Are you looking for a career that can give you a wonderful feeling of making a difference in other people’s lives? Counselling is meaningful work that helps real people to make real change and can bring about positive outcomes.
It might surprise you to learn that starting a counselling business doesn’t necessarily require formal qualifications.
- Counselling can impact lives positively without formal qualifications.
- Full-time counsellors in Australia earn about $1,584 weekly.
- Various roles exist, from youth to bereavement counselling.
- Starting a business requires qualifications, registration, and insurance.
- Unqualified? Life experience in areas like nutrition can be leveraged.
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Why pursue a role in counselling?
Not only is the role of a counsellor a very noble one, but it’s also a smart career move. After all, counselling is something that’s needed by male and female people of all ages, for personal and professional guidance, and across a wide range of needs.
Generally speaking, weekly earnings for a full-time Counsellor sit at around $1,584 (before tax). Currently, in Australia, employment prospects are strong, with 19,200 in 2014 growing to 31,200 in 2019. Of course, going into private practice, or using a Counsellor qualification to complement another kind of role may not be figured into those statistics, and this means the figures are even greater than those shown.
Examples of qualified counsellor vocations
Are you planning a career as a counsellor? If so, it’s a vocation that lends itself to a wide variety of applications. The following are some examples of roles for qualified counsellors.
- Mental health worker
- Youth worker
- Sports coaching
- Relationship counsellor
- Parenting coach
- Drug, alcohol and gambling counsellor
- Education guidance counsellor
- Employment counsellor
- Correctional counsellor
- Crisis intervention counsellor
- Rehabilitation counsellor
- Bereavement counsellor
- Health and diet counsellor
Minimum requirements for practising as a counsellor in Australia
To work as a counsellor, you’ll need to complete a Diploma of Counselling course (CHC51015), which will give you an introduction to the sector. With the diploma, you’ll be able to take on entry-level counselling positions. If, however, you want to become a fully qualified counsellor, the requirement is to complete a Bachelor of Counselling, Bachelor of Counselling and Psychotherapy, or Bachelor of Human Services (Counselling), which are all three-year, full-time courses.
The qualification a person has dictates at what level they can work in the sector.
9 steps to starting a counselling business in Australia
To establish a business as a counsellor in Australia is not that different from starting any business, but you do need to be mindful of any qualifications you must have.
1. Complete any formal qualifications – Have you finished your diploma or degree?
2. Join relevant associations – Joining an industry-specific association can help with ongoing professional development and training and provide excellent networking opportunities. These associations can also act as advocates for members and may have political influence that helps practitioners in their sector.
3. Decide on your speciality – Will you specialise in relationship counselling? Drug and alcohol counselling? Diet and weight loss counselling? You probably already have a speciality and that’s good, because trying to be ‘all things to all people’ can be confusing and intimidating for potential clients.
5. Organise insurance – This is an absolute must. It’s a good idea to use a business insurance broker to connect you with the appropriate policies for your practice. Professional indemnity insurance is vital but also consider income protection insurance, public liability insurance, and cyber insurance.
6. Find premises – You might choose to work from home, rent a room in an existing practice, or set up your own premises. You may even decide to work specifically online, in which case, you’ll need a website and a method of connecting with clients virtually.
7. Establish your online presence – Even if you run a face-to-face practice, you should still have a website and social media accounts.
8. Decide on your bookkeeping/accounting practices – Will you use cloud-based bookkeeping? Will you do it yourself or engage a bookkeeper and/or accountant?
9. Determine your pricing – You’ll need to determine your fees according to your level of experience, qualifications, and possibly the demographics of your potential client base. Counsellors are not currently covered by Medicare, but you should look into registering as a provider whose fees can be partially rebated by private health funds.
Working as a counsellor without qualifications
All that said, you can still function in a counselling capacity without qualifications. The fact is, in Australia, anyone can say they’re a counsellor or psychotherapist. There are no laws in place that require a person who provides a counselling service to have experience or qualifications.
This means you can work as, for instance, a private practice drug and alcohol counsellor, a freelance education counsellor, a life coach, a business coach, grief counsellor, or any number of other types of counsellors.
You may have life experience, professional experience, or other qualifications that would be of huge value to paying clients. For instance, if you are trained in nutrition and specialise in particular dietary aspects like low carb living, you may find yourself offering counselling services to your clients who are struggling with diabetes or obesity.
If you’ve been a tutor to high school students for many years and have learned a lot about the ins and outs of tertiary entrance requirements, you may be able to counsel your clients about their career prospects.
To be able to offer these kinds of services, it helps to be equipped with the fundamentals of operating a business.
MiTraining’s BSB30220 Certificate III in Entrepreneurship and New Business course provides an excellent foundation for anyone who wants to be their own boss. It’s designed to help you focus on the most important aspects of starting your own business, from assessing and researching potential business ideas through to practical skills, like financial planning, marketing, and managing customer relationships.