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Licensed Substance Abuse Counselor

To work as a licensed substance abuse counselor there are a few different education options, such as a master’s degree in substance abuse counseling, a two year associate’s degree in applied science or the four to five year bachelor’s program.  Some states will only require the counselor to have gone through a certificate program, but this is rare. The program for the master’s degree can be completed in two to three years and will also include an internship. Here we will find out how you can become a registered substance abuse counselor, what the substance abuse counselor salary is like and where you can work in this career field.

Education Requirements for the Substance Abuse Counselor

Before enrolling in a master’s degree program the student will be required to earn an undergraduate degree. In the undergraduate degree program, a student can choose to obtain a degree in psychology, which once completed will allow the student to enroll in the substance abuse counselor master’s program. In order to complete an undergraduate program sooner there are currently substance abuse undergraduate certificate programs available that can be completed in a year.  addiction

Some of the courses in the undergraduate certificate program will include education on addiction, individual counseling, psychology, addiction studies, counseling procedures, counseling methods, psychopharmacology, dependency evaluation and research regarding drugs and alcohol.

The certificate program for the substance abuse counselor will require the student to have one year of experience in treating substance abuse patients, 120 hours of training and education and a high school diploma or equivalent.   An applicant for the certificate program will need to also read their state code of ethics or the book by the NAADAC Association for Addiction Professionals.

For the level 1 certified addiction counselor, also referred to as the NCAC 1  the student will be required to have earned 270 hours of contact training, 6 hours in HIV/AIDS education, 6 hours in ethics training, 5,000 to 6,000 hours of supervised field experience and a state license in substance abuse counseling.

The level 2 national certified addiction counselor is the basic level of certification for the substance abuse counselor and requires a bachelor’s degree. The applicant must also have certification or state licensing, 6 hours of HIV/AIDS training, 6 hours of ethics training, 450 training hours that are related to substance abuse and 10,000 hours or five years of substance abuse counseling experience.

In order to qualify for the master’s degree program the applicant will be required to have obtained 500 hours of training with a master’s in family therapy or social work. They will also be required to have obtained three years of supervised training and have a state license for their current profession, HIV/AIDS education and ethics training.  social worker

Working as an intern you will spend 600 hours working your required clinical hours with patient’s that suffer from substance abuse in order to further develop a student’s counseling skills while also providing the student with a realistic look at the career field in several different work environments that will allow the student to choose the work environment that’s right for them. Before beginning your clinical hours you will first need to complete 50 to 60 hours of counseling courses which will include three classes that are clinical related.

Substance Abuse Counselor: Nature of the Work

As a licensed substance abuse counselor  you will work by helping people who have addiction problems that are related to drugs or alcohol.  The counselor will work with former addicts as well as current addicts and may also counsel the addict’s family and friends. The addiction counselor can assist their patient’s with finding employment and can also provide the client with information on available resources for clothing, housing and food assistance.

The counselor can work in a treatment center, halfway house or out- patient treatment center, hospital and human service agencies.  In these types of environments the counselor can work with a patient on a one on one basis or they can hold group counseling sessions.

You can find supervisory positions with this type of career such as house director for a halfway house or lead counselor in a treatment center.  In this position the licensed substance abuse counselor will work forty to fifty hours a week or can work as a live-in counselor at a halfway house where they will be on-call 24 hours a day.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics the job growth for this position is expected by 18% by the year 2014, which is faster than the average job growth.

The Substance Abuse Counselor Salary

The average annual salary for this field will range from 32,000$ to 49,000$ with the lower ten percent in this field earning 21,000$. The counselor who has obtained a bachelor’s and master’s degree will earn 6,000$ to 8,000$ more annually.

How many hours of training and education will you need to have earned to qualify for the certificate program?





What is the average salary for the lower ten percent of substance abuse counselors?





Where can a substance abuse counselor work?





According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics by what percentage will the substance abuse counselor career grow?





Before enrolling in a master’s degree program what is the applicant required to have?