What sorts of qualifications do financial counselors need to have? That is a question I encounter frequently from people who are interested in becoming financial counselors. And in answering this question, I usually point out that the qualifications necessary for financial counselors fall into three broad categories, namely:
- Professional qualifications: there are certain professional courses available for people who wish to become financial counselors. Going through such courses gives you the specialized skills you need to function effectively as a financial counselor. You see, counseling work is not as simple as it looks. ‘Counseling’ is not the same thing as ‘advising’. Counseling entails much more. It entails getting the client to look within himself, and find solutions within himself. And for you to be an effective facilitator in that process, you need to have certain specialized counseling skills.
- Educational qualifications: you need to have a solid educational background, for you to be able to function as an effective financial counselor. If, for instance, you have an economic, accounting, financial management or psychology background, you may be better placed to function as a financial counselor.
- Personal competencies: these include things like the ability to empathize with others, the ability to be a good listener, the ability to communicate well… and so on. You have to understand that as a financial counselor, people will be coming to you with complex problems – and in search of workable solutions from you. But they will, first and foremost, be looking for someone to share their burdens with. Some won’t even be looking for solutions, but rather, for someone to share their burdens with. Someone may, for instance, visit your office and tell you that he has defaulted on his premier credit card payments. So you are expected to be a good listener, in order to understand the problem. Then you are expected to be in a position to empathize with the problem, once you manage to understand it. Beyond that, you are expected to have good communication skills, to be able to walk with the client through the process of identifying possible solutions… So those are personal competencies. Some are inborn. Others are skills you may be able to develop as you go through the professional training. Either way, you must have those skills, to be able to function well as a financial counselor.