Consumer Credit Counselor

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Consumer Credit Counselor

Education and Training: High school plus training

Salary: Median—$34,436 per year

Employment Outlook: Very good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Consumer credit counselors help customers to use credit wisely. Some of them work for businesses that give credit. These businesses include loan agencies, banks, credit unions, and large stores. Counselors in these businesses usually work under the supervision of a credit manager. Other counselors work for consumer credit counseling agencies, which do not give credit. The main purpose of these agencies is to give advice on the handling of money.

People often want to borrow money to make a major purchase such as a house or a car. Sometimes they ask for a loan to pay for a vacation or for college tuition expenses. They may want to open a charge account so that they can buy clothing or household needs. Sometimes people want to borrow money to pay back a large number of bills all at once.

Consumer credit counselors help decide whether customers are likely to pay back the money that they want to borrow. Counselors ask customers questions such as how much money they earn, where they live, how long they have lived there, and how many children they have. Counselors may also get additional financial information about their customers from banks or credit bureaus. They advise the customers and extend credit to those customers whom they consider able and willing to pay the money back on time.

Even people with good intentions sometimes have trouble paying all their bills on time. Consumer credit counselors can help these people manage their money better. Some credit counselors help people to make budgets and plan ahead. Sometimes people cannot pay their bills because of an unexpected crisis, such as an accident or illness. In such cases, counselors can sometimes arrange to stretch their clients' payments out over a longer period of time. Counselors can also help customers to avoid future trouble by teaching them how to handle their money wisely.

Consumer credit counselors spend much of their time talking to customers. They must also fill out forms and use formulas to help them make decisions. They often work with computerized information.

Education and Training Requirements

Consumer credit counselors need at least a high school education. An aptitude for math and numbers is important, and some business courses would be useful. A college education is also desirable for those who want to advance. Training or experience in social work is useful for counselors working in nonprofit agencies. Those who want to work for profit-making businesses will find that college courses in business administration are helpful.

Counselors learn most of their skills on the job. There are also several formal training courses that can help them to advance. After they have worked for a full year and have taken a series of courses, they can receive professional certification. Although certification is not always required by employers, it can speed advancement.

Getting the Job

Interested individuals can apply directly to consumer credit counseling agencies or to loan agencies, banks, credit unions, or large stores. School placement offices can also help candidates find a job. State and private employment agencies often list job openings. Newspaper classifieds may provide other job leads. Prospective credit counselors might also try searching job banks on the Internet.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Advancement depends on location and experience. Some counselors become credit managers and supervise other workers. Others become directors of consumer credit counseling agencies.

The employment outlook for consumer credit counselors is very good through the year 2014. More people are using credit to buy the goods and services that they want or need. They often need help and advice with credit problems. Businesses are making greater use of electronic data processing machines to help them make credit decisions. However, the machines cannot take over the personal contact of counseling. Jobs will be opening to replace counselors who leave the field.

Working Conditions

Consumer credit counselors generally work in pleasant offices. They usually work between thirty-five and forty hours a week. Sometimes they must work in the evenings or on Saturdays. Counselors need to be able to deal with all kinds of people. Credit problems make many people tense. Counselors must be able to make them feel at ease. Counselors often find great reward in helping people solve their money problems.

Where to Go for More Information

American Collectors Association
P.O. Box 390106
Minneapolis, MN 55439
(952) 926-6547

American Financial Services Association
919 Eighteenth St. NW, Ste. 300
Washington, DC 20006-5517
(202) 296-5544

National Foundation for Credit Counseling
801 Roeder Rd., Ste. 900
Silver Spring, MD 20910
(301) 589-5600

Earnings and Benefits

Salaries vary depending on education, experience, and location. People in the credit counseling field earn a median salary of $34,436 per year. Benefits include paid holidays and vacations, health insurance, and pension plans.