Counsellors assist people to better understand themselves by explaining options, setting goals and helping them to take the appropriate action. They work with clients to find solutions to emotional and mental problems and act as facilitators in group sessions.

Counsellors work in confidential settings with individuals who are experiencing personal difficulties, to help them overcome their problems and to make appropriate changes to their life.  Counsellors sometimes work with other professionals such as medical practitioners, psychologists and social workers as part of a health management team. On occasion they act as mediators in conflict resolution.

Counsellors may specialise in a number of fields such as working with people from non-English-speaking backgrounds, and single parents, or in service areas such as health, accommodation, relationships or employment, grief and loss, stress management, child development and abuse issues.

Counsellors listen to, empathise with, encourage and help to empower individuals. The nature of problems encountered varies according to the setting, but counsellors do not deal with seriously disturbed clients and they do not give advice. Referral and liaison with other agencies is a feature of the work.  Vacancies arise within dedicated counselling services, general practices, hospitals, secondary schools, colleges, universities, or larger companies. Promotion is normally into managerial roles, but opportunities are limited as most counselling departments are very small.

Some counsellors are successfully self-employed, although this is only possible if you have a good network of contacts for referrals.

Personal Requirements

  • empathetic and caring
  • good communication and listening skills
  • maturity
  • good life-coping skills

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

  • National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course
  • National Senior Certificate meeting diploma requirements for a diploma course
Each institution has its own entry requirements.

What to Study

Degree: BA or BPsych, majoring in Psychology - all universities.

The Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) recently approved the implementation of a revised model for education and training in psychology in South Africa:

Registered Counsellors: Registration as a Registered Counsellor is contingent on completion of:

  • An accredited 4 year BPsych or equivalent degree and honours in Psychology (BPsych equivalence) and an approved minimum six- months’ internship in the designated practice area.
  • The six months’ practicum included in the BPsych must be done under supervision of a registered Psychologist in accordance with criteria set by the Professional Board of Psychology. This practicum may occur from the third year of the degree and must be not less than 2 months in any given setting. The practicum may also occur after completion of the degree.
  • Passing of the Board examination for Registered Counsellors.

It is important to check that the honours degree taken is recognised by the HPCSA for the Registered Counsellors programme.

The following practice areas for Registered Counsellors include:

  • Career Counselling
  • Employee well-being
  • Family Counselling
  • HIV/AIDS Counselling
  • Human Resources
  • Pastoral Counselling
  • Community Mental Health
  • Psychometrics
  • School Counselling
  • Sport Counselling
  • Trauma Counselling
There are no formal entry requirements in some areas of counselling; however, entry to this occupation may be improved if you have qualifications. You may be able to study externally through distance education.

Try to establish details of the range of accredited courses being offered by registered training providers. For example, some churches offer courses for people who wish to become Christian Counsellors


  • government departments, e.g. youth
  • bereavement centres, e.g. Island Hospice
  • stress management centres
  • community centres, with counselling for rape, victims of crime, etc.
  • such organisations as Life Line, Samaritans, Child Line, etc.

Further Information

Any of the above potential employers

Registered Counsellors:

Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) 
(553) of Hamilton and
Madiba Streets,
Arcadia, Pretoria
Tel: (012) 338-9300

Getting Started

  • volunteer as an aide or helper at your nearest community or church centre, which offers counselling in any form
  • make an appointment to speak to different types of counsellors about this type of career

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

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