'Can anyone be a Domestic Energy Assessor? How can I train to be a psychotherapist?'

A potential inspector calls.

Q. I have a job I love but which isn’t paying enough and I need to supplement my earnings.  I have heard it is possible to train to inspect houses for how much energy they are using, since house owners will soon have to declare this. Can this really be done by someone with an arts background? If it can, how much would I earn?

Yes, you can train to become one of the new Domestic Energy Assessors, as they will be called, even if you don’t have experience in a relevant area like energy or construction. Everyone is gearing up for the 1st June this year when it will become illegal to sell a property without an Energy Performance Certificate,  a compulsory part of the new Home Information Pack, which you will need in order to sell your house. Since only qualified assessors will be authorised to issue the certificates, they should be in demand - from estate agents, utilities companies, or home information pack providers. Or you could go freelance and offer the service yourself. City and Guilds is offering a new diploma (full time, part time or by distance learning.) It would take around six months with part time study of one day per week. You could go on to study to become a fully qualified Home Inspector. Details are on www.cityandguilds.com or www.communities.gov.uk , which has an explanation of the new certificate. You can also check the National Association of Estate Agents and the Awarding Body for the Built Environment for the training providers they accredit. Figures of up to £50,000 a year are being quoted as earnings – it depends how much time you spend working, but it might be more realistic to think of £30,000 to £40,000.

In need of counselling

Q. I am 39, with a degree in business studies and a Masters in IT. I want to be a psychotherapist, and found there is a graduate membership qualification I can study for. But the OU has told me I need to take a course before I can do that. Is there any quicker way I could obtain this qualification, perhaps by independent study? Once I have this, can I study for an MSc in counselling and psychotherapy part-time?

To become a professional, chartered psychologist in the UK, you do need graduate membership of the British Psychological Society (BPS). The OU does offer an undergraduate degree that would mean you were eligible for membership, or a conversion degree. You can indeed study for the qualifying exam yourself, but if you have no background at all in the subject, it might be tough. The BPS will give you copies of previous papers, and you can judge for yourself.

The OU doesn't offer programmes in counselling or psychotherapy. Psychology, psychotherapy and counselling do overlap, but some bodies see them as separate. You could investigate routes on to an MSc via training organisations accredited by the UK Council for Psychotherapy ( www.psychotherapy.org.uk) or the British Association for Counselling and Psycho-therapy ( www.bacp.co.uk).

Psychotherapy is a common area for a second career, with many coming from a background in, say, law or business. You have already shown that you have the ability to study at the necessary level. You'd be expected to demonstrate that you have relevant work (or life) experience, and would be looking at a minimum of four years of part-time study to become qualified.

Careers adviser: Richard Foxwell, head of special projects, Asset Skills Sector, Skills Council

Send your queries to Caroline Haydon at 'The Independent', Education Desk, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax 020-7005 2143; or e-mail to chaydon@blueyonder.co.uk