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Drug Abuse Counselor Training and Certification

Those who are interested in becoming a counselor for individuals struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol, can take up drug and alcohol abuse counseling to pursue this career. Read on to learn the curricula for different undergraduate degree programs, how to further your education, and job duties as a drug abuse counselor.

What Undergraduate Programs Are Available?

One option is to pursue an associate's degree in alcohol and drug abuse studies. These programs are widely available and usually take about two years to complete. Some courses focus on psychology and sociology. You also begin learning about theories of chemical dependency, counseling and pharmacology.

If you desire a more in-depth education, a four year bachelor's degree program may be the right option. These usually include a number of general education requirements in areas of math, science, literature and communication. Your coursework likely will cover assessment of drug and alcohol abuse, use of group therapy and legal issues. Your school also may require you to complete an internship program. If you're interested in distance learning, some schools offer online programs in this field of study; however, these options are more commonly available at the associate's level.

Curriculum Associate's: Two year program focusing broadly on psychology, sociology, and counseling theories.
Bachelor's: Four year program focusing on the assessment of drug and alcohol abuse and group therapy. May possibly require internship
Continuing Education Master's degree or graduate certificate
Job Duties Identify dependency issues, design rehabilitation programs for individuals.
Median Salary (2018)$41,070* (for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors)
Job Outlook (2016-26)23%* (for all substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Can I Do After Graduation?

With an undergraduate degree, you may go on to enroll in a master's degree or graduate certificate program in substance abuse counseling. Online and on-campus programs are available and can be completed in as little as two years. They generally cover topics such as relapse prevention, public policy and assessment skills. If you're in a master's degree program, you may need to complete a thesis.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, counselors in most disciplines need a master's degree; however, this doesn't always include substance abuse counselors (www.bls.gov). Check with your state to determine the level of education needed to gain certification or licensure as a substance abuse counselor; typically, this also requires some experience.

What Are the Job Duties of a Drug Abuse Counselor?

Drug, alcohol or substance abuse counselors identify dependency issues in individuals and design rehabilitation programs to help them overcome their addictions. Each state has its own board or agency to regulate substance abuse counselors, and both education and certification requirements vary accordingly. Depending on the type of job you are seeking and its location, you may only need a high school diploma. Career options may be greater for those holding undergraduate or graduate degrees.