Substance Abuse Counselor Job Description & Career Outlook
The job of a substance abuse counselor is to work with individuals in various stages of the recovery process from addiction to drugs and/or alcohol.
The substance abuse counselor evaluates each individual client to see where that individual falls in his/her personal recovery. Many of their clients are court referrals following charges of impaired driving or possession of a controlled substance. The counselor completes and evaluation which may include written tests, drug screens, and talk therapy. Once the evaluation is complete, the counselor then makes recommendations for the course of treatment required to assist the individual in learning to cope with his/her addiction. Some individuals may require an educational program only; however, others may require intense intervention which may include detox or inpatient treatment. The substance abuse counselor follows the individuals progress while he/she is in the program recommended by the counselor. Treatment provided may include education, one-on-one counseling, group counseling and referrals for further intervention.
How to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor
To become a Substance Abuse Counselor, most states require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and supervised experience working with individuals who are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. The supervised experience must occur under a licensed counselor. Many states require a minimum of a master’s degree and licensure in order to work as a substance abuse counselor. Check with your state for full requirements.
Substance Abuse Counselor Salary
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a median salary of $38,520 per year for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors.1 Individual salary can depend on the agency/entity in which he/she performs the duties of an SA counselor.
Substance Abuse Counselor Job Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a 31% growth in employment for substance abuse and behavioral counselors for the decade from 2012-2022, which is much faster than average. The nation’s substance abuse problems influence demand for qualified substance abuse counselors. Because there are many different agencies/entities that employ substance abuse counselors, individuals can focus on a particular aspect of substance abuse when seeking employment (e.g. school counseling, prison counseling, hospitals, etc.).
Substance Abuse/Addiction and Counseling Degree Programs
University of Phoenix
- Addictions Certificate
- M.S. in Psychology/Industrial- Organizational Psychology
- A.A. in Psychology
- MS - Addiction Counseling
- MS - Counseling Psychology
- PhD - Counselor Education and Supervision
- MA Human Services: Addictions and Recovery
- PhD in Counseling - Professional Counseling
- PhD Counseling: Advanced Clinical Skills
- M.S. in Human Services - Drug and Alcohol Counseling
- M.S. in Human Services - Clinical Counseling
- B.S. in Human Services / Counseling
The University of Liverpool
- MSc in Organisational and Business Psychology
- MSc in Psychology
- Mental Health Policy and Practice - Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology
- Psychology - BA
- General Psychology - PhD of Psychology
Interested in a career similar to a substance abuse counselor? Check out these related careers:
- Corrections Officer
- Correctional Treatment Specialist
- Juvenile Probation Officer
- Probation Officer
- Youth Correctional Counselor
- Police Officer
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/substance-abuse-and-behavioral-disorder-counselors.htm
Page Edited by Charles Sipe.