Counsellor and Community Worker

Note: Completion of a TAFE SA course does not guarantee an employment outcome. Formal requirements other than educational qualifications (eg licensing, professional registration), may apply to some occupations.

Job Prospects
Projected future job openings are strong.
Median weekly earnings: $1500
Source: 2022
Counsellors and community workers act as a source of information and advice to individuals and communities. They advocate on behalf of their clients and work to develop community based services, such as improved literacy services, financial advisory services and help for migrants.

Over half are employed full-time and most work in the health care and social assistance; public administration and safety. The average age is 43 years and 74% are female.
  • Many people have personal or social needs that cannot be met at home or at work, which can cause emotional, physical or psychological hardship. But those needs don't have to be overlooked. Luckily, there are services and facilities designed to help. You will be working with community groups, identifying what services people actually need. They work alongside welfare officers and various community service agencies, to encourage and assist people to meet those needs. They are also instrumental in the development of community services, which can have a powerful effect on people's lives. They help all types of people, of different ages and in various settings. It could be the residents of a nursing home, young people at a youth shelter, people at a centre for the disabled, people in Aboriginal communities or migrants and refugees that need their support.

    Helping and Community ServicesInfluencing and Personal Contact

  • Of those currently employed 64% have Bachelor Degrees or higher qualifications; 16% have Advanced Diplomas or Diplomas. While 10% have no post school qualifications it is recommended that further study be undertaken to remain competitive when applying for work within the industry.

    TAFE SA offers courses relevant to this occupation including the Diploma of Counselling, Diploma of Community Services, Diploma of Financial Counselling and Diploma of Mental Health. Pathways include Certificate III and IV in Community Services, Certificate IV in Child, Youth and Family Intervention (Family Support), Certificate IV in Mental Health and Certificate IV in Youth Work.

    Studying at TAFE SA is one of the easiest and most successful pathways towards a University Degree. Dual offer courses are available with TAFE SA and Flinders University or The University of Adelaide with the Diploma of Community Services, Diploma of Counselling and Diploma of Mental Health.

    Still unsure? Then try a short course also offered through TAFE SA. Check the website for the full list of short courses.

  • Counsellors may specialise in working with a particular group such as people from non-English-speaking backgrounds, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people or single parents. Or they may specialise in a service area such as health, accommodation, relationships, employment, career development, grief and loss, stress management, child development and abuse issues.

    Employment forecasts indicate above average employment prospects in this occupation. An increase in a range of social problems, such as a growing number of homeless people, marriage breakdowns, increasing numbers of people with financial difficulties, unemployment and literacy problems, all indicate an ongoing need for community services. However, despite growth in this occupation, there are large numbers in training and competition for available places can be intense. Employment prospects also depend on the level of government funding allocated to community organisations.

  • Most counsellors and community workers are working in community and health service organisations. These organisations offer a wide range of support services to the community, including family support, resettlement programs for migrants and refugees, community and adult education, counselling services and programs for children. They also undertake various community projects. Counsellors and community workers are employed to plan, develop and deliver these programs and services. This may involve the delivery of adult literacy programs or programs that help women prepare for re-entry into the workforce. Financial planning is another area where some people in the community need special help.

  • Counsellors assist people to better understand themselves by explaining options, setting goals and helping them to take action. They work with clients to find solutions to emotional, mental and lifestyle problems. They can also act as facilitators in group sessions or as mediators in conflict resolution. They work with other professionals such as medical practitioners, psychologists and social workers as part of a health management team.

    Counsellors need to have sympathetic and caring nature. It is essential that they have good communication skills, a high level of maturity and good life-coping skills.

  • Counsellors and community workers often have clients referred to them by government agencies, such as Centrelink or Family and Children Services, or by non-government organisations. Clients also approach the services themselves. An important task for community workers involves establishing support networks to assist in the promotion of their organisation's services and programs. They communicate with non-government and government organisations to advise them on how clients can better access their services. For example, migrants might be disadvantaged when trying to find accommodation, in which case, community workers might encourage the relevant agencies to employ translators to assist them. They are also required to continually evaluate the effectiveness of community services and programs. Evaluation also helps to pinpoint what new services may be required in the future.

    They generally work in an office environment seeing clients, however a considerable amount of time is spent out of the office networking with other community organisations and government departments. To work in this occupation you should be genuinely interested in community issues and working with people. Good communication skills are a must. Not only should you have a rapport with your clients, but you may also be required to liaise with government agencies on their behalf. The ability to resolve conflict quickly is an essential part of this job.

    For further information, contact:

    Australian Counselling Association
    Phone: 1300 784 333
    Fax: (07) 3356 4709

    Australian Community Workers Association
    Phone: (03) 9654 8287

    Health Services Union of Australia (SA)
    Phone: (08) 8279 2255
    Fax: (08) 8279 2223