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What is the Difference Between a Credit Counselor and a Financial Health Counselor?

By November 8, 2018 No Comments

At the National Association of Certified Credit Counselors, we offer two primary designations: Certified Credit Counselor and Certified Financial Health Counselor. These two core programs are the cornerstone of NACCC certifications, serving as the entryway to more advanced certifications in student loan counseling, housing, and financial and career coaching, as well as our continuing education courses.

Choosing your first certification is the beginning of your education journey, so it is important to choose the one that is most beneficial to you.

 

The key to both certifications

The courses have one major similarity. Both courses share the Keys to Success manual. The manual covers a broad range of financial counseling subjects and issues. The full Keys to Success outline is visible in both our credit counseling and financial health counseling learning portals, with a summarized list below:

  • Establishing the client/counselor relationship
  • Rapport building
  • Poverty, culture, and socioeconomic variables (understanding diversity)
  • Active listening
  • The problem-solving process
  • Banking basics
  • Credit basics
  • Using credit wisely
  • Understanding credit reports
  • Credit scoring
  • Debt collection
  • Getting out of debt
  • Bankruptcy
  • Ethics
  • Consumer resources

The certifications share a manual to make sure that all NACCC counselors share the same foundation of knowledge to move forward in their careers. It ensures all NACCC counselors have the knowledge, skills and abilities required to be capable, competent and successful in the diverse field of financial counseling.

While the specific definitions of the two certifications are different, counselors with either certification are likely to encounter clients with similar financial problems. This is not to discourage financial counselors from being proactive with approaching client problems, or to claim that a certain type of counselor can only adhere to strict sets of responsibilities or client demographics. However, outlining the subtle differences between the two programs allows aspiring financial counselors to determine the best certification for them.

 

How are the certifications different?

Credit counseling is defined as a process used to assist debtors through education, spending plans and the use of a variety of resources. Credit counselors work to reduce or eliminate debt, empowering the client to move forward with their financial goals.

The Certified Credit Counselor program includes the Credit Counseling Today supplement, which has additional information on handling debt, such as:

  • Exploring options and alternatives when facing debt
  • Debt management planning
  • Credit card history, credit deregulation, and credit card use among the general population

 

Financial health is defined as the state of one’s personal finances. Financial health includes savings, retirement and how much of one’s income is spent on fixed or non-discretionary expenses.

The Certified Financial Health Counselor Program includes the Essential Financial Topics supplement, which has additional information on stages of life planning and the unexpected obstacles that come with them, such as:

  • Student loans
  • Housing
  • Retirement planning and investments

 

Which certification is the best choice for me?

The certification you choose will most likely be based on your job and your client base. Review the subject matter of the two supplements listed above. Which subjects and issues do you encounter more frequently with your clients? What types of questions are your clients asking? What problems does your job focus on solving? As you answer these questions, you will get a feeling for which certification is best for you.

Counselors who regularly encounter clients facing bankruptcy or clients ready to begin debt management plans are likely to find more use of the credit counselor certification supplement material. Typically, a certified credit counselor explores debt management plans or negotiates with creditors.

Meanwhile, counselors who are assisting clients with obstacles that come with issues such as student loans, housing, or retirement, may find they benefit from the financial health counselor certification. A financial health counselor is usually more focused on these life planning events when working with clients.

 

Counselor goals defined

The similar goals of the two types of counselors are outlined in the table below.

Primary Goal Secondary Goal
Certified Credit Counselor Improving credit score, exploring financial alternatives, improving overall financial health Negotiating with creditors, exploring debt management plans and other options
Certified Financial Health Counselor Improving credit score, exploring financial alternatives, improving overall financial health Assisting with obstacles concerning student loans, housing counseling, and other issues

Both types of counselors share the same primary goals for their clients, but have different secondary goals.

At NACCC, we generally recommend the credit counseling certification for counselors in positions that frequently work with clients seeking debt management plans and other solutions. In contrast, counselors working for community and government organizations, specifically those that help people in crisis situations (for example, domestic violence or gambling addiction) are more likely to benefit from a financial health certification.

Above all, a counselor should choose the certification that best matches their interests and needs.

Are you interested in earning both certifications? Preferred pricing is available for dual enrollments.

 

Which certification do you have? Or which one are you considering? Let us know in the comments below!

If you have any questions about NACCC certifications, you can ask in the comments or contact our office directly.