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?
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.
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.
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.