Credit and debt counselors help their clients manage their debt, create budgets and reorganize their finances. Though there are no strict requirements to becoming a credit counselor, there are courses and steps you can take to enter into this career path.
A person with an undergraduate degree in business, finance or an associate degree in business or finance can pursue a career in credit or debt counseling. Graduates of human ecology programs have also become successful credit counselors, and there are courses you can take in human ecology programs that will help you deal with issues that you will face as a credit counselor.
License or Certification
There is no required degree or certification for becoming a credit counselor, but the agencies that employ credit counselors will have some preferences about the background of prospective employees. Credit counselors usually have an undergraduate or associate degree in business or finance and may experience working in a bank or other financial services agency. Employers may also prefer to hire credit or debt counselors that have experience in a counseling environment, so if you have performed peer counseling in college, have worked in human resources or education counseling, you have experience that the employer could use, so you should highlight that in your resume.
The National Association of Certified Credit Counselors (NACCC) also offers certification courses, including basic and senior credit counseling courses, and courses in debt settlement. These courses are self-study, meaning you can complete them at home, at any time, and you need to write and pass an exam to achieve the certification.
Advice for Becoming a Credit Counselor
Take courses in personal finance, microeconomics, accounting and banking practices. All of these courses will provide you with background knowledge
that you can use with your clients and help you understand the issues that your clients are facing. You can also expect that if you interview with an agency who hires credit counselors that they will ask you about your knowledge in these areas and the more you know, especially about how financial products are sold and maintained by consumers, will help you to get a job. If your schedule will allow it, it will probably also be helpful to take some courses on counseling, the client relationship, and on negotiation skills, since you will be expected to negotiate with debt collectors on behalf of your clients.
You can also do some self-study on the already mentioned National Association of Certified Credit Counselors' website, as well as on the National Foundation for Credit Counseling website. You should probably also research issues related to consumer credit and debt, which you can execute in any search engine. You will be expected to know about these issues as a credit counselor, so it is a good idea to start researching now.
You can also look for transferable work from another area, such as working with a credit reporting agency or with debt collections, so you can learn about the field from another site. You can also volunteer with agencies that teach consumers about credit products, debt and budgeting.
It is possible to begin your career as a credit counselor and then begin your certification training during your first months on the job. The Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies provides a directory, by state, of their members. Members of this organization have agreed to a professional code of conduct that requires that their counselors receive formal certification within one year of being hired.