Credit Counselor: Job Description & Career Info

Credit counselors advise consumers on their personal finances, including ways to avoid debt and strategies for paying off credit cards and loans. Continue reading to learn more about education requirements, professional skills, career outlook and salary prospects for credit counselors.

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Career Definition

A credit counselor examines a client's financial state and helps formulate a plan to reduce debts and build assets, often negotiating with creditors to make arrangements that are productive for all parties. A creditor may 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. Bank employees who work closely with consumers to manage personal debt are typically called loan counselors or loan officers.

How to Become a Credit Counselor

Required Education

Credit counselors must be trained in federal and state laws regarding lending, personal finance and banking practices. Banks or 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 will often be considered. In order to work, credit counselors may be required to pass a certification examination offered by their home state or a professional credit association.

Skills Required

A credit counselor will need good communication skills in order to negotiate effectively with clients and creditors. Math aptitude is important, and many agencies require experience with computers and accounting software. Facility with several languages will likely enhance an applicant's prospects.

Career and Salary Outlook

As of May 2012, the median annual income for credit counselors was $39,420, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Between 2012 and 2022, the BLS predicts that employment for credit counselors and loan officers in general will grow 9% nationwide, which is about average compared to other occupations (www.bls.gov).

Alternate Career Options

Insurance Sales Agents

Insurance sales agents sell casualty, health, life and long-term care insurance policies to businesses and consumers. All agents must have a state license, 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 reports that job opportunities from 2012-2022 are projected to increase by 10%, or as fast as average, for insurance sales agents, who earned median annual salaries of $48,150 in May 2012 (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. All 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. Agents and brokers earned median salaries of $41,990 in May 2012 and can look forward to an 11%, or fast as average, growth in jobs from 2012-2022, as reported by the BLS (www.bls.gov).

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