Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors


Employment Prospects


Approximately 267,730 substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors are employed in the United States. Counselors are hired by hospitals, private and public treatment centers, government agencies, prisons, public school systems, colleges and universities, health maintenance organizations (HMOs), crisis centers, and mental health centers. More and more frequently, large companies are hiring alcohol and drug abuse counselors as well, to deal with employee substance abuse problems.

Starting Out

Counselors who have completed a two- or four-year college degree might start a job search by checking with the career services office of their college or university. Those who plan to look for a position without first attending college might want to start by getting an entry-level or volunteer position in a treatment center or related agency. In this way, they can obtain practical experience and also make connections that might lead to full-time employment as a counselor.

Job seekers should also search employment Web sites and classified advertisements in local newspapers, where jobs are usually listed as "alcohol and drug counselor," "substance abuse counselor," or "mental health counselor." Another option is to apply directly to the personnel department of various facilities and agencies that treat alcohol and drug abusers.

Advancement Prospects

Counselors in this field often advance initially by taking on more responsibilities and earning a higher wage. They may also better themselves by taking a similar position in a more prestigious facility, such as an upscale private treatment center.

As they obtain more experience and perhaps more education, counselors sometimes move into supervisory or administrative positions. They might become directors of substance abuse programs in mental health facilities or executive directors of agencies or clinics.

Career options are more diverse for those counselors who continue their education. They may move into research, consulting, or teaching at the college level.

Tips for Entry

The American Counseling Association offers job listings at its Web site, Additionally, the site contains a variety of useful resources on developing a resume, preparing for and acing interviews, and other topics.

Read publications—such as Counseling Today Online and Addiction Professional—to learn more about industry trends.

Visit for job listings.

Check out the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator ( to find potential employers.