Student Advice

What Is A CPCAB Qualification?

Karis Nash  · Aug 5th 2022

Looking to become a registered counsellor but have no previous experience or qualifications? This is where CPCAB comes in.


CPCAB stands for Counselling and Psychotherapy Central Awarding Body and is one of the UK’s leading awarding bodies specialising in counselling. They form part of the Counselling Psychology Services Group (CPS), and offer an array of courses, from level 2 counselling courses online to level 6 qualifications.

CPCAB courses provide you with the knowledge you need to become a registered counsellor in the UK. It is the only awarding body run by counsellors for counsellors, therefore you can be sure the curriculum you study is 100 percent relevant.


What are CPCAB qualifications?

CPCAB qualifications are designed to educate students on all elements of counselling, psychiatry and life coaching. Through research, the curricular on CPCAB courses stays up-to-date and relevant.

To become a qualified counsellor in the UK, you need to obtain a minimum of a Level 4 Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling. To get here, you are required to complete both level 2 and level 3 counselling qualifications. On the CPCAB website you can find a unique progression route which defines the pathway to becoming a qualified counsellor.

There are six levels to CPCAB qualifications. These are:

  • CPCAB Level 2: For candidates with no previous training or experience.
  • CPCAB Level 3: For candidates who have undertaken counselling skill training.
  • CPCAB Level 4: For those who have undertaken level 3 counselling skills.
  • CPCAB Level 5: For those who have completed a level 4 diploma.
  • CPCAB Level 6: For candidates who have completed a level 5 diploma.

Within these six levels, CPCAB offers a variety of qualifications. These CPCAB courses differ in price and length. The qualification options are:

Level 2 counselling CPCAB courses:

  • Award in Understanding Substance Misuse
  • Award in Introduction to Counselling Skills
  • Award Effective Listening Skills
  • Certificate in Counselling Skills

Level 3 counselling CPCAB courses:

  • Certificate in Counselling Studies
  • Certificate in Life Coaching Studies

Level 4 counselling CPCAB courses:

  • Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling
  • Diploma in Life Coaching

Level 5 counselling CPCAB courses:

  • Diploma in Psychotherapeutic Counselling
  • Diploma in Cognitive Behavioural Therapeutic Skills and Theory

Level 6 counselling CPCAB courses:

  • Certificate in Therapeutic Counselling Supervision

It is also possible to complete a foundation degree at the Open University which incorporates CPCAB qualifications. This degree includes the CPCAB Level 4 Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling, a mandatory Open University module, plus a choice of Open University modules and optional CPCAB level 5 practitioner qualifications.

CPCAB are regulated by Ofqual in England, Qualifications Wales in Wales and CCEA Regulation in Northern Ireland.

How much do CPCAB courses cost?

Course fees tend to change yearly, so it is difficult to say an exact cost. Moreover, depending on the level of study, CPCAB courses will differ in price. It is also important to bear in mind what centre you will be undergoing the qualification at. Fees may vary from centre to centre.

For the most part, CPCAB courses cost between £134 - £366, as of the 2022/23 academic year. This fee is the initial qualification approval fee, however on top of this you will also need to pay a candidate registration fee. These also vary depending on the course and its level. Prices vary from £56 - £346, as of the 2022/23 academic year. If you are completing a Level 4 counselling diploma, you will be required to pay the candidate registration fee twice as it is a two year course.

If you find yourself in a position where you have to retake an exam, you may need to spend a little more. Retaking a CPCAB exam is, in a sense, similar to retaking your GCSEs or retaking your A-Levels as it encounters a fee, however unlike GCSE’s and A-Levels, you are only able to retake CPCAB exams up to two times. Fees range between £98 - £235 dependent on the level of study. If you wish to appeal your grade, you will need to pay between £174 - £346, as of the 2022/23 academic year.

Are there funding options?

It is possible to receive funding for some CPCAB courses. Typically, the government funding offered for CPCAB courses take the form of an Advanced Learner Loan. This is similar to receiving a bursary, grant or scholarship for university.

You will find all of the information, including if you are eligible for funding, on the Department of Education website. If you have any queries regarding funding, you will need to contact CPCAB directly.

How long does it take to complete CPCAB courses?

Becoming a qualified counsellor with CPCAB can take up to four years. The length of each individual course varies, with level 2 and level 3 studies taking up to one year whilst counselling Diplomas can take two years to complete.

One year CPCAB courses are typically taught over 30 weeks at three hours per week. This is a minimum of 90 hours either in a classroom or online. Two year courses will involve 1 day per week of teaching. Alongside this, you’ll be required to complete 100 hours of client work, clinical supervision and personal therapy.


Do I need a CPCAB to become a qualified counsellor?

If you already have relevant qualifications you may not need to complete a CPCAB course to become a registered Counsellor in the UK.

To work as a counsellor you will need a minimum of a Level 4 Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling. To work independently, you will need to complete a level 5 counselling course and/or gain enough experience to achieve counselling accreditation from BACP (British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy).

To study for the CPCAB Level 4 Diploma you will need to have completed the Level 2 Certificate in Counselling Skills and Level 3 Certificate in Counselling Studies. If you already have a degree in a related field, such as a Psychotherapy degree, you may be able to fast-track to the Level 4 Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling. However, you will need to check with whichever training centre you choose to complete the diploma with, as there may be knowledge gaps, such as how to build trusting relationships, which were not covered on your degree.

Other qualifications work just as well as the CPCAB, however, the CPCAB Level 4 Diploma meets the entry requirements for many professional bodies. Entering into one of these organisations before beginning your career is recommended as the job title is not recognised by law, meaning anyone is able to claim to be in the profession. Due to this, counselling bodies, such as BACP, have set out stands of ethical and safe practice.

CPCAB is the only awarding body run by counsellors for counsellors, therefore you can be sure the curriculum you study is 100 percent relevant.

What is the difference between the CPCAB and the BACP?

Both CPCAB and BACP are counselling bodies, however CPCAB is an examination board which awards qualifications, whereas the BACP is a professional membership body.

BACP is an organisation made up of individual members and member organisations who share a common interest in counselling. They set standards in the industry, especially through their counselling accreditation scheme and competences and curricula frameworks. The organisation does also approve course content, however as they are not externally regulated they cannot award counselling qualifications. Whereas, CPCAB are regulated by Ofqual in England, Qualifications Wales in Wales and CCEA Regulation in Northern Ireland, hence the allowing of CPCAB courses.

Am I ready for counselling training?

Counselling training involves experimental elements, which will involve personal disclosure and development activities. Therefore, if you are currently experiencing any kind of emotional difficulty or severe psychological distress, undergoing CPCAB counselling training is not advisable.

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