A credit counselor examines a client's financial state and helps formulate a plan to reduce debts and build assets. Credit counselors often negotiating with creditors to make arrangements that are productive for all parties. Creditors might offer better terms to delinquent clients if a credit counselor intercedes on their behalf. Most counselors are employed by agencies dedicated to assisting consumers with housing, employment and credit issues, but some are freelancers who find their own clients or work with agencies as contractors.
How to Become a Credit Counselor
|Degree Level||Bachelor's degree|
|Degree Field(s)||Business, economics, finance, or related field|
|Licensure/Certification||Certification requirements vary by state|
|Experience||2+ years in finance (experience can sometimes substitute for education)|
|Key Skills||good communication skills; math aptitude; experience with computers and accounting software; familiar with federal and state laws regarding lending, personal finance, and banking practices; foreign language fluency a plus|
|Job Outlook (2014-2024)||15% growth|
|Mean Annual Salary (2015)||$49,310|
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Credit counselors must be trained in federal and state laws regarding lending, personal finance and banking practices. Credit agencies generally look for candidates with a bachelor's degree in business or economics and a few years of experience in finance, although applicants with less schooling and more experience often are considered. Additionally, credit counselors may be required to pass a certification examination offered by their home state or a professional credit association.
Credit counselors need good communication skills in order to negotiate effectively with clients and creditors. Math aptitude is important as well, and many agencies require experience with computers and accounting software. Facility with several languages also could enhance an applicant's prospects.
Career and Salary Outlook
As of May 2015, the mean annual income for credit counselors was $49,310, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Between 2014 and 2024, employment for credit counselors could grow by 15%, which is much faster than the BLS projection for all occupations (www.bls.gov).
Alternate Career Options
Let's look at two similar career options that might interest you.
Insurance Sales Agents
Insurance sales agents sell casualty, health, life and long-term care insurance policies to businesses and consumers. All agents must have state licensure, and prerequisites typically include a high school diploma and a passing score on an industry exam. Completion of a bachelor's degree program, along with courses in business, economics, finance and public speaking, may be helpful.
The BLS projected that job opportunities for insurance sales agents could increase by 9% from 2014-2024, which was faster than average. Insurance sales agents earned a mean annual salary of $64,790 in May 2015 (www.bls.gov).
Real Estate Brokers and Sales Agents
Real estate brokers and sales agents show and help potential buyers and tenants purchase or rent commercial or residential properties. Agents and brokers must be at least 18 years old and have a state license. Requirements include a high school diploma, coursework in real estate and a passing score on an industry exam.
Brokers, who are licensed to work on their own, earned a mean annual salary of $80,210 in May 2015, while sales agents, who are required to work with a broker, made a mean annual salary of $58,410. Job growth for these professionals was expected to be slower than average, with the BLS projecting a 3% increase from 2014-2024.
In summary, credit counselor's advise consumers on their personal finances by offering ways to avoid debt and strategies for paying off debt. Job growth in this field should be must faster than average and credit counselor's can expect an average salary of more than $49,000 per year.