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Addiction Counselor Certification and Training Programs

Although earning a degree is not necessarily required for becoming an addiction counselor, it can enhance your employment prospects and help you meet the certification requirements. Read about degree programs in substance abuse counseling, and find out what courses you'd take. Review the requirements for certification as an addiction counselor. Check the career outlook and typical salary.

How Do I Become a Certified Addiction Counselor?

In order to become a certified addiction counselor, you have to meet certain education and experience requirements. These vary by state, but there are many common requirements. Most states require a minimum of a high school diploma, but some require you to obtain an associate's or bachelor's degree. Another common requirement is that you have gained a certain amount of supervised clinical experience. States also frequently require you to pass an examination in order to earn certification as a substance abuse counselor. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), counselors across the spectrum of subspecialties commonly need to have a master's degree to earn licensure, although the demands for substance dependency deviate from the rule (www.bls.gov).

Certification RequirementsVary by state, typically need a high school diploma, associate's or bachelor's degree may be required as well as clinical experience and passing an examination
Benefits of DegreeIncreases employability and knowledge of field-specific techniques
Common Course TopicsAddiction theory, neurobiology, families of addicts, alcohol and drug abuse, drugs and behaviors
Median Salary (2020)$47,660* (for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors)
Job Outlook (2019-29)25% growth* (for all substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

How Can Earning a Degree Help Me?

Although earning an undergraduate or graduate degree may not be necessary in the state where you wish to work, it may benefit you. You learn the techniques that are important for becoming an effective counselor and gain knowledge about influences of drugs on the human body, behavior and mind. You may also be more competitive on the job market with a formal degree.

What Classes Will I Take?

Drug counseling program courses discuss theory as well as practical applications for individuals and groups. You take knowledge-based classes in substance abuse and drug effects, such as:

  • Drugs and behavior
  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Families of addicts
  • Neurobiology and drugs

In addition to taking classes, you're required to do hands-on counseling sessions. These from supervised to independent work and can take place in an on- or off-campus clinic. This experience not only helps you become a better counselor in the future, but the hours that you put in may also qualify as training hours when you are applying for certification.

What Will My Future Look Like?

Earning a degree or gaining certification can help you earn a job as a drug or addiction counselor. Addiction counselors can work with individuals, but frequently work with groups recovering from addictions. They also frequently work with the families of addicts, helping them deal with any problems that they may be tangentially experiencing. Other duties that you may have as an addiction counselor include providing information to the community and setting up prevention programs. The BLS reported as of 2019 that overall employment of substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors is expected to grow 25% between 2019-2029.