How To Become A Counsellor In Australia: A Complete Guide

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Students want to know how they can become counsellors in Australia.


Do you have an interest in psychology and like helping people? Then Counsellor can be a good career option for you.


Counsellors help people identify and define their emotional issues using interpersonal therapy, cognitive behaviour therapy, and other talking therapies.


You usually need a bachelor's degree in counselling, social work, psychology, or another related field to work as a Counsellor. Some workers have VET qualifications in this field. Registration with the state or territory-level teaching board is needed to teach in schools.


If you want to work as a Counsellor, you have landed at the right place. This comprehensive blog discusses a Counsellor's role and how you can become one in Australia.


Read on to explore what Counsellors do, what they study, how much they earn, where they work, and more in this blog.



1. What Is A Counsellor?


Counsellors develop strategies to help clients cope with mental, emotional, or lifestyle challenges.


They use techniques like talking therapy to address their issues, help them reach their resolutions, and manage their lives better.


Counsellors work with clients over a short period to support them in areas like:


  • Stress management

  • Relaxation strategies

  • Crisis and trauma counselling

  • Grief and loss counselling

  • Breathing techniques

  • Drug and alcohol counselling

  • Anger management

  • Conflict resolution 

  • Communication strategies

  • Social skills training

  • Sleep hygiene

  • Problem-solving skills



2. What Is The Role Of A Counsellor?


The general duties of a counsellor include the following:


  • Meet clients to discuss their issues. 

  • Develop a safe, non-judgmental, empathetic, and objective professional relationship with their clients.

  • Help clients define goals and adopt strategies to overcome their problems.

  • Facilitate group counselling sessions. 

  • Work as a mediator in conflict resolution settings

  • Refer clients to other healthcare professionals when needed. 

  • Liaise with healthcare professionals in a health management team.

  • Conduct counselling interviews with individuals, family members and couples. 

  • Provide alternative approaches and discuss possibilities for behaviour and attitude change.

  • Develop rehabilitation plans based on their client's vocational and social needs. 

  • Understanding the learning and behaviour of students with special needs and helping teachers and parents in dealing with these needs



3. What Are The Qualities Of A Good Counsellor?


Individuals who have encountered diverse life experiences, overcome challenges and possess a desire to aid and empower others often choose a career in counselling.


If the role interests you, here are a few qualities that you need:


  • A genuine interest in helping people

  • Intuitive

  • Ability to motivate people

  • Naturally empathic

  • Communication skills

  • Active listening skills

  • Resilience

  • Patience

  • Compassion

  • Problem-solving abilities

  • Introspective 



4. Counsellor Qualifications In Australia


To become a Counsellor, you must complete a relevant tertiary qualification and register with an external body like the Australian Counselling Association.


Here are the steps to qualify for this role:


  • Consider completing a Diploma of Counselling (CHC51015) that will introduce them to counselling and provide skills and knowledge to start in an entry-level role within the industry. 

  • Complete an approved undergraduate degree like a Bachelor of Counselling to gain practical experience.

  • Register with an industry body like the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PCFA) or the Australian Counselling Association (ACA).

  • Graduates with an undergraduate degree may complete a postgraduate degree like a Graduate Diploma of Counselling or Master of Counselling to further their skills.

  • Consider volunteering with a helpline or other direct support roles to build experience within the industry and strengthen your resume. 



5. Steps To Become A Counsellor In Australia


Here is a step-by-step guide that outlines how to become a counsellor in Australia:



Step 1: Gain Entry-Level Qualifications


Aspiring counsellors can complete a diploma at TAFE or college to learn counselling fundamentals and work with clients on various psychological and personal issues.


The qualification serves as a pathway for further study and training. Various training institutes nationwide offer the Diploma of Counselling, such as:


  • Diploma of Counselling - The Australian Institute of Professional Counsellors

  • Diploma of Counselling and Communication Skills – The Torrens University



Step 2: Complete a Bachelor's Degree


Completing an undergraduate degree in counselling provides knowledge of the field and real-life experience for training counsellors.


It also helps them build their counselling skills, such as empathy, body language, communication, and active listening, under the instructions of experienced tutors.


