Employment Outlook & Career Guidance for Domestic Abuse Counselors
If you are considering a career as a Domestic Abuse Counselor, your career outlook is extremely positive. While the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the overall employment outlook is growth of 5% through 2031; the Bureau projects that the field of substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counseling (a broad category that includes domestic abuse specialists) will grow by 22%. Learn more about how to become a domestic abuse counselor.
Reasons for Marked Increase in Career Opportunities
Issues involving domestic abuse are often collateral to socio-economic conditions. In other words, pressures and stressors which are directly related to the economic climate often result in acts of domestic violence. On July 23, 2013 ABC News reported that a study conducted at Kansas State University revealed the number one reason for divorce and marital arguments is financial problems.
“The study found that no matter how much a person makes, fights about money are the biggest contributors to divorce. The study also revealed that it takes a couple longer to recover from a fight about finances than any other fight. Apparently, couples use harsher language with each other and the arguments last longer.
- Jessica Janner, News Anchor (KTNV)
Prolonged recession has contributed to the domestic violence occurring due to stress and pressure related to finances.
Heightened Awareness: The Media’s Role
Since the 1980’s domestic violence issues have received an increasing amount of public attention in all forms of the media: books, movies, news, and music. With societal recognition of the harm to communities as a whole, the reports of domestic violence have been substantially increasing. In 1984 Farrah Fawcett starred in “The Burning Bed” the true story of Francine Hughes, a woman who had suffered from domestic violence for 13 years. After over a decade of abuse, Hughes burned her husband alive in his bed as he slept. When it premiered on NBC it was ranked as being one of the most widely watched television movies of all time. The film introduced to the public at-large the concept of “battered women’s syndrome” as a legal defense. In many ways the movie prepared the public for what would be the trial of the century; the O.J. Simpson trial in 1995. The world sat riveted as court television covered the trial in its entirety. No longer was domestic violence something that was not spoken of in public; it actually became the talk of the town.
Child Abuse: A Result of Domestic Violence
While child abuse has its own categorical definition, many states have incorporated the charge of child abuse into any domestic violence charges when the event occurs in the presence of children. The rationale is that any child witnessing acts of domestic violence has in essence been abused. This integration of child abuse increases the spectrum of issues that can and do fall under the category of domestic abuse. Domestic Abuse Counselors that work with the perpetrators of domestic violence are in the best position to work with any children involved; it is both a logical and logistical connection to make for agencies handling the psychological aspects of the incident(s).
“As a child I grew up in a home where domestic violence was an everyday thing. My father drank and my mother screamed. They fought and then the fighting would get physical. The person who helped me stay sane was the counselor who worked with me and my family.”
- Peggy V., Victim of Domestic Violence
What Type of Positions Can a Domestic Abuse Counselor Hold?
A Domestic Abuse Counselor is most apt to find employment opportunities within the governmental framework. Often the only way victims are rescued and perpetrators are charged is due to the intervention of police agencies. Left to their own devices a large number of affected persons would never receive helpful and necessary domestic abuse counseling. States vary in their utilization of Domestic Abuse Counselors as well as their employment title or categorization. The following is a generalized list of positions that might or could be possible with your credentials in your state of residence. It is intended to serve as a starting point for your investigations.
- Social Worker Specializing in Domestic Abuse
- Private Practice as a Domestic Abuse Counselor
- On-Staff Domestic Abuse Counselor for Private/Public Hospital
- On-Staff Domestic Abuse Counselor for Women’s and Children Clinics
- On-Call County Domestic Abuse Counselor
- Domestic Abuse Counselor for the Prison System
- Domestic Abuse Court Coordinator
- Educational Positions: Professor, Instructor, Lecturer
- Domestic Abuse Counselor/Consultant for Private Businesses
- Domestic Abuse Consultant for National Religious Denominations
- Domestic Abuse/Violence Author, Speaker, Authority
- Women’s/Children’s Rights Advocate
- In-House or On-Call Domestic Abuse Consultant for Law Firms
- Expert Witness in Domestic Abuse/Violence Issues
- On-Staff/On-Call Domestic Abuse/Violence Counselor for a Police Agency
- Victim’s Rights Advocate
Ways for Domestic Abuse Counselors to Increase Their Desirability as a Job Candidate
Organizations hiring Domestic Abuse Counselors vary in requirements for employment positions. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, a job candidate with a Bachelor’s Degree in some form of social work will qualify for entry-level positions such as caseworker or mental health assistant. They also note that in order to work within some settings, a Master’s Degree is necessary. (This includes a counselor in the school-setting or healthcare.) With respect to the position you are interviewing for, an advanced degree will increase your desirability as a job candidate. Advanced degrees show an employer that you are dedicated to your field, knowledgeable, and have the intellectual discipline necessary to complete an advanced degree.
“When I first began my career in this field, I had only my Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work. I quickly realized I wanted to be earning more money as well as making a difference within the system in additional ways. I decided to further my education and begin my Master’s Degree. I have never regretted that decision; it has made my life much more comfortable and enjoyable.”
- Peggy Jones, MSW
Employers like to know that those they hire have something to offer their firms in an experiential sense. No matter what your level of education, experience in working with victims of domestic abuse/violence will boost your resume in the eyes of any potential employer. If you have no experience (you need the job to get the experience) then you might consider the different avenues of volunteer experience that are open to you. Every state has programs that deal within their borders.
The following is an alphabetical list of national organizations that deal with various forms of domestic abuse and routinely seek out volunteers:
- American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence
- Asian & Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence
- Asian Task Force Against Domestic Violence
- Battered Women’s Justice Project
- The Center for Survivor Agency and Justice
- Community United Against Violence
- Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence
- FaithTrust Institute
- Gay Men’s Domestic Violence Project
- Health Resource Center on Domestic Violence
- Incite! Women of Color Against Violence
- Institute on Domestic Violence in the African-American Community
- Jewish Women International – Domestic Violence in the Jewish Community
- Legal Momentum
- National Center for Children Exposed to Violence
- National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence
- National Center on Elder Abuse
- National Clearinghouse on Abuse Later in Life
- National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women
- National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
- National Council on Child Abuse and Family Violence
- National Domestic Violence Hotline
- National Latino Alliance for the Elimination of Domestic Violence (Alianza)
- National Network to End Domestic Violence
- National Resource Center on Domestic Violence
- The Northwest Network of Bisexual, Transgender, Gay and Lesbian Survivors of Abuse
- Resource Center on Child Protection and Custody
- National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center
- Women’s Rural Advocacy Programs
Ways for a Domestic Abuse Counselor to Increase His/Her Salary
Employers in both the private and public sectors frequently recognize an employee furthering their education by elevating their pay scale. If you have a Bachelor’s Degree, enroll in a Master’s program. If you have a Master’s Degree, obtain a Doctoral Degree. Check with your human resources department about continuing education rewards at your institution. Some employers offer supplemental funding to help pay for your educational pursuits.
Accredited and Credentialing institutions offer continuing education courses that assist counselors in specializing in their fields. Attend programs, seminars, webinars and other events which will offer you additional training in cutting-edge areas. When it comes time for a salary evaluation, these activities will indicate to the employer that you are up-to-date and a growing asset to the company.
If your employer consents, coordinate events in the community which raise awareness as to the importance of your institution. If you raise the value of your company in the eyes of the public, you have also raised your value to the company. When you successfully create a positive, newsworthy profile of your employer, it can only help but increase your chances of salary increases and/or promotions.
2021 US Bureau of Labor Statistics job market trends and salary figures for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors are based on national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed June 2023.