Should I Become a Housing Counselor?
Housing counselors are individuals who work for the U.S. government's Housing and Urban Development department, assisting potential and first-time home buyers as well as current home owners. Housing counselors can provide guidance through services offered by the HUD or make recommendations for what to do in any number of circumstances relating to housing.
The majority of housing counselors, as employees of the federal government, work full-time and enjoy a measure of job security, good pay, and benefits. Housing counselors work in an office setting, where they also meet with HUD clients. Housing counselors work during normal business hours, with few exceptions.
PayScale.com reported a median annual salary for housing counselors of $37,016 in 2016.
|Degree Level||High school diploma; some employers prefer 2-year degree or college coursework; bachelor's degree required for certain certifications|
|Degree Fields||Accounting, auditing, or career-related college coursework|
|Experience||2-3 years of experience|
|Certification and Licensure||Voluntary; some employers require specific certification within 6 months to one year of hire date; valid driver's license typically required|
|Key Skills||Verbal and written communication skills, organization skills, customer service skills; personal computer knowledge, typing skills of 35 words per minute or higher; finance, accounting or auditing skills, governmental housing assistance program experience|
|Salary (2016)||$37,016 per year (median)|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, PayScale.com
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Steps to Become a Housing Counselor
Let's review the steps you'll need to take to become a housing counselor:
Step 1: Receive Training
The U.S. government's HUD department offers a variety of services to potential homebuyers and for those who already own homes, including counseling. In order to become a HUD housing counselor, an individual must receive training in the department's programs, rules and regulations. Training programs are also available for those employed by agencies that participate in HUD programs and for individual housing counselors. Certification is offered by some of these programs, as well as scholarships that cover part or all of the training costs for those who qualify.
- Research available training through HUD-endorsed organizations. NeighborWorks is a HUD-endorsed program that offers coursework in a variety of topics, such as lending basics, compliance with state and federal regulations, education methods and introduction to housing counseling. The Home Ownership Network Learning Alliance is another training and certification program that is a HUD intermediary. Training is based on proven strategies and methods of delivery used by housing counselors, agencies and managers.
Step 2: Obtain Certification from Professional Organizations
Besides HUD certification, potential housing counselors can obtain certification from professional organizations. The National Association of Housing Counselors and Agencies (NAHCA) offers a comprehensive certification, and four additional specialized certification levels in tenancy, homeownership, agency and administration. Their Certified Professional Comprehensive Housing Counselor certification requires a bachelor's degree and six years of work experience, or a specific combination of six years of education and experience. A resume and three letters of recommendation are also required, along with NAHCA membership. To become certified, one must complete a training course and pass an examination.
Step 3: Gain Certification in Other State-Specific Programs
In addition to national programs, there are state-specific training programs for housing counselors. For example, the Association of Housing Counselors provides basic and advanced certification for counselors in North and South Carolina. Both tracks require written certification exams.
The basic certification includes an overview of housing counseling and studies in counseling skills, along with mortgage, budgeting and homeownership topics, and the advanced certification expands into financial management, the mortgage industry and higher-level counseling skills. State and local training programs can be found through the HUD website and through national and state housing departments and organizations.
Step 4: Continue Your Education
According to the National Industry Standards for Homeownership Education and Counseling, housing counselors should complete a minimum of 10 hours of continuing education annually to keep up with changes in the housing industry. Most certification programs require housing counselors to obtain continuing education in order to maintain and renew their credentials.
To become a housing counselor, you'll need to complete HUD training, obtain any certifications, and complete continued education requirements.