The course includes completing placement hours where counsellors practise the theory and techniques taught in class. The top course providers include:


  • Bachelor of Counselling – The Torrens University - Three years full-time, part-time, Online, On campus (Sydney, Adelaide)

  • Bachelor of Counselling – Griffith University - ATAR: 67.00, 3 years full-time/6-years part-time

  • Bachelor of Counselling – The University of Sunshine Coast - Entry ATAR: 50, 3 years, full-time or equivalent part-time, blended learning

  • Bachelor of Counselling - The Australian Institute of Professional Counsellors  - 36 months (full-time), Online, Full-time, Part-time



Step 3: Consider Specialisation


After completing a bachelor in counselling, you may consider completing a Master of Counselling degree to specialise in a specific counselling field that interests you.


The degree will equip you with vital tools for a more advanced and focused experience.




Step 4: Join an Industry Association


Practising Counsellors can consider becoming a member of an industry association like the Australian Counselling Association or the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia to maintain professional standards.


Gaining membership in these professional organisations is also an excellent way to show your clients that you practice ethically within professional standards.



6. Areas Of Specialisation For Counsellors


Counsellors can specialise in working with a specific group, like children and young people, single parents, LGBTQI+ people, or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. 


They can also specialise in a specific problem area like drug and alcohol issues, personality disorders, abuse issues, grief and loss, or anxiety and depression.


Common specialisations for Counsellors include:


  • Marriage, family, and relationship counselling

  • Education and career counselling

  • Rehabilitation counselling

  • Mental health counselling

  • Substance abuse/Addiction counselling

  • Telephone/internet counselling 

  • Domestic violence counselling

  • Correctional counselling

  • Student advising counselling

  • Aged services counselling

  • Child protection counselling

  • Youth and adolescent counselling

  • Abuse Counselling

  • Disability services counselling



7. Where Do Counsellors Work?


Counsellors work in both employed and self-employed roles.


Typical work settings include hospitals, clinics, schools, universities, charity organisations, corporate health, aged care, or private practice settings.



8. Job Outlook Of Counsellors In Australia


Counsellors are a crucial workforce assisting the mental health of Australians.


According to AIPC, 45.5% of the Australian population will experience a mental disorder in their lifetime. One in five Australians between 16 and 85 have faced mental issues in the past year.


A field force shortage aggravates this extreme level of need. To meet the growing demand for counsellors, policymakers are expanding service options for Counsellors.


According to Labour Market Insights, the government expects the profession to grow 14.2% between November 2021 and November 2026. Over this period, 3,500 more jobs will likely generate in this field. There are currently 30,700 workers in this profession.


The government expects the number of workers to reach 27,800 by 2026.



Working Arrangements


Around 51% of employed Counsellors work full-time for an average of 41 hours per week.



Primary Industries of Employment


  • Health Care And Social Assistance: 49.2%

  • Education And Training: 36.3%

  • Public Administration And Safety: 4.7%



Percentage of Employment Across Australia


  • NSW: 30.4%

  • VIC: 28.1%

  • QLD: 18.9%

  • SA: 7.2%

  • WA: 10.1%

  • TAS: 2.0%

  • NT: 1.5%

  • ACT: 2.0%



Worker's Age and Gender Profile


The average age of Counsellors in Australia is 45 years, with most between 45 to 54 years.


Females constitute 77% of the workforce which is 29 percentage points above the average of all jobs, i.e., 48%.



9. How Much Does A Counsellor Earn In Australia?


According to Pay Scale, the average base salary for a counsellor in Australia is AU$71k/ year.


Entry-level positions expect to make around $75,000 annually, while experienced counsellors expect around $115,000 annually.



Highest Paying Cities For Counsellors in Australia


  • Mount Lawley: $95,501 per year

  • Canberra: $90,319 per year

  • Darwin: $88,777 per year

  • Riverina: $86,214 per year

  • Perth: $86,182 per year

  • Brisbane: $81,747 per year

  • Melbourne: $81,000 per year

  • Sydney: $78,727 per year

  • Albury: $74,683 per year



Top Employers For Counsellors in Australia


  • Central Coast Local Health District: $110,712 per year

  • Western Sydney University: $109,890 per year

  • Australian Catholic University: $107,921 per year

  • Australian National University: $105,802 per year

  • ACT Government: $104,052 per year

  • University of Sydney: $103,153 per year

  • Sydney Children Hospital Network: $102,292 per year

  • Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District: $101,303 per year

  • University of South Australia: $100,922 per year

  • Mid North Coast Local Health District: $99,194 per year



10. Is it Worth Becoming a Counsellor in Australia?


Being a counsellor is one of the most personally enriching careers within the healthcare sector. The role gives you an opportunity and a sense of satisfaction in helping people with their emotional and mental health and well-being.


