Advice workers provide free, impartial and confidential advice to clients on a range of issues, such as debt, employment and housing

As an advice worker you'll support your clients by providing quality, independent information and advice to help them address their problems and prevent them from getting worse.

You'll deliver this advice in a range of ways, such as:

  • face-to-face appointments
  • telephone
  • email
  • web-chat.

Clients may present with a single issue or more complex linked problems that require specialist support. With your help, clients can move forward and resolve their issues.

You could be based in a variety of settings including community centres, doctors' surgeries, and courts and prisons, as well as in dedicated advice or call centres.

Types of advice worker

It's common to start work as a general adviser covering many topics. You could then move on to specialise in a particular area, such as:

  • benefits
  • consumer rights and utilities
  • debt and money
  • employment
  • family
  • health
  • housing
  • immigration
  • legal.

Responsibilities

As an advice worker, you'll need to:

  • interview clients and listen to their problems in order to gather facts so that you can work out how best to advise them
  • explain the range of choices available to them and what they mean
  • consider options and identify the best possible course of action
  • carry out research where necessary to find out more in-depth information
  • provide practical help such as writing letters, making phone calls and helping clients fill in forms
  • carry out calculations to work out things such as entitlement to particular benefits
  • refer your clients to other services and sources of help where appropriate, for example to a solicitor or social worker
  • mediate in mixed counselling sessions, e.g. couples and families
  • represent your client where necessary - this may involve contacting financial institutions, housing providers or the legal system
  • be organised and able to work to a schedule of appointments
  • keep records of client cases
  • use an interpreter if necessary
  • produce information for publications, leaflets and web pages
  • promote the services on offer and distribute publicity materials
  • liaise with other internal departments and external organisations
  • keep up to date with appropriate legislation and policies
  • write reports and compile statistics on cases covered and services provided
  • provide training or talks to internal staff or external organisations
  • set up support groups
  • maintain confidential case records and administrative systems.

Salary

  • Starting salaries for trainee advice workers are typically between £16,000 and £19,500.
  • With experience you could earn around £20,000 to £25,000. In a supervisory position, you could earn up to £30,000.
  • At senior level, with some management responsibility, salaries range from £25,000 to £40,000. Chief officers with leadership, strategic and entrepreneurial skills may earn more.

You're likely to start in a volunteer role before moving on to become a paid adviser.

Salaries are often dependent on external, and sometimes unpredictable, sources of funding. Benefits can include a pension scheme.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Working hours are typically 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, although advice sessions are sometimes offered in the evenings and at weekends. Some organisations offer a telephone advice and web-chat service outside normal office hours.

Part-time work is common and flexible working is often available, which may also include job sharing.

What to expect

  • Some positions, particularly those in the voluntary sector, are only available on temporary contracts due to short-term funding.
  • Jobs are available in most towns and cities, but rarely in rural areas.
  • The job can be challenging as you are often working with clients in crisis, who may be anxious, upset and angry. It can also be rewarding if you are able to find a way to resolve their issues.
  • The work is usually office-based. Some local travel may be required during the day between advice centres.

Qualifications

You don't need a degree to work as an advice worker and employers generally look for candidates with relevant skills and experience.

However, many people do hold a degree and in some cases a postgraduate or professional qualification as well. Depending on the type of advice you're providing, the following subjects may be useful:

  • business and/or finance
  • community studies, cultural studies and youth studies
  • counselling
  • education
  • law
  • politics
  • psychology
  • social administration, social policy and social work
  • sociology.

Entry with an HND is possible. Any subject that gives knowledge of, or demonstrates an interest in law, finance, communication or social work is useful. In particular, the following HND subjects may increase your chances:

  • business studies/administration
  • legal studies
  • public administration
  • social sciences.

There are some limited opportunities for legal advice apprenticeships.

You don't need a postgraduate qualification for this role but subjects such as law or social work are particularly relevant if you do wish to study at a higher level.

Qualifications in areas such as counselling or guidance are also valued by employers.

Skills

You'll need to show:

  • interpersonal, communication and IT skills
  • the ability to relate to people from different backgrounds
  • a caring, sensitive and non-judgemental manner
  • a flexible approach to work
  • the ability to work on your own initiative as well as part of a team
  • resourcefulness, problem-solving skills and attention to detail
  • the ability to cope with challenging and emotionally-charged situations
  • written skills suitable for writing letters on a client's behalf and making good case records
  • numeracy skills suitable for working out benefit entitlements and other financial matters
  • tact and diplomacy to deal with sensitive and confidential information
  • a collaborative approach to work as you'll be liaising with other organisations and agencies
  • awareness of equality and diversity issues
  • knowledge of an ethnic minority language - while not essential for many posts, this may give you an advantage.

Work experience

Volunteer experience is an important, and sometimes essential, factor in securing paid employment. It's also a good way of making contacts and showing your commitment to, and enthusiasm for, the role.

There can be a high level of competition for a relatively low number of paid positions, as it's common for advice work to be done by volunteers. Find out more about volunteering with Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland.

Experience in dealing with people and running administrative systems is also valuable. Other relevant work experience includes working in customer service or in your local community. Legal experience is useful for some specialist roles.

Employers

One of the main sources of employment for advice workers in England and Wales is the Citizens Advice service, delivered through a network of over 270 independent local Citizens Advice charities. The service employs over 7,000 paid staff (national and local) and more than 18,000 volunteers.

Citizens Advice operates independently in Scotland. For more information, see Citizens Advice Scotland. In Northern Ireland, advice is provided by Advice NI.

See Advice UK for details of other independent advice centres offering general or specialist advice in a range of areas, including mental health, single parent families and homelessness.

Other employers include:

  • charities such as Shelter, Mind and Age UK
  • further education (FE) colleges and students' union welfare offices
  • local authorities
  • National Health Service (NHS)
  • professional bodies
  • trade unions
  • universities.

Look for job vacancies at:

Professional development

Organisations usually offer their own training programmes, providing general or more in-depth training on the areas in which they give advice. Most programmes include basic legal training and courses in communication and problem solving. Training usually involves a combination of induction programmes, training and mentoring.

Citizens Advice has a coordinated staff training and development strategy, ensuring staff receive comprehensive training.

Advice UK provides a range of training and qualifications for advice workers in all areas of advice, including an industry-standard ten-day 'Learning to Advise' programme.

Other advice-work qualifications include the Level 3 NVQ/SVQ Certificate in Advice and Guidance and the Level 4 NVQ/SVQ Diploma in Advice and Guidance.

Career prospects

Career development may involve moving away from providing advice, at least for some of the time. Promotion is often linked with taking on additional or different responsibilities, such as:

  • recruiting and managing volunteers
  • training new staff
  • managing an advice centre
  • promoting advice centre services and developing marketing strategies
  • income generation and financial management.

Although opportunities do exist to move into advice centre management, there are relatively few management positions. Some advice centres are cooperatively run, with no hierarchical job structure.

You could decide to further your career by developing expertise in a specialised area of advice work, such as housing or debt and finance.

If you enjoy client work, you may decide to undertake further training in counselling. Alternatively, you could take professional or academic qualifications that allow you to work in related areas such as law or social care.

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