Becoming an Alcoholism Counselor: Salary Info & Job Description

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An alcoholism counselor's median annual salary is about $39,000, but is it worth the education and licensing requirements? Read real job descriptions and see the truth about career prospects to decide if becoming an alcoholism counselor is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Working as an Alcoholism Counselor

Alcoholism counselors work with people who abuse alcohol to help them identify the causes of their addiction and recover from alcoholism. Check out the following pros and cons to decide if this is the career for you.

Pros of an Alcoholism Counseling Career
Above-average job growth is expected (31% between 2012 and 2022)*
Opportunity to help entire families*
Opportunities for outside work, such as community outreach and prevention efforts*
Self-employment is an option*

Cons of an Alcoholism Counseling Career
Job can be emotionally taxing*
Might be called on in crisis situations*
State licensing is required*
Other types of counselors have higher median annual salaries*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Job Duties and Career Information

As an alcoholism counselor, you'll work closely with people who are suffering from alcohol dependency issues. You may work with individuals or conduct group counseling sessions. You could also work in a variety of settings, including community centers, hospitals, health clinics and prisons. In addition to holding counseling sessions, some counselors participate in education and community outreach programs to prevent alcohol abuse.

Job Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors, which includes alcoholism counselors, could experience a 31% increase in jobs between 2012 and 2022. The BLS attributed this projected growth to increased knowledge about treatment programs and counseling opportunities. The agency also noted that many first-time offenders were being sent to counseling programs instead of prison. As of May 2014, the BLS determined that substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors earned a median annual salary of approximately $39,000.

What Are the Requirements?

Education

According to the BLS, some states require as little as a high school diploma and certification for one to work as a substance abuse counselor; however, to engage in private practice in any state, a substance abuse counselor must have a minimum of a master's degree. Options for postsecondary study range from undergraduate certificate to doctoral programs in alcohol and substance abuse counseling or a related field, such as human services or psychology. These programs typically include courses in substance abuse rehabilitation and group counseling for addictive behavior. Additionally, most programs feature a clinical component.

Licensing

Licensure requirements vary by state, but substance abuse counselors who work in private practice typically must hold a master's degree, have at least 2,000 hours of supervised clinical experience and pass one or more exams. They also must complete continuing education requirements on an annual basis. If you don't want to work in private practice, you might still need to pass an exam, but your education requirements will likely be less.

Real Job Listings

Most employers look for alcoholism counselors with professional experience in addition to a specified level of education. You might consider positions for addiction counselors; employers looking for these counselors usually seek candidates with professional experience in different communities and with clients with different types of problems. The following job listings were posted in April 2012:

  • An Oklahoma health services organization was looking for a certified addiction counselor with experience in both alcohol and drug abuse counseling. The successful candidate would have a minimum of a bachelor's degree in a mental health-related field and be eligible for certification supervision.
  • North Dakota's state government was seeking an addiction counselor with at least two years of experience and addiction counseling certification. The counselor would conduct group sessions as well as work individually with some patients.
  • A Montana health care provider was interested in hiring a licensed addiction counselor to conduct individual and group therapy sessions. This employer was specifically interested in a counselor with a minimum of a bachelor's degree in psychology or counseling and at least one year of experience working with adolescents.

How Can I Stand Out in this Field?

In addition to earning an advanced degree, you could look into obtaining professional certification. Organizations such as the National Board for Certified Counselors offer credentials that are nationally recognized and sometimes preferred by employers. After several years of work experience, some counselors move up into management and supervisory positions. You may also increase your favor with employers by having a background in different types of substance abuse counseling. For example, many employers look for job candidates with experience working with drug abusers as well as alcoholics.

Alternate Career Options

If you're set on becoming a counselor but prefer not to work with people suffering from alcoholism, there are other jobs you might wish to pursue.

High School Counselor

If you're more interested in helping young people, working as a high school counselor could allow you to affect children directly and encourage them to pursue their interests after graduation. High school counselors discuss college options and courses of study with graduating students. They also help students with college entrance exams and application processes. The BLS projected that opportunities for school counselors could increase by 19% between 2010 and 2020. However, educational, guidance, school and vocational counselors earned a median annual salary of about $54,000 as of 2011, which was significantly more than alcoholism counselors were paid.

