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Developing your career in counselling

Increased awareness of mental health through the media has resulted in the subject becoming less taboo and the therapeutic value of counselling is becoming increasingly recognised. The need for private counsellors also continues to grow.

As a counsellor you could work in any of the following areas:

  • education
  • health and social care services
  • agencies dealing with specific issues such as bereavement, family relationships or homelessness
  • advisory organisations and helplines
  • human resource departments
  • churches and other faith-based organisations.

How to become a counsellor?

To practise as a counsellor employers will require you to have undertaken professional training and you’ll need a counselling qualification at foundation degree/diploma level to join a professional body or to become accredited.

Do I need a degree to become a counsellor?

Training as a counsellor involves a combination of theoretical study and practical experience, but you don’t need a degree to become a counsellor.

The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), and most other professional bodies, require counsellors who are working with clients to receive supervision from another qualified practitioner. Some courses require students to have had therapy themselves or to be in therapy during their training. This is not only so you can experience therapy from the client’s point of view, but for personal development and to help you cope with issues and emotions raised when counselling others.

How can The Open University help?

Foundation Degree in Counselling and Diploma of Higher Education in Counselling

Developed with the Counselling and Psychotherapy Central Awarding Body (CPCAB), our Foundation Degree in Counselling (X09)1 and Diploma of Higher Education in Counselling (W09) provide the theoretical understanding and practical skills needed to practise as a professional counsellor2.

These qualifications also provide the required hours of specified learning that will enable you to apply for individual accreditation with the BACP, following appropriate practice, supervision and personal development. You can also use this qualification as a starting point for further professional development, including the possibility of topping up to an honours degree.

1Not a recognised qualification in Scotland.

2There are entry recommendations for X09 and W09 included in the ‘Course details’ and ‘Entry requirements’ tabs on the links above.

Study for a degree

Our BSc (Honours) Counselling (R86) offers a full counselling training pathway as well as the opportunity for current practitioners (SCoPEd framework ‘Therapist A’ level) to acquire new advanced counsellor competencies as part of an undergraduate degree.

We also offer degree courses that can help you acquire the knowledge and understanding to underpin your counselling qualification for most effective counselling practice. However, if taken without counselling training, these degrees do not qualify you to practise as a counsellor.

Accredited by the British Psychological Society (BPS):

Not accredited by the BPS:

Enhance your practice with a short course

Our continuing professional development (CPD) counselling courses are for counsellors, therapists, and those in training who wish to develop skills and knowledge in online therapy, trauma-informed counselling, and advanced therapeutic relationships. Created by leading academics and aligned with the Scope of Practice and Education (SCoPEd) B competencies, these offer flexibility to start anytime and learn at your own pace.

Explore our counselling CPD courses.

Getting started

If you’re not quite ready for degree-level study, our Psychology, social science and wellbeing Access module (Y034) could be exactly what you’re looking for. It’s designed to build your confidence and study skills while introducing ideas and debates about psychology, childhood and youth, early years, health and social wellbeing, sport, education, and social sciences. By the end of the module, you’ll be well prepared to take on further OU study.