HND Counselling

The HND in Counselling at SCQF level 8 is a professional qualification, jointly awarded by SQA and the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP). The BACP is the professional association for members of the counselling professions in the UK.

The qualification embeds the BACP ethical framework for counselling professions and provides learners with the opportunity to develop their counselling skills via supervised practice with clients.

Learners will integrate their knowledge of the importance of contractual relationships and ethical and regulatory frameworks into their practice.

This qualification covers areas such as essential counselling skills, knowledge of theories, professional values, principles, and ethics, whilst allowing the learner to achieve the mandatory 100 hours of supervised placement hours.

This qualification is available through colleges.

Typically, an HND takes two years to complete on a full-time basis.

BACP Covid 19 Guidance

This subject will not have alternative assessment guidance for session 2023-24. You should refer to the Group Award/Unit specifications for detailed delivery and assessment information. For general support on delivery and assessment see the HNVQ assessment guidance 2023-24.

This HN Diploma has been developed by SQA in partnership with colleges, BACP, and the counselling sector ¿ so employers recognise that they provide sound evidence of ability.

The HN Diploma in Counselling is also particularly suitable for commercial marketing as it is designed as a professional qualification and allows successful learners the opportunity to access the National Register held by BACP. Access to the register is always at the discretion of BACP.

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.

The HN Diploma is designed specifically for those who wish to enter the counselling profession and gain access to the professional register. It is particularly suitable for returners to work, mature students, and those seeking a change in career.


As with all SQA qualifications, entry is at the discretion of the centre. As the HN Diploma includes client work, there are additional entry requirements in place to ensure patient (client) and learner safety.

The approved centre is required to evaluate the learner's potential to develop the relevant attributes against mandatory criteria. Prospective learners should contact the centre directly for further details.

Examples of formal entry qualifications to year 1 include:

  • appropriate groupings of National Units (such as 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 or volunteering experience

Different combinations of relevant National Qualifications, vocational qualifications, and equivalent qualifications from other awarding bodies may also be acceptable for entry to year 1.

Learners who have previously achieved the HNC in Counselling at SCQF level 7 may be eligible for acceptance into year 2 of the HND.

Progression and employment

No formal articulation agreements into Higher Education currently exist.

Learners who successfully achieve the HN Diploma and are accepted by BACP on to the professional register are qualified to practice either in an employed/self-employed, or voluntary basis.

Centres interested in offering the HN Diploma in Counselling are required to come forward for approval and should contact SQA's Business Development Team for guidance.

Further details on the additional quality assurance and approval requirements can be found in the group award specification.

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

The specific delivery requirements are set out in the group award specification. 

There are additional specific requirements in place which will be subject to external verification at both initial approval and future verification visits.

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

Ongoing course assessment will apply.

Centres are required to carry out a 'Readiness to Practice' assessment for each learner prior to any client work taking place and they must ensure that detailed Placement Contracts are in place

The HN Diploma includes a mandatory e-assessment unit, the BACP Certificate of Proficiency (CoP), which is administered in the delivering centre by BACP.

Assessment support packs are available for this qualification from the secure site.

Group award code: GM4H 16 (240 SCQF credit points).

This HND consists of 22 mandatory units (176 SCQF credit points) and 8 optional units (64 SCQF points).