Considering the rising mental health disorders in Australia, the need for counsellors in Australia has never been greater. There has never been a better time to become a counsellor or further develop your counselling qualifications.


Moreover, completing a tertiary qualification in counselling opens the door to various career pathways as an employee or in private practice.


So, you will be doing what you love while enjoying a sense of security, knowing there are many opportunities for work and self-employment.



Potential Career Paths (Bachelor Graduates) Include:


  • Counsellor, Average salary: $83,000 - $111,000

  • Case Manager, Average salary: $77,000 - $109,000

  • Family and Marriage Counsellor, Average salary: $49,000 - $76,000

  • Intake Counsellor, Average salary: $72,000 - $93,000



Potential Career Paths (Diploma Graduates) Include:


  • Family Services Worker, Average salary: $66,000 - $102,000

  • Disability Support Manager, Average salary: $81,596-$128,133

  • Health Promotion Officer, Average salary: $77,000 - $100,000


Furthermore, according to the government's Labour Market Insights, Counselling is an in-demand profession in Australia, with an expected job growth rate of 14.2% over the next five years by 2026.



11. Should You Become A Counsellor or Psychologist?


Both counselling and psychology are advantageous industries with several similarities. However, both professions differ based on certain factors such as:



Formal Education and Training Requirements


Psychology is much more research-driven, so most psychologists have Master's or doctoral degrees. Also, all psychologists must hold a general registration with the Psychology Board of Australia.


However, gaining a postgraduate degree is not a mandatory requirement for counsellors. Most counsellors complete short-term formal coursework to build their skills and knowledge and become more reliable and hireable before entering the job market.





A career in counselling is best suited for people who are kind, considerate, patient, and sensitive to others' needs. They need a good understanding of ethics and must meet the Australian Counselling Association's Code of Ethics and Practice.


Psychology careers are most suited to logical thinkers who help others with evidence-based research. They also need a range of soft skills, such as compassion and caring, to succeed.


As research forms a large part of psychology, they also require specific hard skills for the industry. Psychologists must also maintain ethical standards per the Australian Psychological Society's General Principles and Code of Ethics.





Psychologists investigate, examine and provide counselling and treatment to foster development in people on personal, social, educational, and occupational lev.


Counsellors work with people to help them recognise and define their emotional issues using cognitive behaviour therapy, talking therapy, interpersonal therapy, etc.



Existing Workforce and Future Demand


Psychologists constitute a large chunk of the mental health workforce in Australia. Over 44,300 practitioners will be working in the industry in 2023. The profession is expected to grow at a rate of 13.3% in the next five years.


On the other hand, around 30,000 counsellors work in Australia. The expected job growth rate is 14.32% in the coming years, slightly higher than that of psychologists.





The average psychologist's salary in Australia is AUD 78,097 per year, whereas Counsellors earn AUD 65,178 annually.


These are the significant differences between both careers. Your interest, preferences, and skills will determine your best career option.


Suppose you are a logical thinker, want to assist people with evidence-based treatments, and are willing to commit to several years of study. In that case, a career as a psychologist is ideal for you.


If you are a naturally empathetic person who likes to work in a high-growth career helping people through a range of talking therapies without requiring a lengthy learning route. In that case, being a Counsellor is ideal.



12. What Are The Different Levels of a Counsellor?


Counsellor Level Required Qualifications

Level 1

A Registered counsellor who holds:


  • An entry-level qualification in counselling at AQF Level 5, 6, or 8; or

  • A non–ACA approved AQF Level 7 Bachelor of Counselling degree.

  • Complete 25 ACA-approved Ongoing Professional Development points annually and ten hours of professional supervision each membership year.

Level 2

A Registered counsellor who holds:


  • an ACA-accredited qualification in Counselling at ANY of the below AQF levels.

