HNC Counselling

Higher National Qualifications provide practical skills and theoretical knowledge that meet the needs of employers.

The HNC in Counselling (SCQF level 7) develops the learner’s knowledge and understanding of counselling theories and skills with the opportunity to apply these in classroom environments in simulated situations.

This qualification cover areas such as Humanistic, Psychodynamic and Cognitive Behavioural theories, Understanding and Working with Addictive Behaviours, and Personal Development in a Therapeutic Setting.

This qualification is available through colleges. Typically, an HNC takes one year to complete on a full-time basis.

This Higher National qualification has been developed by SQA in partnership with colleges and the counselling sector ¿ so employers recognise that they provide sound evidence of ability.

The unit-based structure supports flexibility. A unit is typically 40 hours of timetabled learning.

There is a wide choice of optional units which will enable centres to offer courses tailored to meet local needs.

This HNC provides progression routes to further study (see Progression).

The HNC is suitable for those wishing to access further education in counselling and those working or wishing to work in a caring environment such as the wider advice, guidance, and health and social care sectors.

It is also suitable for those who require knowledge and skills specifically drawn from counselling (for example, community work, criminal justice, education and health services, voluntary organisations, social work, and youth services).


As with all SQA qualifications, entry is at the discretion of the centre. Examples of formal entry qualifications include:

  • appropriate groupings of National Units (e.g. Counselling Theory for Practice at SCQF level 6)
  • any two National Qualifications at Higher together with three passes at National 4 or above
  • an SVQ at Level 2 or 3 in a relevant area
  • relevant work experience

Different combinations of relevant National Qualifications, vocational qualifications, and equivalent qualifications from other awarding bodies may also be acceptable.

Progression and employment

Learners who achieve the HNC in Counselling can apply to access year 2 of the HND in Counselling. However, as the HND is a professional qualification, acceptance is always at the discretion of the centre. Additional mandatory entry requirements specific to counselling apply.

Centres with devolved authority for approval should use their own internal approval process.

Centres without devolved authority require to come forward for approval and should contact SQA¿s Business Development Team for guidance.

Assessors and verifiers must be able to meet SQA¿s general requirements for technical/occupational competence as outlined in the Systems and Qualification Approval Guide.

Each individual unit specification gives detailed information on the evidence requirements and approaches to assessment for each unit.

Ongoing course assessment will apply.

Group award code: G8H6 15 (96 SCQF credit points).

This HNC consists of 7 mandatory units (56 SCQF credit points) and 5 optional units (40 SCQF credit points).