Back to School: Addiction Counselor Degrees


Becoming an addiction counselor is just like any other career path – it requires specific education and experience.

In the U.S., state laws dictate what requirements are necessary to become an addiction counselor, and those laws become more complicated if you are thinking about opening up your own private practice.


In most states, a substance abuse counselor will, at the very least, be required to have a high school diploma or a college degree. Someone who has a bachelor's degree in an unrelated field, for example, might have to receive a certification in substance abuse counseling or continue on to get a master's degree in this field in order to practice.

Individuals with less education may be able to work in the field if they complete on-the-job training. While a graduate degree or even a bachelor's degree isn't required to become an substance abuse counselor, it speeds up the process of becoming fully certified and having access to higher-paying jobs.


To open a private practice, counselors must have a master's degree and 2,000 to 3,000 hours of clinical experience under the supervision of a licensed counselor. They must also pass a licensing exam in the state where they wish to work. Since licensing requirements vary from state to state, the National Board for Certified Counselors can provide more information about specific state regulations.

Other degrees

Individuals who want to pursue a bachelor's or master's degree program that isn't specific to drug and alcohol counseling could consider degrees in social work, psychology or another related field. They could then supplement this work with continuing education or a certificate program in the substance abuse counseling field to have a more well-rounded education. This path would also open up more job opportunities in different settings.

Things to consider

If becoming a substance abuse counselor is your goal, it's best to become as educated as possible in the field. Immerse yourself in work experience or volunteer opportunities that can help supplement your education too. Also keep in mind that, to work as a substance abuse counselor, most states require that you pass a criminal background check.

Source: Princeton Review


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