Consumer credit counselors work to help consumers do several things with their finances. In some cases, they simply assist consumers who need help with financial management set up budgets and manage their bills. In these cases, they may also take charge of the consumer's paycheck, pay off bills, and leave the consumer with a certain allowance to spend on their own expenses. This often happens in cases where consumers have gotten into trouble financially because of poor money management, whereby they need assistance getting out and learning how to manage their money wisely.
In some cases, those involved in consumer credit counseling also contact creditors and work out payment arrangements for debts that have gone into arrears and need to be repaid. In this case, it may happen that it has been ordered that the consumer undergo this type of ''forced'' money management by courts because of the severity of the unpaid debts.
What Credit Counseling is Not
It should be noted that credit counseling is not a debt settlement service. With a debt settlement service, the company is asking creditors to accept less money than is owed in exchange for settling the account in question. This can help some consumers in severe credit card or other debt, but it should be noted that this can severely damage a credit report for quite some time. With credit counseling, on the other hand, the credit counselor generally does not ask the creditor to accept less of the original principal. Instead, he or she works with creditors to lower interest rates, forgive late fees, and in general set up a payment plan so that original debts are paid in full.
Participating in credit counseling can affect a consumer’s ability to get credit temporarily because a notice placed on an account saying that the consumer has done so; however, once participation in the program is complete, this note is removed.
As long as you're good with numbers, you can become a credit counselor at the most basic level. You have to show an aptitude for math, and it's also very helpful if you have good people skills, since you'll be working one-on-one with clients to help them resolve their debts.
It's also important to have a college degree if you want to advance. Although a math degree is helpful, it's not necessary. Again, you simply need an aptitude with numbers and with math. Some credit counseling agencies or other institutions that use credit counselors will require that you get certified through one of a number of training courses available for credit counselors.
In addition, those who have been involved in social work or have a degree in social work are also often highly desired as credit counselors. This is because they have the interpersonal and ''people'' skills, along with a desire to help, that credit counseling requires. People who are credit counselors will need good interpersonal skills, because people facing a lot of debt are generally very tense and unhappy, wondering what they'll do next. Therefore, having a soothing personality and the ability to make someone feel at ease is a great asset in the credit counseling industry.
It might surprise you to know that credit counseling agencies aren't the only places that use credit counselors. Banks, loan agencies, credit unions, and savings and loans also use credit counselors to help their clients get out of debt if they are in trouble. Oftentimes, if you pursue certification, the institution organization you receive your training through also has job placement capabilities.
Once you're hired as a credit counselor, you can advance in several ways. Some advance to manage other credit counselors under them in a supervisory capacity, while others may become directors of consumer counseling services. Again, as with any other type of industry, you may advance either within the organization you're already in or you may find advancement elsewhere.
In general, credit counselors make between $14 and $15 an hour, depending on experience.
Only you can decide whether credit counseling is the right career for you. As with any other job, it may be that you will have to try it out and see whether or not you like it. You don't have to stay with it if it's not for you; however, many people have found it very rewarding to be credit counselors, and job prospects for this industry look good for at least the next five to six years or so; this means that job security prospects are also good for the next several years.