Alcoholism Counselor: Career Profile

Alcoholism counselors generally require significant 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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Alcohol abuse counselors work in clinical facilities to help people reach and maintain sobriety. This usually requires a master's degree and a license. Certification is voluntary and requires passing an exam, a few years of work experience, and continuing education courses.

Essential Information

Alcoholism counselors work with people who are addicted to alcohol and their significant others to understand, prevent or overcome alcohol dependency. These professionals often work at hospitals, clinics and community centers. While educational requirements vary by state, many alcoholism counselors earn master's degrees and obtain state licensure.

Required Education Varies by state from a high school diploma or GED to a master's degree
Other Requirements Licensure or certification is required in most states
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 22% for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors*
Median Annual Salary (2015) $39,980 for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Alcoholism Counselor Job Description

Alcoholism counselors, also known as substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors, help people work through addictions to alcohol. They organize prevention programs or counseling sessions for families, groups or individuals. Alcoholism counselors are often employed at public and private clinics, hospitals and community centers.

Job Duties

Alcoholism counselors help alcoholics uncover the reasons behind their addictive behaviors. They suggest techniques for coping with problems and develop strategies for overcoming dependency. Alcoholism counselors keep records of patients' progress and may refer patients to support groups, treatment centers or community support services.

An alcoholic's family and friends may also use a counselor's services to help them understand and cope with the alcoholic's problem. Additionally, counselors may consult with friends and family to gauge the seriousness of alcoholics' addictions. Sometimes, counselors organize and execute community programs. These programs provide information to the public about alcoholism as well as how to prevent and overcome alcohol dependency.

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Alcoholism Counselor Education Requirements

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that licensed alcoholism counselors may need master's degrees, although requirements vary for each state ( A master's degree program in substance abuse typically includes coursework in mental health, community counseling, medical treatments, personality theory, prevention procedures and treatment program management. Students are also required to complete a specified amount of fieldwork, which provides them with supervised practical training.


Before alcohol counselors can begin practicing, they must first obtain state licenses. Each state sets its own requirements for acquiring licensure. The BLS reports that some states only require alcoholism counselors to have high school diplomas and certification.


The National Board for Certified Counselors offers the Master Addictions Counselor credential to qualified individuals. Eligible candidates have taken at least 12 semester hours of relevant graduate coursework or 500 continuing education hours pertaining to addictions ( They must also have worked for at least three years as substance abuse counselors while under the supervision of experienced professionals and pass the Examination for Master Addictions Counselors.

Alcoholism Counselor Salary and Job Outlook

The BLS reports that substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors earned a median annual income of $39,980 in May 2015. The BLS estimates that job opportunities for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors will increase 22% from 2014-2024. Job growth could be driven by people becoming more informed of alcoholism and pursuing treatment.

Alcohol abuse is one of the leading causes of death, and alcoholism counselors help individuals become and stay sober so they won't contribute to that statistic. Counselors work in various medical settings, often seeing people in group sessions. Many states mandate they have a college degree and licensure, though secondary education and professional certification may suffice in some states.

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