How to Become a Credit Counselor


If you want to become a credit counselor, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for your skills, interests and personality traits. Does the following describe you?


• You have a keen interest in helping people get their finances back on track

• You enjoy teaching and advising others

• You have excellent listening skills and are able to put others at ease

• You work well with numbers and with people

• You enjoy gathering and analyzing financial information

• You are willing to compete for relatively few job vacancies

• You are willing to negotiate with creditors on behalf of others


If those point did describe you, read on below - we've outlined what you'll need to get started in this field. 



Education Needed to Become a Credit Counselor

The educational requirements for entering this field will vary by employer. Typically however, job vacancies for credit counselors are highly competitive, and you will likely need a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field, as well as professional certification.


A relevant undergraduate degree will most likely be one in accounting, finance or economics. A degree in one of these fields will provide you with an understanding of complex financial matters, a perfect knowledge base to help clients solve their financial problems.


A relevant degree however, could also be in psychology, social work, human ecology or counseling. This is because in addition to dealing with financial issues, credit counselors need to be able to provide advice and guidance regarding some of the most emotional and sensitive issues their clients face. A degree in one of these aforementioned fields could help you develop the appropriate interpersonal skills to allow your clients to trust you and be comfortable talking to you about these sensitive issues. 


Success Tip: Beware of organizations that will hire you as a credit counselor with only a high school education and no relevant work experience. These organizations are typically of lower reputation, and working for them won't necessarily look good on your resume. 





General Job Description of a Credit Counselor

Credit counselors, also known as debt counselors, are responsible for providing counseling and advice to their clients in order to help them gain money management skills that will help them recover from high levels of debt in the short term, and ensure their financial security over the long term.


To help their clients, credit counselors must first gain an understanding of the client’s overall financial situation. This includes determining their level of monthly income, the value of their assets, the amount of their debt, who the creditors are, what interest rates are applied to their debts, and so on.


Once they have gained an understanding of their client’s financial situation, credit counselors must help the clients determine a monthly budget, including a debt repayment plan, based on what they can afford to pay their creditors. Credit counselors also typically communicate and negotiate with creditors (and other relevant parties, such as banks) on their client’s behalf. 



Typical Duties of the Job

• Obtain information related to the client’s net monthly income, such as a detailed list of their expenses and sources of income

• Calculate a client’s net income by subtracting their monthly expenses form their monthly income

• Calculate how much of a client’s income they can afford to use for debt servicing

• Advise clients as to the most efficient and effective debt servicing options for their situation

• Help clients prioritize their debt loads

• Help clients develop monthly budgets

• Act as debt agent for clients and open an account in order to disburse funds from account to creditors

• Negotiate payment terms with creditors and courts, on client’s behalf

• Sort out practical repayment plans with creditors

• Gain the client’s agreement to a repayment plan

• Counsel clients on personal and family financial problems, such as excessive spending and borrowing of funds

• Keep client records in confidentiality



Work Experience You Might Need

Although some amount of on-the-job training is usually provided, employers typically prefer to hire candidates with at least one or two years of experience in a related field of work, as well as a bachelor’s degree in a related field of study. A related field of work could be considered any field that deals directly with financial matters or counseling, such as:


• Accounting

• Addictions counseling

• Banking

• Credit analysis

• Career/employment counseling

• Collections agency

• Financial planning

• Investment advising

• Marriage and family counseling

• Mortgage agency

• Real estate agency/sales

• Tax consulting 



Certification Requirements

You don’t necessarily need professional certification in credit counseling to be hired by employers. In fact, many credit counseling certifying bodies only offer certification to credit counseling practitioners who have completed a certain number of hours or years of service in the profession.


Achieving certification as soon as possible however, is highly recommended. It will showcase your professional competencies and greatly enhance your professional credibility with potential employers and clients, as well as creditors, funders, government and other stakeholders.


Certification in Canada

In Canada, not-for-profit credit counselors can pursue The Accredited Financial Counsellor of Canada (AFCC) credential. The AFCC program provides information in the areas of personal finance, consumer credit, money management and counseling. You do not need an undergraduate degree to pursue this credential, although it does cost over $1,000 to enroll.


