What are the education requirements?
As in other health disciplines, the addictions field is now recognized as a specialty profession. Therefore, more emphasis than ever before is being placed on properly preparing those entering the addictions workforce.

Formal education is fundamental in developing addictions professionals who are able to deliver quality care. There are colleges and universities offering undergraduate and graduate degree programs in addictions counseling. Many of these programs are housed within the psychology, human services, and social science departments.

Requirements for academic training vary, depending on the occupational speciality and state licensure/certification requirements. However, at the undergraduate level, students typically receive education in the professional techniques of counseling, along with a disciplined background in the environmental and psychological causes and effects of alcohol and other drug dependence and behavioral addictions. A bachelor's degree often meets the qualifications for a counseling aide, rehabilitation aide or social services worker.3

A graduate level degree in counseling, clinical psychology or social work with an addictions concentration are usually a prerequisite to licensure. In an accredited program, 48 to 60 semester hours of graduate study, including a period of supervised clinical experience in counseling, are required.4

Counselors work in diverse settings. They work in a wide variety of public and private establishments such as rehabilitation centers, correctional facilities, half way houses and treatment centers. Many counselors are self-employed and work in group or private practices.4

How long do these educational programs take?
Full-time associate’s degrees generally take two years to complete, and full-time bachelor’s degree programs require a four-year commitment. Then, at the master's level, most clinical graduate programs are based on a two year completion plan. However, many graduate students pursue their degree while working full or part time and, therefore, extend their graduate studies anywhere from three to seven years.

Is an internship or practicum needed?
An internship or practicum is a valuable experience. Graduate programs in counseling, clinical psychology or social work, typically include a practicum or internship as a prerequisite for graduation. There are also undergraduate internships available.

To locate colleges and universities offering a degree or certification in addiction studies, visit the ATTC Network's Directory of Addiction Studies Programs.

Review the following sections of the Workforce Development section of the ATTC Network Website:

Addiction Counselor Competencies
Education and Training

Leadership Development and Resources for Students
New to the Field - Getting Ready for an Addictions Career
Online Workforce Tools and Resources
Professional Development

Click here for Additional Resources and links.





Produced by the Northeast ATTC, NAADAC, Central East ATTC, and the ATTC National Office.
Funded in part by a grant from SAMHSA/CSAT and a variety of other sponsors.