Students interested in helping people suffering from alcohol abuse can consider obtaining a master's degree in alcohol counseling. It is possible to pursue either a Master of Science (M.S.) or a Master of Arts (M.A.) in this field. While M.S. degree programs in alcohol and substance abuse counseling are usually offered at colleges of allied health sciences, M.A. degrees are more common at liberal arts schools and colleges. Both degrees highlight various treatment methods and techniques, and both include preparation for state licensure. Many M.S. curricula include a research thesis requirement.
To enroll in one of these programs, you must have a bachelor's degree and submit GRE scores to the schools that you apply to.
Master of Arts in Alcohol Counseling Psychology
A Master of Arts in Alcohol Counseling Psychology generally takes two years of full-time study to complete. Although applicants do not necessarily have to hold an undergraduate degree in psychology to be admitted, some colleges and universities may require prior coursework in abnormal psychology and behavioral statistics. Once enrolled, M.A. students take classes in psychology, research techniques, and counseling methods. In many programs, students get clinical experience by shadowing licensed counselors and interacting with patients on a supervised basis. Common course topics include:
- Psychology of adolescents
- Psychology and rehabilitation
- Multicultural counseling
- Group counseling methods
- Theories of counseling
- Abnormal psychology
Master of Science in Substance Abuse and Alcohol Counseling
A Master of Science in Substance Abuse and Alcohol Counseling typically takes one to two years of full-time study, depending on the university. Students enrolled in this program learn to apply addiction counseling techniques to a variety of patient types, and they do clinical work under the guidance of a professional counselor. Classes focus on the various methods and techniques used to counsel individuals suffering from substance abuse including:
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Alcohol and drug addiction treatment
- Contemporary issues in drug and alcohol abuse
- Drug and alcohol abuse prevention
- Family treatment
In order to be employed as an addiction counselor, graduates of a master's degree program must first complete the state requirements for licensure. Requirements for licensure as a professional counselor vary by state, and students should consult their academic department for more information on the process. Many M.A. degree programs include a component that contributes to the process of licensure.
Job Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselor employment is expected to increase by 22% from 2018 to 2028, which is much faster than the national average for all occupations in the United States, and most likely because of increasing insurance coverage of mental health services. The BLS reports that the median salary for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselor, as of May 2019, was $46,240.
In summary, a master's degree in alcohol counseling provides students with the educational background they need to prepare for careers as licensed substance abuse counselors.