Becoming a Credit Counselor: Job Description & Salary

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What are the pros and cons of a credit counselor career? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary information to see if becoming a credit counselor is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Credit Counselor Career

For those who might enjoy helping struggling families manage their debt to avoid foreclosures or repossessions, a counseling career can provide a fulfilling opportunity. You should consider the pros and cons of this career before endeavoring the necessary training and certification preparation.

Pros of a Credit Counselor Career
Anticipated growth of about 8% from 2012-2022*
Employers may hire counselors with only a high school education****
Credit counselors can provide financial education to the community**
Ability to help individuals keep their home and possessions**

Cons of a Credit Counselor Career
Employers may prefer candidates with certification**
Counselors must negotiate with creditors*
Employers may have additional eligibility requirements beyond the minimum***
A position as a credit counselor may require evening and weekend shifts****

Sources: *O*Net Online, **Pelican State Credit Union, ***U.S. Bankruptcy Administrator, ****Money Management International.

Credit Counselor Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Credit counselors meet with clients to discuss the individual's financial issues. They use the information gathered to assess the financial situation and then complete a review of income and debts to determine the individual's ability to pay creditors. Counselors negotiate debt with creditors to set up repayment plans, lower interest rates or negotiate late fees. Once negotiations with creditors are complete, credit counselors develop budgets and spending plans to pay back the debt and help clients avoid foreclosure or repossession. Payments made to the credit counselor from the client are disbursed among the creditors.

Some employers require credit counselors to provide education to the community on topics such as debt management, budgeting and financial planning. Credit counselors may teach classes and workshops on debt management subjects.

Job Growth and Salary

According to the BLS, the median salary for a credit counselor in 2014 was about $42,110. Credit counselors will experience faster-than-average job growth between 2012 and 2022, the source predicted.

What Are the Requirements?

Credit counselors must have negotiation and communication skills to work with clients and their creditors. The education for a position varies among employers; some require a bachelor's degree in a finance-related field, and others are willing to train a high school graduate. States may require credit counselors complete training in debt management and pass a certification examination to work in the position. Credit counseling agencies may require job candidates to complete the certification examination. Professional organizations, such as the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, offer training and certification programs for credit counselors.

What Employers Are Looking For

Nonprofit and for-profit debt management and credit counseling agencies hire counselors to provide services to clients. Universities, banks and credit unions may also employ credit counselors to meet the needs of students or banking customers. Below are examples of positions available for credit counselors as of March 2012.

  • An Arizona money management company is seeking a credit counselor to work directly with clients providing solutions for debt management issues. The position requires candidates with at least a high school education, but employers prefer candidates with an associate's or bachelor's degree.
  • A financial advocates company in Oregon is looking for a financial counselor with a minimum of a bachelor's degree to teach clients to manage their finances and eliminate debt. Applicants must have strong communication and listening skills.
  • A Louisiana credit union is searching for an experienced credit counselor to provide credit counseling to its members and teach financial literacy and debt management in community schools. The employer prefers candidates with experience in credit counseling and certification as a counselor.

How Can I Stand Out?

Employers prefer credit counselor applicants with experience in customer service or the banking and credit industry. Employers also seek applicants with a strong desire to help clients manage and eliminate debt, which can be demonstrated by working with the community to educate its members on financial management or being willing to do so while on the job.

Get Certified

Credit counselor employers may allow applicants to obtain certification after training on the job, but candidates who complete the certification process beforehand may have an edge in the job market. Certification signals that job candidates have specialized knowledge of the credit and debt process. Many organizations offer credit counselor certification, but not all of them are credible. One way to secure trustworthy credentials is to choose an issuing agency recognized by the National Federation of Credit Counseling or going directly through the National Association of Certified Credit Counselors.

Other Fields to Consider

If a career as a credit counselor is not a good fit, but you are still interested in working with clients in the financial field, consider a position as a loan officer. Loan officers work in financial institutions, such as banks or credit unions, to find and assist loan applicants. According to the BLS, the education for a loan officer varies according to employer. Some banks require a high school diploma for a loan officer position, but commercial lenders may require a bachelor's degree education and mortgage loan officers need specialized licensure. These professionals earned a median of about $58,000 annually across the board as of 2011.

Financial analysts also help individual and business clients manage financial assets. A career as a financial analyst requires a minimum of a bachelor's degree, but many employers may require a graduate degree, according to the BLS. Financial analysts research and analyze investment opportunities to provide clients with recommendations. The national median salary for a financial analyst as of 2011 was nearly $76,000, and employment in the field is expected to grow faster than average, according to the BLS.

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Featured Schools

Georgetown University

  • Master of Science in Finance

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Kaplan University

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  • BSBA in Financial Analysis
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George Mason University

  • Master of Business Administration

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Virginia College

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Johns Hopkins University

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Baker College Online

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Colorado Technical University

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Full Sail University

  • M.S. - Internet Marketing
  • M.S. - Entertainment Business
  • B.S. - Music Business

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