If there's one lesson we've learned through the past couple of years of economic difficulties, it's that credit can have its fair share of pitfalls. Many people have found themselves in credit trouble, leading to a strong need for assistance to navigate the possible solutions and the methods for avoiding similar problems in the future. These needs have generated an increase not only in the demand for credit counseling professionals, but also in the public's awareness that these types of positions even exist.

Who, What and Why
By its strictest definition, a credit counselor advises clients on how to use credit properly. This job is generally a case management position where clients will either seek out the services of a credit counselor or be referred to one. Sometimes credit counselors help their clients to decide if a large purchase they are considering is a wise idea, or to determine just how much credit an individual or family can reasonably take on. Credit counselors also assist individuals who have found themselves in financial hardship, however, as they attempt to determine how best to repay their debts. Credit counselors also assist individuals in setting up budgets and in getting through unforeseen circumstances that may make funds tighter.

Many credit counselors are employed by lenders such as banks, credit unions, loan agencies and store credit departments, while other credit counselors work for agencies that do not offer lending services. Many of these non-credit granting agencies are non-profit groups that operate for the simple purpose of educating the public on how to effectively manage money. Jobs with such agencies may involve teaching classes or leading workshops on personal finance, debt management and budgeting.

Skills, Training and Education
Though some agencies may only require that their credit counselors hold a high school diploma, many individuals employed in this industry do have a post-secondary education. Post-secondary education could come in the form of accounting or finance, math or social work. Many credit counselors also elect to go through a formal credit counseling course that leads to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) certification. This certification may also be referred to as the Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS) designation. These certifications are particularly appealing to employers, as they ensure that the counselors they employ meet a specific standard of competency, which in turn helps organizations to provide a consistent and reputable service.

Even though these designations exist, much of the actual credit counseling know-how comes in the form of on-the-job training. Regardless of whether you choose to seek post-secondary education as you pursue a career in credit counseling, people who work in this field need to be good at number crunching, accounting and other mathematical skills, and they absolutely must have good interpersonal skills. Each time an individual or family enlists the services of a credit counselor, they are forced to open up about their financial situations and share highly personal information - something that many people find awkward or challenging. For this reason, applicants who have prior work experience in customer or community service may be particularly appealing to potential employers.

The pay rates for credit counselors vary greatly. While some non-profit agencies may come with lower rates of pay and a no-frills work environment, there are also many credit counseling jobs that come with heftier paychecks. It really depends upon the organization you're employed by, your credentials and your length of service with the organization. Generally speaking, the median salary for a career counselor is about $34,000 annually. Along with this salary, workers generally enjoy regular work hours with occasional weekend or evening work.

Job Market
Credit counseling is one area where job growth is definitely on the rise. In fact, it is estimated that this field could experience job growth of up to 20% by the year 2020. Additionally, jobs in this field typically come with many opportunities for advancement. A credit counselor position could grow into a credit manager role within a financial institution or a director role within an agency advising on consumer credit.

The Bottom Line
If you are able to build strong relationships with clients, have good negotiating skills and want to help people with securing their financial independence, credit counseling might be a great job option for you. This job is certainly one that has become important in today's economic climate. Consumers are increasingly in need of experts who can walk them through their financial decisions, ensuring that they don't bite off a greater chunk of debt than they can easily swallow.

Related Articles
  1. Professionals

    Is A Stockbroker Career For You?

    Becoming a stockbroker requires a broad skill set and the willingness to put in long hours. But the rewards can be enormous.
  2. Professionals

    Buy-Side vs Sell-Side Analysts

    Both sell-side and buy-side analysts on Wall Street spend much of their day researching companies in a relentless effort to pick the winners.
  3. Professionals

    Broker Or Trader: Which Career Is Right For You?

    Both brokers and traders buy and sell securities, but there are some subtle differences between the two careers.
  4. Professionals

    A Day In The Life Of A Public Accountant

    Here's an inside look at the workdays of two experienced CPAs, to give you an idea of what it might be like to pursue a career as a public accountant.
  5. Professionals

    A Day in the Life of a Public Accountant

    There’s no typical day in the life of a public accountant, but one accountant’s experience may shed some light on what the career entails.
  6. Professionals

    Financial Career Options For Professionals

    A career in finance can take a business professional down many different paths.
  7. FA

    The Basics of The Series 79 Exam

    Passing the Series 79 exam is usually necessary for anyone who wants to work in investment banking.
  8. Professionals

    10 Steps To A Career In Hedge Funds

    The first step to getting your hedge fund career started is to be sure you really want to work for a hedge fund. If you do, it’ll show in your actions.
  9. Professionals

    Business Analyst: Job Description & Average Salary

    Learn the different types of business analyst careers available; understand the skills and education needed and the salary you can expect to make.
  10. Professionals

    How To Get A Job On Wall Street

    Although Wall Street has its share of problems, finding people who want to become traders isn’t one of them.
  1. Do financial advisors have to find their own clients?

    Nearly all financial advisors, particularly when new to the field, have to find their own clients. An employer may provide ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Do financial advisors get drug tested?

    Financial advisors are not drug tested by any federal or state regulatory body. This means you may receive your Series 6, ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Is a financial advisor required to have a degree?

    Financial advisors are not required to have university degrees. However, they are required to pass certain exams administered ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Do financial advisors have to be licensed?

    Financial advisors must possess various securities licenses in order to sell investment products. The specific products an ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. Do financial advisors need to meet quotas?

    Most financial advisors are required to meet quotas, particularly if they work for firms that pay base salaries or draws ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. Does a financial advisor need an MBA?

    Obtaining a license as a financial adviser does not require an Master's of Business Administration (MBA) degree. The Certified ... Read Full Answer >>
Hot Definitions
  1. Flight To Quality

    The action of investors moving their capital away from riskier investments to the safest possible investment vehicles. This ...
  2. Discouraged Worker

    A person who is eligible for employment and is able to work, but is currently unemployed and has not attempted to find employment ...
  3. Ponzimonium

    After Bernard Madoff's $65 billion Ponzi scheme was revealed, many new (smaller-scale) Ponzi schemers became exposed. Ponzimonium ...
  4. Quarterly Earnings Report

    A quarterly filing made by public companies to report their performance. Included in earnings reports are items such as net ...
  5. Dark Pool Liquidity

    The trading volume created by institutional orders that are unavailable to the public. The bulk of dark pool liquidity is ...
Trading Center