From working in finance to helping kids: How studying counselling created a more meaningful career

10 Jan 2017

Partner Content: Provided with the help of the Australian College of Applied Psychology (ACAP)

Callie Hooper recently landed her dream job as the Manager of the Gold Coast-based Paradise Kids, a charity helping children, teenagers and their parents deal with grief, loss and illness.

Speaking to Women’s Agenda just before Christmas, Hooper was preparing to welcome a number of families into the centre to collect toys and gifts that had been donated from the community. It was going to be a good day, she said.

It was also going to be a very different day to those she experienced working in the finance sector, in a career she’d spent decades working on. Hooper made the significant career move after studying a Bachelor of Counselling with the Australian College of Applied Psychology.

“I reached a point where I thought that my career didn’t feel meaningful,” Hooper said on the decision to leave finance. “I was approaching my middle life and I started asking myself, ‘What mark will I leave on the world? What will be my legacy?”

Having left school in year ten, Hooper joined the workforce as a shorthand typist, before landing in a stockbroking office and working her way up to more senior positions in finance. “There came a point when I left my first husband and I realised I had to fend for myself. Career would be everything in enabling me to be independent.”

So Hooper kept working at it and eventually went on to manage and consult with influential and wealthy clients. But when she started seeing a counsellor for personal reasons, she realised counselling could provide the career with meaning that she craved. “My life was so changed by that. I wanted to be that person [the counsellor she saw]. I saw it as an opportunity to pursue the meaningful work that I wanted.”  

After some research on counselling qualifications, she decided to study at the Brisbane-based ACAP campus because she liked the smaller class sizes on offer, as well as the opportunity to work closely with teachers. Starting her first ever academic study as a mature-aged student was a big step, but she says ACAP made her feel welcome and supported.  

The library at the Australian College of Applied Psychology

Hooper initially started the degree part time, without telling her then employer. Studying one subject at a time, she kept up the career in finance before deciding to take the massive leap – to quit her job, finish the degree by studying full-time, and commit herself to completing the required 250 hours of practical experience.

“I had started learning more about what my core values were and I realised I could no longer be authentic in the finance sector,” she said. “I had become an absolute sponge in class, listening to the experiences of teachers, and hearing them sharing their knowledge of what to expect in the real world of counselling.”

Hooper completed her practical experience with Paradise Kids, and knew within a couple of weeks of working there that it was where she was supposed to be. When a management position at the centre came up just as Hooper was graduating in May 2016, she also knew she had a great shot at landing the job. She had the corporate experience to help with the relationship building and fundraising; the newly minted qualification in counselling; as well as nine months work experience with the centre, where she’d proven her capabilities.

Securing the role not only put her in the place to be pursuing the meaningful career she wanted, but also reassured her that all those years she’d put into finance were worth it. “I had been wondering if I’d wasted all those years working in finance. Why had I been there? But once I applied for that position I was so grateful to have that experience behind me, knowing I had the skills and the expertise to really excel in the management position.”

The career change wasn’t an overnight move. Initially studying one subject a trimester and with a couple of deferred terms, it was a good seven years before Hooper became qualified.

It’s been a long journey, but one she says has been worth the perseverance. “Moving from the pressure-driven, deadline world of corporate finance to spending time with children and knowing I can make them feel a little bit better just makes things so much more meaningful,” she said.

“The fact I’m doing that makes me know I made the right decision.”

Looking to work towards a major career change of your own?

ACAP offers courses from VET to postgraduate level in counselling, coaching, psychology, social work, case management, social science and youth work. The next intake begins in February – contact the College for more information or to apply.

Australian College of Applied Psychology (ACAP)

Established over 30 years ago, the Australian College of Applied Psychology (ACAP) is a leader in applied psychology education, offering diploma to postgraduate courses in counselling, psychology, social work, coaching, social science, case management and youth work. ACAP offers specialist courses in counselling, psychology, coaching, social science, social work, youth work and case management and has over 5,500 students studying on-campus or online.


We are a registered higher education provider (HEP) and a nationally registered training organisation (RTO). Our Psychology degrees are accredited by the Australian Psychology Accreditation Council (APAC) and our higher education counselling degrees are accredited by the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA). 

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