice of OU modules covering psychology and mental health.

This is a recommended study route. You can choose the order of study but note:

  • we recommend that you only take the Level 4 CPCAB diploma alongside the knowledge-based (OU modules) if you are able to study full time
  • if you choose to move on to a CPCAB Level 5 Diploma you must have completed the Level 4 CPCAB qualification.

A nationally recognised qualification in its own right, the foundation degree is also equivalent to the first two thirds of an honours degree.

Stage 1 (120 credits)

We recommend that you study Stage 1 – the CPCAB Level 4 Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling – part-time over two years, at a local college before registering for this OU foundation degree.

The CPCAB diploma provides the basic theory and practice of counselling. You’ll explore different counselling approaches; and ethical, safe work with a diversity of clients. You’ll gain practical counselling experience as a trainee in a supervised placement; and undertake required personal therapy (or alternative personal development). For further information about this CPCAB course and its entry requirements, see Am I ready?

Compulsory module (120 credits)

  • CPCAB Level 4 Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling

The modules quoted in this description are currently available for study. However, as we review the curriculum on a regular basis, the exact selection may change over time.

Learning outcomes, teaching and assessment

This qualification develops your learning in four main areas:

  • Knowledge and understanding
  • Cognitive skills
  • Practical and professional skills
  • Key skills

The level and depth of your learning gradually increases as you work through the qualification. You’ll be supported throughout by the OU’s unique style of teaching and assessment – which includes a personal tutor to guide and comment on your work; top quality course texts; e-learning resources like podcasts, interactive media and online materials; tutorial groups and community forums.

Read the detailed learning outcomes here

Credit transfer

You cannot count credit for study you have already completed elsewhere towards this qualification other than the specified CPCAB courses required for this qualification.

You should apply for credit transfer for the CPCAB courses as soon as you have completed them. For more details and to download an application form, visit our Credit Transfer website.

On completion

On completion of this undergraduate course, you will be awarded the Foundation Degree in Counselling.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the following regulations:

These regulations are also available on our Essential Documents website.

Entry requirements

We recommend that you complete the CPCAB Level 4 Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling before registering for this qualification. (You can transfer the 120 credits from the CPCAB diploma when you register for this OU foundation degree.)

To study the CPCAB Level 4 Diploma course you need to have completed the CPCAB Level 2 Certificate in Counselling Skills or its equivalent, plus the CPCAB Level 3 Certificate in Counselling Studies or its equivalent, such as the OU’s Introduction to counselling (D171), followed by a successful interview with the training provider.

This qualification is limited to areas where the CPCAB courses are delivered, so you should check the CPCAB website for details.

For further information see our faculty website.

General study skills

Anyone can study with The Open University, but if it's a while since you did any academic work it's worth checking that your time management, computing and English skills are up to speed. Visit Can I do it? to find out more.

How much time do I need?

  • Most of our students study part time completing 60 credits a year.
  • This will normally mean studying for 16–18 hours a week.
Read about how some of our students have fitted OU study into their lives, then find out if you have enough time to study by completing our time planner.

How much will it cost?

We believe cost shouldn’t be a barrier to achieving your potential. That’s why we work hard to keep the cost of study as low as possible and have a wide range of flexible ways to pay to help spread, or even reduce, the cost.

  • Fees are paid on a module-by-module basis – you won't have to pay for the whole of your qualification up front.
  • A qualification comprises a series of modules, each with an individual fee. Added together, they give you the total cost.
  • If (like most OU students) you study part time at a rate of 60 credits a year, you'll take six years to complete an honours degree. Our current fee for 60 credits is £2,700*.
  • Our current fee is £5,400* – based on 120 credits of study – which is equivalent to a year's full-time study.
  • The total cost of your chosen qualification starts from £10,800* based on our current fees.
  • This qualification includes modules with a higher than typical cost. This will increase the overall cost of the qualification quoted. Please call us for further information.
  • This qualification includes modules with a higher than typical cost. If you choose to study one of these modules the overall cost of the qualification may increase. Please call us for further information.

*The fee information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2016. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees.

Additional costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a laptop, travel to tutorials, set books and internet access.

If you're on a low income you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after you register.

Ways to pay for your qualification and other support

We know there’s a lot to think about when choosing to study, not least how you can pay. That’s why we offer a wide range of flexible payment and funding options to help make study more affordable. Options include Part-Time Tuition Fee Loans (also known as student loans), monthly payment plans and employer sponsorship. 

We’re confident we can help you find an option that’s right for you.

Just answer these simple questions to find out more about the options available to you for courses starting before 31 July 2016.

How many credits are you planning to study per year? You will need [xxx] credits to complete this qualification

Part time study

Full time study

Do you already hold a degree?

Are you employed?

British Forces

  • If you have a BFPO address, you are only eligible for UK course fees if you are a currently serving member of the British armed forces, and you're temporarily and unavoidably working abroad. Other students using BFPO addresses should contact us on +44 (0)300 303 5303 for UK fee eligibility to be assessed.
* The fee and funding information provided here is valid for courses starting before 31 July 2016. Fees normally increase in line with inflation and the University’s strategic approach to fees.

An OU qualification will always help you stand out from the crowd, now and in the future – whether you’re just starting out, developing your career, or changing direction entirely.

Skills for career development

This foundation degree will provide you with knowledge and understanding of the major theoretical perspectives employed within counselling; the historical and cultural context of this profession; and the appropriate professional principles required for effective counselling practice. You’ll also acquire professional skills that are transferable to many other roles in health, social care and education – including the ability to:

  • practise safely and effectively in a recognised model of counselling
  • act in accordance with the relevant legal, ethical and procedural boundaries
  • make professional judgements and interventions
  • reflect on, review and audit your professional practice.

Career relevance

This foundation degree in counselling allows you to:

  • practise as a professional counsellor in a wide range of settings, from the statutory to voluntary sector
  • work with a diverse range of people and issues such as mental health problems, relationship problems, physical illness and trauma.

It also provides the required hours of specified learning which – with appropriate practice, supervision and personal development – will enable you to apply for individual accreditation with the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP). You can also use it as a staging post for further professional development, including the possibility of topping up to an honours degree.

Exploring your options

Once you register with us (and for up to three years after you finish your studies), you’ll have full access to our careers service for a wide range of information and advice – including online forums, website, interview simulation, vacancy service as well as the option to email or speak to a careers adviser.  Some areas of the website are available to see at any time, including help with looking for and applying for jobs. You can also read more general information about how OU study enhances your career.

In the meantime if you want to do some research around this qualification and where it might take you, we’ve put together a list of relevant job titles as a starting point (note that some careers may require further study, training and/or work experience):

  • professional counsellor
  • counselling psychologist
  • clinical psychologist
  • educational psychologist
  • health psychologist
  • occupational psychologist
  • sports and exercise psychologist
  • psychotherapist
  • social worker
  • advice worker
  • lecturer
  • careers adviser
  • retail manager
  • adult guidance worker
  • human resources officer.

You can also visit GradIreland for the Republic of Ireland.Want to see more jobs? Use the career explorer for job ideas from the National Careers Service, Prospects and Plan IT


Study plan - Overview