How to Become an Addiction Counselor

How To Become Drugs An Addiction Counselor

Addiction continues to be one of the nation’s leading problems, so it only makes sense that there are various professionals within the substance abuse treatment field to help. As awareness of mental illness and addiction grows – along with access to treatment – so does the demand for qualified substance abuse counselors. Here, we’ll take you step-by-step on how to become an addiction counselor and help those impacted by drugs and alcohol achieve sobriety.

Substance Abuse Counselor Job Description: What Do They Do?

A substance abuse counselor (addiction counselor) is a professional who works not only with people who have substance use disorders but as well as those who have eating disorders or other behavioral problems like gambling addiction. Addiction counselors spend time one-on-one with patients to map out treatment plans, listen to their struggles, and utilize methods like 12-step programming to help them achieve and sustain sobriety.

If the legal system is involved with a client’s drug or alcohol treatment, the counselor may report on progress to a judge. They also meet with clients in recovery and help them restart their careers, find employment, improve their situations, and refer them to other programs that could help. Additionally, since family and friends also feel the impact of addiction, substance abuse counselors may work with the addict’s loved ones to help them recover, as well.

How to Become a Certified Substance Abuse Counselor

As a counselor in the addiction treatment field, you can change a person’s life for the better. Keep reading to learn how to become an addiction counselor and make a difference in your community.

Education Requirements

To become an addiction counselor, you have to receive certain certifications, complete a certain amount of training hours, and have certain degrees under your belt. If you wish to go a step further and become a licensed substance abuse counselor, an accredited counseling degree and many hours of work experience are required. However, these requirements vary depending on the state, so always look into the state licensing requirements.

With that said, there are various degrees one may obtain to become a drug addiction counselor:

  • Associate’s Degree: Some states only require an associate’s degree in psychology or counseling. This is a two-year degree that covers the basics of treating patients. An associate’s degree can help an individual enter this career field by qualifying them for entry-level jobs like human services assistants, administrative positions in sober living facilities, and adolescent counseling.
  • Bachelor’s Degree: A bachelor’s degree in addiction counseling prepares the individual with fundamental skills and knowledge linked to the field and qualifies them for higher, better-paying positions. Though a bachelor’s degree is considered sufficient education for addiction counselors in most states to acquire certification, a master’s degree in this field is preferred and required in most states.
  • Counseling Master’s Degree: Aside from state requirements, a master’s degree is the best education program for those looking to become substance abuse counselors with higher-paying positions. Requirements for private practice usually include completing a master’s degree in counseling. The individual may also need to complete at least two years or 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience. Specializations or concentrations for a graduate program in addiction counseling include drug abuse counselor, alcohol abuse counselor, and clinical counseling.

However, keep in mind that the American Psychological Association (APA) only accredits doctoral programs, but all are either regionally accredited or nationally accredited. Due to this, we advise that you only choose regionally accredited schools if you want to qualify for an APA-approved doctoral program if, later on, you decide to advance your career. To qualify for these programs, students should at least have a bachelor’s degree in counseling or psychology-related field as well as some work/clinical experience.

Licensing and Certification Requirements

All states and the District of Columbia have some form of counselor licensing. Some licenses that substance abuse counselors should look into include Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC), and Licensed Educational Psychologist (LEP). Most states also require counselors to take state board licensing exams like the National Counseling Exam (NCE) or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE) to become licensed counselors.

Those seeking substance abuse counselor jobs must also complete a certain number of counseling hours, pass written and oral exams, and pass background checks. Potential counselors may also be certified by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). This national agency grants a general practice credential called the Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor (CCMHC). The CCMHC is widely recognized nationwide and is required by some employers.

How Much Do Substance Abuse Counselors Make?

The median certified substance abuse counselor salary is around $48,520 per year and $23.33 per hour as of 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.1 The BLS also reports that those who work in social and community service counseling positions earned more on average – around $50,500 a year.

Because counselors are a less-expensive alternative to psychiatrists and psychologists, care insurers prefer to hire and reimburse counselors with master’s degrees as opposed to psychologists with doctorate degrees. Additionally, government agencies usually pay the highest wages, followed by hospitals and social service agencies. Many drug and alcohol abuse counselors start as interns in residential care and move up as they complete their training hours and licensing.

Finding Addiction Counselor Jobs Near Me

Not only does our high-end rehab offer residential addiction treatment in Palm Beach, but we also offer various addiction treatment jobs, including counselor positions. Whether you know someone who needs help recovering from substance abuse or you want to join the team to help people recover, Seaside Palm Beach is here for you.

Call our luxury drug and alcohol rehab in South Florida today at 561-677-9374 or look through our drug rehab jobs in Florida to learn more.



  1. BLS – Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors


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