With a significant amount of professional experience, Canadian credit counselors can pursue the Certified Credit Counselor (CCC) designation, which is recognized as the highest professional designation level available to not-for-profit Credit Counselors in Canada.


Certification in the United States

Certification for American credit counselors is generally offered by credit counseling professional organizations. For example, the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education (AFCPE) offers the Accredited Credit Counselor (ACC) designation.


Topics in these programs typically include:


• Principles of financial counseling

• Counseling skills

• Counseling outcomes

• Budgets and balance sheets

• Credit legislation

• Debt reduction methods

• Collection policies and practices

• Bankruptcy

• Mortgages


Success Tip: Even if you don't need professional certification to get a job in this field now, with the job market for credit counselors being as competitive as it is, having professional certification is a great way to ensure that you achieve long-term success by staying ahead of the competition for future job openings.





Who Creates Employs Credit Counselors?

Credit counselors are employed primarily by non-profit and not-for-profit debt management, and financial counseling organizations. Typically, these types of organizations are financially supported by government grants and corporate sponsorships, funding which allows them to keep their fees low enough for clients to afford their services.


Some credit counselors might be self-employed, although without corporate sponsorships and government funding their fees can become too expensive for clients to afford. Government agencies, as well as private for-profit financial planning companies can also employ credit counselors.


Average Salary Level in This Profession

The salary level of credit counselors can vary depending on their level of education, their level of experience, their level of certification, the region in which they work, and many other factors.


Credit Counselor Salary Canada (Alberta figures only):* According to the 2017 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working in the Credit/Debt Counselors occupational group earn an average of $77,878 per year. 


Credit Counselor Salary United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean salary level of American workers in the Credit Counselors occupational group is $44,960 per year.


*There is no reliable salary information available from reliable sources specifically for the career Credit Counselor in Alberta or all of Canada. We can however, get a good idea of what they earn by looking at the salary level of workers in closely related occupations.



Characteristics Needed to Be Successful

To enjoy performing the duties of a credit counselor, you need to have certain personality traits. Taking enjoyment from your job is important, as it helps you maintain a positive attitude towards your work, which usually leads to having a long and successful career.


• A genuine interest in helping people to get their finances and their lives back on track

• Enjoy teaching and advising others

• Able to listen to people’s problems without judging them

• Enjoy gathering information and working with numbers

• Respect for private information; able to maintain client confidentiality

• Able to put people at ease and gain their trust

• Willingness to stay abreast of industry developments

• Willing to communicate and negotiate with creditors and the courts on clients’ behalf



Crucial Skills to Have

To be effective in this line of work, and perform your job duties with competence, you need to posses a certain set of financial, social and business administration skills. These skills are usually acquired as a result of your education, your previous work experience, and on-the-job training.


• Ability to work with numbers easily

• Able to prepare budgets and balance sheets

• Excellent listening and communication skills

• Knowledge of debt reduction methods, such as repayment plans and bankruptcy

• Knowledge of collection practices and policies

• Negotiation skills for dealing with creditors and courts



Credit Counselor Job Opportunities - Current Openings

Our job board below has "credit counselor" postings in your area:




Similar Career Profiles in Our Database

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to credit counselor, as they involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


Budget Analyst

Career Counselor

Credit Analyst

Financial Advisor

Home Economist




Please consult the references below to find more information on the various aspects of this occupation.


Occupations in Alberta:Credit/Debt Counsellor.” (April 28, 2017). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved November 8, 2019.

Occupational Employment and Wages:Credit Counselors.” (March 29, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved November 8, 2019.

Column:The cost of non-profit credit counsellors.” Bruce Sellery (October 3, 2012). MoneySense website. Retrieved November 8, 2019.

Tips:How to become a credit counsellor in Canada.” (n.d.). Yellowpages website. Retrieved November 8, 2019.



Scholarships for Becoming a Credit Counselor

Scholarships in our database for majors that apply to becoming a credit counselor can be found on our All Scholarships by Major page.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Relevant Fields of Study

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point for entering this profession:


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