What Are the Requirements to Be a Certified Addiction Counselor?

Certification requirements for addiction counselors differ between certifying bodies, but most will require a certain amount of education and experience before passing an exam. Keep reading to learn more about education, experience and certification requirements in this field. Schools offering Addiction Counseling degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

As a certified addiction counselor, you'll assist all types of people in handling their addictions, often through individual counseling, group sessions, and family involvement. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), prospective addiction counselors must meet detailed licensing, education, and experience requirements that vary by state. For example, some states may only require that substance abuse or addiction counselors hold a high school diploma and complete a state-approved exam, while others may require completion of a master's program, 2,000-4,000 hours of clinical practice and an exam.

Important Facts About Certified Addiction Counselors

Work Environment Private practice or group setting in a treatment center
Similar Occupations Mental health counselor
Rehabilitation counselor
Median Pay (2018)$44,630 (for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors)*
Job Outlook (2016-2026)23% growth (for substance abuse, behavioural disorder, and mental health counsellors)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Certifications and Requirements

Addiction counselors usually obtain certification voluntarily, rather than by state mandate. There are several organizations that offer addiction counseling certifications, with each one having its own set of requirements. Remember that once you earn a certification, you'll probably have to maintain your status by fulfilling continuing education or reexamination requirements.

National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC)

The National Certified Addiction Counselor, Level I; National Certified Addiction Counselor, Level II; and Master Addiction Counselor (MAC) are certification options offered by NAADAC. To become certified, you'll have to pay a certification fee and pass a written exam. You'll also have to meet specific licensing, training, and education requirements that vary by level. For example, to become a MAC, you'll need to hold a master's degree, provide proof of three years of experience in the field, and be licensed as a counselor or other kind of healing arts practitioner in your state.

National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC)

You can become a National Certified Counselor (NCC) through NBCC by holding a master's degree, providing proof of study in predetermined areas, passing the National Counselor Exam, and meeting a minimum of 3,000 hours of experience, 100 of which must be supervised. Once you've obtained the NCC designation, you are eligible to earn the Master Addictions Counselor credential, which has similar requirements.

American Academy of Health Care Providers in the Addictive Disorders

The American Academy offers a Certified Addiction Specialist certification. You become eligible for this certification by providing proof of a combination of education and experience, which varies depending on the level of education you've completed; submitting at least three professional recommendations; and passing the certification exam.


Although certification is typically optional, you may need to be licensed to work as an addiction counselor in your state. The addiction counseling licensing requirements of the state in which you'll work may be different from the requirements that govern other types of counselors. For more information, you're encouraged to contact your state's licensing board for addiction or substance abuse counselors.

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

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. Next »