What Can I Do with an Associate of Arts Degree in Counseling?

Associate of Arts degree programs in counseling can prepare students for careers in substance abuse counseling. Keep reading to learn more about the degree and its associated career options. Schools offering Mental Health Counseling degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Overview of an Associate's Degree in Counseling

At the associate's level, counseling degrees are most often available in the form of substance abuse or drug and alcohol counseling programs. These programs are designed to help students meet the education requirements for state licensure or certification as substance abuse or addiction counselors.

As a student in an associate's level counseling program, you'll get training on theories of addiction, treatment plans, recovery, support and counseling methods. These programs usually include practical experience requirements that can be applied towards the clinical hours required by each state's licensing agency. Some associates-level degree programs prepare students to transfer into 4-year programs in psychology, sociology or other fields.

Important Facts About Substance Abuse Counselors

Licensure Mandatory for private practice counselors; requirements are available through the National Board for Certified Counselors
Key Skills Patience, empathy, active listening, situational awareness, clear oration
Work Environment Outpatient care centers; residential intellectual and developmental disability, mental health, and substance abuse facilities; individual and family services
Similar Occupations Psychologists, rehabilitation counselors, social workers, social and community service managers


Associate's degree programs in this field usually require students to complete courses in psychology, addiction assessment, case management and ethics. Other courses include:

  • Group counseling
  • Case management
  • Individual counseling
  • Multicultural counseling
  • Interventions

Career Information

In general, these programs prepare you to find work as a substance abuse counselor. Substance abuse or addictions counselors perform one-on-one or group counseling sessions to help people struggling with chemical dependency. Working with other professionals, including social workers and psychiatrists, these counselors help clients understand their treatment options and work with them to meet treatment goals. Counselors might help their clients find employment or work with the clients' family.

As an addictions counselor, you might work at a residential care facility, outpatient center, prison or hospital. Other potential places of employment include detoxification centers, mental health facilities, halfway houses or clinics. Job opportunities also possible with this degree include crisis worker, case manager or detox specialist.


In most states, you'll need to be certified or licensed to work as an addictions or substance abuse counselor. Requirements to earn this credential vary, but you'll likely need at least an associate's degree and a minimum amount of supervised fieldwork to qualify. In some states, you might need to start out by getting certified as a counselor intern or a similar title in order to acquire enough work experience to work as a counselor.

Outlook and Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 23% job growth for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors from 2016 to 2026. This growth is much faster than the average for all other jobs. Substance abuse counselors are expected to be in demand since many insurance companies are now including this service in their policies. Substance abuse counseling could also be used in place of prison sentences for some offenders. In May 2018, substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors earned a median salary of $44,630, the BLS reports.

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:

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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

  • Mt Hood Community College

    Campus Locations:

    • Oregon: Gresham
  • Jefferson Community College

    Campus Locations:

    • New York: Watertown
  • Illinois Central College

    Campus Locations:

    • Illinois: East Peoria
  • Community College of Rhode Island

    Campus Locations:

    • Rhode Island: Warwick
  • Community College of Denver

    Campus Locations:

    • Colorado: Denver
  • Stanford University

    Campus Locations:

    • California: Stanford
  • Harvard University

    Campus Locations:

    • Massachusetts: Cambridge
  • University of Pennsylvania

    Campus Locations:

    • Pennsylvania: Philadelphia
  • Duke University

    Campus Locations:

    • North Carolina: Durham
  • University of Notre Dame

    Campus Locations:

    • Indiana: Notre Dame