Rehabilitation Counselor

If you'd like to help those in unfortunate physical and/or mental situations, you might be interested in a position as a rehabilitation counselor. These professionals work directly with adults who have disabilities, helping them to navigate their professional and personal lives. The BLS projected that this field could grow by 28% between 2010 and 2020. The agency also determined that these counselors earned a median annual salary of $34,000 as of 2011, so you're likely to make less in this career than you would as an alcoholism counselor.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: Psychology/Addictions
      • Master: Psychology/Applied Behavioral Analysis
      • MS in Nursing
      • Master: Psychology/General Psychology
      • Master of Healthcare Admin
      • Master: Nursing/Nurse Administrator
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Psychology in Addictions
      • Bachelor: Health and Wellness
      • Bachelor: Health Science
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Ph.D. in General Psychology - Performance Psychology
      • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
    Master's
      • MS in Addiction Counseling
      • MS in Professional Counseling
      • M.S. in Professional Counseling with an Emphasis in Trauma
      • M.S. in Mental Health and Wellness with Emphasis in Grief and Bereavement
      • M.S. in Mental Health and Wellness with Emphasis in Prevention
      • M.S. in Mental Health and Wellness
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Counseling - Addiction, Chemical Dependency, and Substance Abuse
      • BS in Health Care Administration
      • BS in Health Sciences: Professional Development & Advanced Patient Care
      • Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Science
    Certificate
      • Graduate Certificate of Completion in Forensic Psychology
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.S. Nursing - Psychiatric Mental Health
      • Master of Business Administration - Health Care Administration
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Addictions Couseling
      • B.S. General Studies - Life Sciences
      • B.S. Healthcare Administration
    Associate's
      • A.S. General Studies - Life Sciences
    Certificate
      • Undergraduate Certificate - Pastoral Care and Counseling
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Ashford University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BA/Applied Behavioral Science - No Concentration
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology - Addictions
      • PhD in Psychology - Mental Health Policy and Practice
      • PhD in Marriage & Family Therapy - Therapy with Military Families
      • PhD in Marriage & Family Therapy - General
      • Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology - Trauma and Disaster Relief
      • PhD in Marriage & Family Therapy - Couple Therapy
    Master's
      • M.A. in Marriage & Family Therapy
      • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
      • Master of Arts in Marriage & Family Therapy (MAMFT)
      • Master of Science in Forensic Psychology
  • Online Programs Available
    6. University of the Rockies

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Psy.D. in Mental Health Admin
    Master's
      • MA Counseling
      • MA Counseling - Clinical Mental Health Counseling
      • MA Counseling - Addiction Counseling
      • M.A. in Human Services - Mental Health Admin
      • MA Counseling - Marriage, Couples, and Family Counseling
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Penn Foster Career School

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Career Diploma - Home Health Aide
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Project Management
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Saint Joseph's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Health Admin
      • MS Criminal Justice with Behavior Analysis Specialization
    Certificate
      • Certificate - Behavior Analysis
  • Online Programs Available
    10. University of Delaware

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Concentration
      • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Major

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Master: Psychology/Addictions
  • Master: Psychology/Applied Behavioral Analysis
  • BS in Psychology in Addictions
  • Bachelor: Health and Wellness

Which subject are you interested in?

Grand Canyon University

  • Ph.D. in General Psychology - Performance Psychology
  • MS in Addiction Counseling
  • BS in Counseling - Addiction, Chemical Dependency, and Substance Abuse
  • Graduate Certificate of Completion in Forensic Psychology

What is your highest level of education?

Indiana Wesleyan University

  • M.S. Nursing - Psychiatric Mental Health
  • Bachelor of Science in Addictions Couseling
  • A.S. General Studies - Life Sciences
  • Undergraduate Certificate - Pastoral Care and Counseling

What is your highest level of education?

Ashford University

  • BA/Applied Behavioral Science - No Concentration

What is your highest level of education?

Northcentral University

  • Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology - Addictions
  • PhD in Psychology - Mental Health Policy and Practice
  • M.A. in Marriage & Family Therapy
  • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration

What is your highest level of education?

University of the Rockies

  • Psy.D. in Mental Health Admin
  • MA Counseling
  • MA Counseling - Clinical Mental Health Counseling

What is your highest level of education?

Penn Foster Career School

  • Career Diploma - Home Health Aide

What is your highest level of education?

Herzing University

  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership
  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Project Management

What is your highest level of education?