  • Diploma of Counselling (AQF Level 5),

  • Advanced Diploma of Counselling (AQF Level 6),

  • Associate degree in Counselling (AQF Level 6), a post-qualification of at least 50 hours of supervision, two years of post–qualification supervised practice,

  • an ACA-accredited Graduate Diploma (AQF level 8) in counselling and one year of post–qualification supervised practice.

  • An ACA-approved Bachelor's (AQF level 7) or Master's (AQF level 9) degree in counselling,

  • a non–ACA approved Bachelor (AQF level 7) in counselling or a Master of Counselling (AQF level 9), and has worked as a level 1 member for at least one year and completed 50 or more hours of supervision.

  • Completed 25 points of ACA-approved Ongoing Professional Development and ten hours of professional supervision annually.


Level 3

A registered counsellor who:


  • Hold an ACA accredited/approved Bachelor of Counselling (AQF Level 7) qualification or Masters of Counselling (AQF Level 9) and

  • Has completed at least two years post-qualification supervised counselling practice, and

  • Has completed at least 750 x supervised client contact hours and

  • Has completed at least 75 hours of professional supervision.

  • Completes at least 25 points of ACA-approved Ongoing Professional Development yearly and at least 10 hours of professional supervision.

Level 4

A registered counsellor who:


  • Hold an ACA accredited/approved Bachelor of Counselling (AQF Level 7) qualification or Masters of Counselling (AQF Level 9), and

  • Has completed at least four years post qualification supervised counselling practice, and

  • Has completed at least 1000 x supervised client contact hours, and

  • Has completed at least 100 hours of professional supervision.

  • ompletes at least 25 ACA-approved Ongoing Professional Development points yearly and 10 hours of professional supervision.



13. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)



Can I Be a Counsellor Without a Degree in Australia?


Yes, you can work as a counsellor in an entry-level position within organisations and charities without a degree.


However, many counsellors prefer completing an undergraduate degree in counselling as it can help them develop relevant skills and personality traits to work in this area and advance their careers.



What Does a Counsellor Charge per Hour in Australia?


According to Labour Market Insights, the average hourly earnings of a Counsellor is $45; this is more than the median of all jobs, i.e., $41 per hour.



What Is The Best Course To Become a Counsellor in Australia?


A diploma in counselling is a good option if you still need to get an undergraduate degree or are looking for an entirely flexible learning option. 


The advantage of this course is that it can quickly get you into the profession as employed or in private practice and give you academic credit for further studies.


However, a Bachelor of Counselling may be a good fit if you want to pursue a university qualification. You may also be eligible for a FEE-HELP loan.


A Master of Counselling is ideal for those with an undergraduate degree in any field who wish to switch to counselling. It is also approved for FEE-HELP.


Both diploma and bachelor's degree programs give you the basic theoretical knowledge, techniques, and practice you need to enter the field. A master's qualification is a great way to advance their careers and pursue senior roles.



What Are The Three Types of Counselling?


The three different types of counselling are:


  • Private sector vs. public service

  • Children vs. Adult

  • Group vs. one-on-one



What Are The Seven Principles of Counselling?


The seven essential principles of working in a Counselling role are:


  • Non-judgmental attitude.

  • Respect for client autonomy.

  • Understanding and Empathy.

  • Cultural sensitivity and competence.

  • Confidentiality.

  • Collaborative approach.

  • Trust and rapport.



What Are The Five Stages of Counselling?


The five stages of counselling are:


  1. Initial disclosure and relationship building

  2. Problem assessment and in-depth exploration of needs

  3. Commitment to action and goal setting

  4. Counselling Intervention

  5. Successful termination from the basic counselling structure or referral to further action



What Are The Six C's of Counselling?


The 6Cs of counselling are:


  • Communication

  • Care

  • Competence

  • Compassion

  • Courage

  • Commitment



What Type of Counselling Pays The Most?


Here are the top six highest-paying jobs in counselling to help you decide the most suitable career pathway:


Job Low Mid High
Genetic Counselling $68k $77k $110k
Family and Relationship Counselling $59k $70k $102k
Substance Abuse Counselling $69k $89k $108k
Mental Health Counselling $69k $101k $106k
Guidance Counselling $52k $105k $122k
Financial Counselling $53k $61k $89k



What Are The Three Core Principles of Counselling?


