Counsellor salaries in Australia: What to expect

In Australia, the demand for qualified counsellors is high, with a 14.2 per cent growth in the profession predicted in the five years leading up to 2026. Whether it’s providing guidance in times of crisis or helping people navigate life, the role of a counsellor is vital when it comes to supporting wellbeing. 

With so many opportunities to explore in this field, counselling salaries can cover a broad spectrum. Specialisations vary across specific roles and industries, with the highest-paying areas including face-to-face support in private practice, family and relationship counselling, financial counselling and mental health counselling. 

Here, we outline common roles and workplace settings for counsellors and answer the all-important question: On average, what is a counsellor's salary in Australia? We also spoke with Philip Armstrong, who served as CEO of the Australian Counselling Association (ACA) for twenty-three years from 2000-2023, who shares his expertise. 

Counsellor salaries: averages and location-dependant roles

The amount you earn as a counsellor will vary due to a number of factors, including:

  • your area of specialisation
  • your qualifications 
  • your level of experience

According to Seek, the average annual salary for a counsellor in Australia is about $80,000 to $95,000. The median weekly earning for a counsellor is $1,652 per week — this is higher than the median across Australian jobs. 

Depending on your industry, your average salary can vary. Seek reports that some industries with a high average for counsellor salaries include:

  • Government and defence ($93,384 per year)
  • Healthcare and medical ($86,760 per year)
  • Education and training ($86,474 per year) 

Armstrong adds that the counselling salaries are typically broad and can “vary depending on the qualifications you have, where you’re located and where you’re working. You may earn more, for example, if you’re in private practice.”

Counsellor salaries across Australia

Location can play a surprising role in how much you earn as a counsellor. You might think salaries would be higher in the major cities, such as Sydney and Melbourne, but roles in rural and regional areas in Australia may, in fact, pay more. This is usually due to the lower number of counsellors in those locations.

Armstrong explains, “When it comes to employment, there’s work all over the country and certainly those positions in rural and regional areas pay very well.” 

The following averages give an overview of counsellor salaries in Australia, sourced from 

  • Adelaide: $92,975 average
  • Alice Springs: $97,084 average
  • Broome: $89,508 average
  • Cairns: $91,618 average
  • Canberra: $90,625 average
  • Darwin: $88,800 average
  • Hobart: $76,836 average
  • Melbourne: $80,127 average
  • Perth: $86,000 average
  • Sydney: $78,267 average

When searching for counselling jobs in Australia, it’s also important to also look at the benefits offered by some organisations that extend beyond salary. Armstrong says that many employers also offer generous superannuation, salary packaging and salary-sacrificing opportunities.

Remember that not all roles will be listed as "counsellor". Other roles to look out for might include community health worker, family therapist or social worker. “A lot of these jobs listed don’t actually use the word ‘counsellor’, so don't just type in ‘counsellor’ when looking for jobs,” Armstrong advises, adding that employers will look to employ those with a counselling qualification for a range of therapeutic roles.

What employers look for in counsellors

Employers are seeking people with the right qualifications and relevant registrations. Typically, you will need:

  • an approved qualification
  • to be registered with the ACA
  • industry experience will help enhance your resume and improve your knowledge and skills.

Armstrong explains a little about the current market: “Right now, there is a shortage, particularly of counsellors outside the capital cities – Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney primarily.”

He adds that employers typically look for counsellors with a minimum of two years of postgraduate experience for most roles. But he says given the high demand for staff, there are many employment opportunities for those with a qualification and ACA registration, even with limited experience.

Armstrong also recommends diversifying your skill set to avoid burnout. “Working face to face, particularly in private practice, can be challenging,” he says. “Something I say to people going into counselling is that you will do some face-to-face work but you may also want to work with families in mediation or with employee assistant programs.” 

If you already have an undergraduate degree or want to advance your skills, a postgraduate degree like the University of Canberra Online’s Master of Counselling will set you on the right path. The program is recognised as a professional qualification in counselling and accredited by the ACA, in line with their Professional Training Standards. 

How a Master of Counselling from the University of Canberra can help

The Master of Counselling from UC is designed to empower you with the practical skills identified by industry experts as essential for addressing the diverse needs of individuals and communities.

One standout feature is the opportunity to engage in real-world placements with accredited counselling agencies. This hands-on experience allows you to apply your knowledge in meaningful ways. Whether you aspire to help individuals navigate crises, gain perspective on life challenges, or find purpose, this program equips you to deliver the transformative power of effective counselling.

The curriculum is research-led and delivered through interactive teaching methods – ensuring you receive the most up-to-date and evidence-based knowledge. During placement units, you’ll work closely with clinical supervisors, gaining invaluable practical experience that sets the stage for a successful counselling career.

Flexible study options make it easy to study at a time that suits you. Tutorials are recorded – watch them anytime, anywhere. A dedicated Student Success Adviser is also available to support you throughout the program. 

Start earning as a counsellor

Ready to begin a career in counselling? At University of Canberra, intakes are open every two months, so you can start studying anytime and apply your knowledge and skills in an industry where you can really make a difference. 

To take the first step:

Related study options