The Best Counselling Fields to Specialise in to Get a Job
People looking to become counsellors have a big range of course options available and can specialise in a variety of different areas. When considering your future career, it’s worth thinking about which pathways offer good job opportunities and security.
Counsellors are needed in a wide range of industries to support population mental health. You can set yourself up for success by getting a well-regarded qualification, becoming accredited, and gaining knowledge and experience in an in-demand specialisation.
The counselling industry
The counselling profession is expected to have strong future growth in Australia. Over time, governments are investing more into mental health, and counsellors make up an important part of the solution to Australia’s mental health epidemic. Counsellors are also playing an increasingly vital role throughout society in workplaces, schools, and universities, as these organisations ramp up their commitments to supporting wellbeing.
According to Job Outlook, counsellors are predominantly employed in the Health Care and Community Services sector, but are also frequently employed by Education and Training organisations and in the Public Administration and Safety industry. Many work in private practice as sole traders with an ABN.
Counsellors earn an average full-time wage of $1,584 per week, which is a little higher than the national average. Expected earnings also grow as you gain experience.
Getting qualified as a counsellor
Counselling is a self-regulated industry and does not technically require enrolment in specific higher education courses, or accreditation with a professional body. However, getting qualified and registering with a body such as the Australian Counselling Association (ACA) or the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA) has a range of benefits in terms of job security because:
A range of counselling courses are available. At a minimum, a one-year full-time (or part-time equivalent) Diploma of Counselling (CHC51015) is required for professional accreditation and to start your own accredited counselling business.
However, most counselling jobs require a three-year bachelor degree qualification such as a Bachelor of Counselling degree or a degree in human services or similar with a focus on counselling. Other accredited courses you can enrol in include the graduate diploma or graduate certificate of counselling (for people with existing qualifications). Postgraduate qualifications such as masters degrees are also available.
You should enquire about course accreditation before enrolling. You can also check your eligibility for various tuition fee subsidies and schemes – TAFEs and other Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) will be able to advise you on expected course fees.
There are a range of potential specialisations for counsellors, including:
You may have the opportunity to specialise in an area of interest as part of your counselling qualification, or you may specialise through professional development courses or on-the-job experience with particular clients.
According to research from the University of Southern Queensland, key counselling specialisations for Australia’s current needs include:
Suicide Prevention Counselling
Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians aged between 15 and 44. Suicide prevention counsellors work in a range of settings to implement strategies to assist those identified at risk, who may be contemplating suicide, or who have a history of self-harm. They may work in community health centres, schools and universities, or for crisis support phone lines.
Almost 1 in 4 Australian teenagers meet the criteria for a mental health condition, making this age group in particular need of support. Youth counsellors may work in private practice, in education settings, or in community health. Counsellors with this specialisation understand child and adolescent development and can guide clients through family therapy, adjusting to different life stages or stressful circumstances (such as parental divorce), and the wide range of issues a young person may face.
Counselling for older adults
Australia currently has an ageing population, leading to higher numbers of older adults with a range of care needs. People with dementia are a particularly vulnerable community – they have 3-4 times higher risk of depression than the population average. Counsellors therefore provide valuable support to patients and carers in the community and in the aged care sector. Rehabilitation counsellors also usefully serve people who are in rehabilitation from various conditions, including stokes. They work in multi-disciplinary teams including doctors, physiotherapists, speech pathologists, occupational therapists, and other allied health professionals to help people regain independence.
Other areas of demand include mental health counselling, perinatal counselling, and counselling for LGBTQI, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, and multicultural communities. Informed counsellors in these fields, particularly those with strong connections to particular communities, are much-needed.
You can get training in these areas by taking appropriate electives as you study counselling or through professional development and short course opportunities available to you after becoming a professional counsellor.
Counselling is a profession where strong future growth is expected throughout a range of industries and settings. Whether you’re thinking about studying to be a counsellor or ready to apply now, with some planning and a preparedness to learn, you can set yourself up for success by training in areas where there’s real need for your compassion and expertise.
Discover a resource library that can take you from A to B on your journey to becoming a counsellor. From figuring out what specialisation to choose, to insights from professional counsellors, this guide has everything you need.
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