Published January 25, 2021
Which Counselling Course is Right for You?
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When you’re considering a career in counselling, it can be hard to know which qualification is ideal for you. There’s an extensive range of degrees, diplomas and certificates within the field of counselling, with different pros and cons, and suited to different people.
Here’s what you need to know about your options!
Why study counselling?
Counselling isn’t a registered profession in Australia, which means that higher education and accreditations aren’t compulsory – although depending on your state, you may be required to abide by a code of practice.
Qualifications are highly regarded in the industry though, and will often be required by employers. Getting a qualification is also an important way to:
- Understand what a counsellor does
- Hone important skills, character traits, and counselling methods
- Learn legal, ethical, and professional standards
- Get experience and guidance in a supportive environment
Getting qualified and accredited by a body such as the Australian Counselling Association (ACA) or the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA) is also useful for accessing affordable professional insurance and professional development opportunities.
Qualifications can help prospective counsellors build advanced expertise in specialisations they choose, such as:
- Alcohol and/or substance abuse counselling
- Trauma counselling
- Family counselling
- Counselling within a school or university
- Rehabilitation counselling – working with clients after they’ve been impacted by an injury or health condition.
- Case management
Bachelor of Counselling
A Bachelor of Counselling involves an in-depth study of the discipline and may include options to focus on specific specialisations that interest you, depending on the education provider. Another option is to major in counselling in a degree such as a Bachelor of Applied Social Sciences, Community Welfare, Human Services, or Psychological Science.
You take units on:
- Counselling therapies, theories, and methodologies.
- Building practical skills that are important to counselling.
- Human psychology, mental health, and development.
- Counselling ethics, building counselling relationships, legal requirements, and professional standards.
- Academic skills such as researching and writing.
Enrolling in a Bachelor of Counselling also involves practical learning opportunities such as volunteering for community services and crisis phone lines as well as work placements.
Successful completion of a Bachelor of Counselling qualification would enable you to get accreditation as a fully trained counsellor with a professional body. Many counselling roles require a bachelor degree, so this qualification would come with more job opportunities than a diploma or certificate. You may be able to specialise in a specific area of interest through your degree, but if your preferred specialisation is complex, further professional development short courses or postgraduate study would be available to you.
Cost and duration of study
Length of course
cost of course
The qualification takes three years of full-time study (or part-time equivalent). Course costs vary depending on whether your course provider is public or private if you qualify for a Commonwealth Supported Place, and what discipline your electives are counted as. A likely indicative cost is $7950 per year, which is potentially deferrable, but it’s important to enquire about the price to prospective institutions for the most accurate information.
Who should study a Bachelor of Counselling?
A Bachelor of Counselling is a great option for:
- People already committed to becoming a counsellor.
- People who have the time and resources to study over multiple years.
- People interested in academic study, including the study of research and theory.
Diploma of Counselling
A Diploma of Counselling (CHC51015) covers similar ground to a Bachelor degree – it focuses on counselling theory and methodology, and building your practical skills. Vocational and TAFE education tends to have less of an emphasis on academic skills and will have a higher proportion of workplace-specific units.
Accredited courses such as a diploma of counselling (or graduate diploma if you have an existing qualification) is sufficient to get accreditation as a professional counsellor. It will qualify you for entry-level roles in the workforce, although there may be fewer job options upon graduation compared to a degree. A diploma is also the minimum qualification required to start your own accredited counselling business.
A diploma can act as a pathway to enrol in further study as well. If you decide to go on to do a Bachelor of Counselling, often you’ll receive course credit for the subjects you’ve taken for the diploma.
Cost and duration of study
length of course
Who should study a Diploma of Counselling?
A Diploma of Counselling is great for:
- People who are serious about exploring counselling as a career option, but aren’t fully committed to a long period of enrolment in the study.
- People who don’t mind graduating with more limited entry-level job options.
- People who want to start their own counselling business and feel confident in their abilities.
- People with existing qualifications in areas such as social work, youth work, nursing, or psychology who are looking to get into counselling practice or upskill for their existing job.
Certificate (or Advanced or Graduate Certificate) in Counselling
A certificate course is briefer than a diploma or degree. It provides an introductory overview of counselling theory and methods, and may include elective units which give you a taste of different counselling specialisations.
On their own, certificate-level qualifications are not sufficient to become an accredited counsellor and there would be very limited job opportunities available. However, you would be able to use your skills in an adjacent field such as life coaching.
And, if you already work in a related area such as nursing, teaching, or social work, a certificate course is a good opportunity to broaden your counselling skills and apply them to your existing job.
As well, if you try a certificate course and decide you want to study counselling further, you may get credit towards a Diploma or Bachelor course.
Cost and duration of the study
length of certificate
courses cost from
length of advanced certificate
A Certificate in Counselling takes 6 months of full-time study while an Advanced Certificate will take a year full-time (or part-time equivalent). Tuition fees vary depending on the institution but maybe around $1500-$3000.
Who should study a Certificate or Advanced Certificate in Counselling
These courses are good for:
- People who want to add counselling skills to their existing professional practice (such as nurses, teachers, or social workers).
- People who want to get an understanding of what counselling is before committing to a longer qualification.
- People who want to become life coaches to build relevant counselling skills.
*Every institution and course will have varying costs to study. The best way to obtain a reliable course cost quote is directly from the institution.
There are a wide variety of pathways into counselling, with varying levels of commitment, cost, and time, and varying educational content.
Whether you’re thinking about studying to be a counsellor or ready to apply now, weighing the options involves considering what you want out of your studies, what your professional hopes are, and what knowledge and qualifications you already have and can build on.
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