  • A Counsellor follows the below three counselling principles to make the client feel safe enough to access their potential and move towards self-actualisation. 

  • Conditions of empathy

  • Congruence (agreement/compatibility/harmony) 

  • Unconditional positive regard



What Are The Key Elements of Counselling?


The key elements of counselling are:


  • Building the client/clinician relationship

  • Clarifying and evaluating the problem or situation

  • Recognising and defining treatment/counselling goals

  • Designing and executing counselling interventions

  • Planning, termination, and follow-up



What Are The Four Values of Counselling?


Several core values form the basis of counselling, such as:


  • Honesty 

  • Integrity 

  • Respect 

  • Generosity


These values and supporting principles guide Counsellors in forming decisions when dealing with clinicians, clients, and the community.



What Are The Risks for Counsellors?


A counsellor can suffer from the following risks if he ignores the signs of discomfort and stress while working in the role:


  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Frequent errors

  • Isolation from colleagues 



What Do You Avoid Doing as a Counsellor?


Here are a few things Counsellors should avoid when working in this profession:


  • Don't break confidentiality except when instructed. Confidentiality ensures a supportive and safe environment for clients to disclose their feelings and thoughts comfortably.

  • Don't break the set physical and emotional boundaries between two people. It is necessary because impactful counselling sessions require trusted, strong, and professional boundaries. 

  • Don't provide directionless counselling or treatment methods. A counsellor should collaborate with clients to create suitable treatment plans based on their unique needs and goals for fulfilment, healing, and improvement. 

  • Don't just give advice. It is because giving advice always increases your client's dependency on you, and it doesn't let them grow. Counsellors should offer a non-judgmental and warm space to act as both cheerleader and soundboard for them. 

  • Refrain from Agreeing with Everything. Counsellors must identify clients' resistance, problematic behaviour, and ineffective patterns and address these observations for their benefit.

  • And lastly, don't work outside of the clinical scope.



How Can I Improve My Counselling Skills?


Here are a few tips to enhance your counselling skills:


  • Make use of relevant online resources.

  • Read and stay informed.

  • Invest in counselling education.

  • Collaborate with colleagues.

  • Seek supervision.

  • Volunteer in entry-level counselling roles.

  • Continue practising and growing.

  • Be aware of self-care.



What Are The Disadvantages of a Counsellor?


The job of a Counsellor involves particular challenges, such as:


  • Working with difficult clients while maintaining dual relationships and professional boundaries.

  • Staying robust and emotionally unaffected while supporting others to overcome the difficulties in their life. 

  • Conducting face-to-face online sessions with clients without appearing uncaring or dismissive.

  • The need to gain peer support when working alone.

  • Besides psychological well-being, practising regular self-care to maintain long-term endurance. 

  • Balancing the urge to support individuals, families, and groups with immediate needs for assistance



Is There a Demand for Counsellors in Australia?


The counselling profession is one of Australia's rapidly growing mental health professions. Two main reasons contribute to the fast growth of this profession:


  • The high occurrence of mental ill-health in Australia

  • A field force shortage of qualified mental health professionals


It indicates a strong and steady demand for capable Counsellors in the country and the coming years.



How Long Does It Take to Become a Counsellor in Australia?


Though you can start in an entry-level Counselling role without a degree, completing a formal education is highly regarded among potential employers and clients (private practice) as it shows your competency in the field.


You may consider undertaking a 1-year full-time Diploma of Counselling course followed by a 3-year full-time Bachelor of Counselling course to make an impactful start in this profession.


Joining an industry association like PCFA or ACA will help you stand out from your competitors and improve your employability.



What is The Difference between a Therapist and a Counsellor in Australia?


Counsellors and psychotherapists play a vital role in improving the health and well-being of society. Both professionals help people talk about their feelings, reflect on their conduct, and make positive adjustments in life.


A psychotherapist can be a counsellor, but vice versa is not valid. Though the professions have many similarities between each, some of the differences are as follows:





A psychotherapist needs a postgraduate degree in psychology, some years of supervised practice, and registration with the Psychology Board of Australia to work in this role.


