How Can I Become a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor?

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue in alcohol and drug counseling. Read on to learn more about career options for certified alcohol and drug counselors along with salary and licensure information. Schools offering Addiction Counseling degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor?

Certified alcohol and drug counselors help substance abusers defeat their addictions. These professionals, who are also called addiction or substance abuse counselors, help addicted individuals go through a program of addiction treatment, and recognize the causes and triggers of their substance abuse. They may coordinate with other professionals, such as nurses or social workers, to develop a treatment plan for patients. Alcohol and drug counselors may also choose to specialize in some subgroup, such as teenagers, veterans, or people with disabilities. See the table below for more information about this career.

Degree Required Varies by state from a high school diploma to a master's degree
Education Field of StudyCounseling
Drug and Alcohol Counseling
Psychology
Key ResponsibilitiesEvaluate clients for drug and alcohol abuse problems
Provide individual, group, and family counseling for drug and alcohol abuse treatment
Devise treatment plans to help individuals overcome drug and alcohol abuse problems
Maintain records as required by local laws and regulations
Licensure/CertificationVarious levels of certification are available from different certifying bodies
Some states require a license in addition to certification
Job Growth (2014-2024)22% (for all substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors)*
Mean Salary (2015)$42,920 (for all substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Job Duties Would I Have as a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor?

Alcohol and drug counselors help substance abusers defeat addiction. These professionals, also called addiction or substance abuse counselors, work with addicts to develop a treatment plan and help them recognize the causes of their substance abuse.

Working as a certified alcohol and drug counselor, you would help abusers develop a healthy lifestyle and adopt sober coping mechanisms so they can quit using alcohol and drugs. You gauge which clients are suitable for treatment programs, counsel them and develop a continuing recovery plan for after their discharge. You keep a case history on your clients and the status of their recovery. You might also judge the sobriety of your clients by administering Breathalyzer or urine tests. Additionally, you could work with friends and family members of your patients to help them cope with the impacts of substance abuse. Some also run prevention and education programs in the community.

What Education Should I Get?

The education you need to become a certified alcohol and drug counselor depends on state licensing regulations and certification requirements. Check the licensing requirements in the state where you plan on working before choosing your educational program. You might need to earn a degree to become a licensed or certified alcohol and drug counselor. Each state has different licensing requirements for substance abuse counselors, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which noted that some states require only that counselors graduate from high school and get certified (www.bls.gov).

What Standards Must I Meet for Certification?

The National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC) awards three certifications via the National Certification Commission. These include National Certified Addiction Counselor (NCAC) I and II and Master Addiction Counselor (MAC). There are different education, training, testing and experience requirements for each. Some states let you use the NAADAC certification test to obtain a state license. In states that don't allow that, you need to get a state license prior to taking NAADAC's test for national certification.

For NCAC I certification, you must be a state-licensed alcohol or drug counselor with three years of substance abuse counseling experience and 270 hours of schooling and training in substance abuse and other relevant counseling topics, according to NAADAC. The NCAC II certification requires a bachelor's degree with a concentration on substance abuse counseling from an accredited school, plus a state license, five years of substance abuse counseling experience and 450 hours of schooling and training. To earn MAC certification, you must have attended an accredited school and earned a master's degree in counseling, family therapy, nursing, psychology, social work or another healing arts discipline with a concentration on substance abuse counseling. You also must have a state license, three years of counseling experience and 500 hours of counseling training to get MAC certification.

The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) also offers certification for alcohol and drug counselors. You need at least a master's degree in counseling plus 3,000 hours of counseling experience to seek certification as a National Certified Counselor (NCC). You must have already earned NCC certification and met other training and experience requirements to seek certification as a Master Addictions Counselor (MAC).

What Are Salaries and Job Growth Potential?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual salary for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors in 2015 was $42,920. In the years 2014 to 2024, projected job growth is estimated to be 22%, a rate much faster than average. This suggests that the job market for certified alcohol and drug counselors should be very favorable now and in the coming years.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are a few alternative careers which are closely related to the work of an alcohol and drug counselor. For example, social workers provide support for a wide variety of people through advocacy, counselling, or referrals for community services. Mental health and substance abuse social workers specifically help people with mental health or substance abuse problems. Social workers typically need to have a bachelor's degree to gain entry-level employment. Another option is pursuing a career as a social and human service assistant. These are only required to have a high school diploma and some on-the-job training. They assist other professionals, such as social workers, to help clients with rehabilitation or to find community services.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools

  • Kaplan University

    Kaplan University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Kaplan University:

    Online Programs Available

  • George Mason University

    George Mason University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at George Mason University:

    • Master
    • Certificates

    Online Programs Available

  • Strayer University

    Strayer University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Strayer University:

    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees

    Online Programs Available

  • The George Washington University

    The George Washington University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at The George Washington University:

    • Master
    • Certificates

    Online Programs Available

  • Grand Canyon University

    Grand Canyon University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Grand Canyon University:

    • Doctoral
    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees
    • Certificates

    Online Programs Available

  • University of the Rockies

    University of the Rockies responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at University of the Rockies:

    • Master

    Online Programs Available

  • Capella University

    Capella University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Capella University:

    • Doctoral
    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees

    Online Programs Available

  • American University

    American University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at American University:

    • Master

    Online Programs Available

  • Northcentral University

    Northcentral University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Northcentral University:

    Online Programs Available

  • Indiana Wesleyan University

    Indiana Wesleyan University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Indiana Wesleyan University:

    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees
    • Associate Programs
    • Certificates

    Online Programs Available

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. Next »