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Alcohol Counselor Career Info, Job Duties and Responsibilities

Alcohol counselors require some formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and licensure requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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The educational requirements for an alcohol counselor range from a high school diploma to a master's degree; however, a bachelor's degree is the most common. Alcohol counselors work in various environments and help people of all ages who abuse or have an addiction to alcohol.

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Essential Information

Alcohol counselors provide advice and emotional support to people struggling with alcohol addiction. They are employed in hospitals, community clinics and private practice. A bachelor's or master's degree in counseling is the recommended education for this career, though requirements vary by state and by position; some alcohol counselors may find work with only a high school diploma and on-the-job training. Licensure or certification is required for alcohol counselors who have private practices.

Required Education Varies; high school diploma for some jobs; bachelor's or master's degree for other jobs
Other Requirements On-the-job training for high school diploma holders
Licensure and Certification License is required for those in private practice; other requirements vary by state
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 22% for all substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors
Median Salary (May 2015)* $39,980 for all substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Information for Alcohol Counselors

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expected employment of substance abuse counselors to increase by 22% over the years 2014-2024, which is much faster than average when compared to other professions. Increased public knowledge about addiction pathology and a trend in the criminal justice system toward sending drug offenders to treatment rather than prison will contribute to job growth. The median annual salary for all types of substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors in 2015 was $39,980 per the BLS.

Duties and Responsibilities

The primary duty of alcohol counselors is to meet with alcoholics individually or in groups to discuss the underlying causes of their self-destructive behavior and guide them toward adopting better behaviors and coping strategies. Services may be provided on a daily or weekly basis, depending on the needs of patients. Secondary yet still essential duties may include meeting with family members of alcoholics to help them cope with the addiction, devising recovery programs tailored to the specific individual and conducting preventative community outreach programs.

Successful alcohol counselors have to be sympathetic yet firm. They need to have a genuine interest in helping troubled people solve their problems, as well as insight and intuition into the source of those problems. They also must be attentive and discerning for instances when clients struggle with treatment or begin reverting to their former ways.

Education Requirements

States have widely varying education requirements for alcohol counselors. Some states expect a master's degree, others only a high school diploma and certification. Nevertheless, counselors who earn a bachelor's or master's degree are typically better prepared for the challenges of the career.

Rather than alcohol abuse specifically, degree programs generally include alcohol within the larger category of substance abuse. Classes are likely to explore the history of a substance's use, counseling theories, counseling techniques, intervention and prevention, group counseling and family counseling. Students are given multiple opportunities to sit in on sessions or lead sessions.

Licensure and Certification

Alcohol counselors who work in private practice need to earn a license, and the licensing requirements include holding a master's degree, accumulating 2,000-4,000 hours of clinical practice under supervision, and passing an exam. Yearly continuing education is necessary to maintain licensure.

Some states require alcohol counselors to pass a certification exam. Alternatively, the National Board for Certified Counselors grants the National Certified Counselor credential to candidates who pass its voluntary exam. Some states will accept the results of this exam in place of their own. Voluntary certification is also available through organizations such as the National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors.

Alcohol abuse counselors can work in various settings, including individual or group sessions. Those in private practice must hold a license, which generally calls for a bachelor's or master's degree, as well as 2,000-4,000 hours of supervised clinical practice and the passing an exam. Some states require certification for all alcohol counselors, which calls for passing an exam.

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