A Counsellor requires a bachelor's degree in counselling, social work, psychology, or another related field to work as a Counsellor. Some also enter the profession with a Vocational Education and Training (VET) qualification.


Counsellors also require registration with their state or territory teaching board to teach in schools.



Job Outlook


Psychotherapists (ANZSCO ID 2723):


  • Employed workers: 44,300

  • Estimate future job growth: 13.3%

  • Weekly earnings: $2,066

  • Full-Time Employment Share: 51%


Counsellor (ANZSCO ID 2721):


  • Employed workers: 30,700

  • Estimate future job growth: 14.2%

  • Weekly earnings: $1,652

  • Full-Time Employment Share: 49%





Counselling is a short-term temporary treatment (a handful of sessions) that emphasises finding and implementing potential solutions to a particular situation or symptom.


Psychotherapy, on the other hand, is a long-term approach (10+ sessions) that uses additional techniques and processes to provide relief and a deeper cognisance of people's issues undergoing similar situations or similar presentations.



Area of Focus


Psychotherapists aim to perform an extensive search and investigation of the issue.


Counsellors emphasise less serious or fundamental challenges one encounters and offer an instant solution to current grievances.


Where counselling helps people make well-informed life decisions, psychotherapy involves addressing fundamental and deep-seated behavioural patterns and psychological issues properly.



Types of Issues Dealt With


Psychotherapists treat adaptation, psychological issues, and mental illnesses like schizophrenia, depression, etc.


Counselling is usually wellness-oriented, offering more profound teaching and insight to effectively handle relationship problems, job stress, family issues, and educational issues and challenges.



The Treatment Methodology


A counsellor uses talking therapies and problem-solving approaches to help patients conquer specific concerns.


A Psychotherapist further obtains the history and possible reasons behind a specific conduct/behaviour in a person and offers long-term solutions to the core issue. They use psychological techniques to assist patients in dealing with mental ailments and stressors.





Counsellors majorly work in social work and educational settings. In contrast, psychotherapists usually work alongside psychopathology, clinical psychologists, and psychiatrists in traditional medical settings.


Counselling typically occurs in an outpatient setting, whereas psychotherapy can be conducted in both inpatient and outpatient settings.



What is the Difference Between Guidance and Counselling?


Here are some of the areas that distinguish guidance from counselling:





Guidance is the act of guiding people so that they make the right decisions that lead to a better future.


Counselling refers to professional services considered a central ad integral part of the guidance.


Guidance is concerned with addressing career and educational needs. In contrast, counselling addresses people's psychological and emotional concerns and helps them overcome their problems.





Guidance is preventive, whereas counselling is curative.


The guidance focuses on prevention and holistic development while counselling focuses on problem-solving and remediation.


Guidance helps people make the proper selections, but counselling helps people change their perspective. For example, guidance enables you to choose the best career but needs counselling to save a problematic marriage.





Guidance usually offers general advice and helps people in decision-making, whereas counselling provides therapeutic support and specialised assistance.





Guidance is mainly conducted in groups, whereas counselling is usually conducted one-on-one.





You don't need a specialist to obtain guidance, but counselling is delivered only by trained professionals.





Guidance tends to be more casual and less structured, whereas counselling follows a more structured and formal approach.





The guidance requires basic training to offer advice and information while counselling mandates gaining specialist training in therapeutic techniques.





Guidance is offered chiefly to a broad range of individuals. In contrast, counselling is offered mainly to people facing considerable psychological or emotional difficulties.



How To Become a Mental Health Counsellor in Australia?


The Certificate IV in Mental Health is the ideal qualification to pursue a Mental Health Counsellor role in Australia.


The course combines theory and practical learning to help students develop the required knowledge and skills to work in this role.


Some of the areas covered in the course:


  • Crisis and risk management

  • Therapeutic coaching skills

  • Support for drug and alcohol users


Completing this course, you can work in areas within community mental health such as:


  • Mental Health counsellor

  • Mental Health Coordinator

  • Mental health intake officer

  • Mental health outreach worker

  • Mental health support worker



13. Conclusion


If you want to make a difference in people's lives and find yourself fit to work in a counsellor’s role, then don't wait; complete counselling courses and pursue your dream career.


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