ATTC Network Home | Network Resources | Treatment & Help | Regional Centers | Search the Network GO
<back to addictioncareers.org home

Why should I choose a career in addictions?


Addiction impacts every sector of society. Families, jobs and lives are destroyed every day by substance use disorders. In 2005, an estimated 22.2 million persons aged 12 or older were classified with substance dependence or abuse. However, only approximately 10 percent of these people received treatment at a specialty facility.3

The good news is that addiction is treatable, and you can help. Addictions professionals not only provide hope to individuals and families; they save lives.

The outlook for addiction-oriented jobs is excellent. The number of these jobs is predicted to grow as the current workforce retires and new jobs are created to meet the nation’s need for treatment services. A 2005 report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration states, “By 2010, the need for addictions professionals and licensed treatment staff with graduate-level degrees is expected to increase by 35 percent.”9

It is important for addictions professionals to be empathetic and passionate about helping others. It is also important for addictions professionals to receive adequate training so they are prepared to provide effective, quality addiction treatment. Below you will find information about education and certification requirements, and information about work settings, salaries and the types of jobs available in the substance use disorders field. Imagine who you could save.

Education information

Certification information

Types of jobs available in the field

Work settings

Salary information

 

Education


What education is needed to become an addictions counselor?
Formal education is necessary to gain employment as a counselor. About half of all counselors have a master’s degree. A bachelor’s degree often qualifies a person to work as a counseling aide, rehabilitation aide, or social service worker. Typical prerequisites include basic psychology and abnormal psychology.7 Some colleges have undergraduate degree programs in addictions counseling. However, many colleges with psychology departments offer similar course work. At the undergraduate level, while pursuing either an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree, it is recommended that students 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.

Typically, a master’s degree is required to be licensed as a counselor. In an accredited program, 48 to 60 semester hours of graduate study, including a period of supervised clinical experience in counseling, are required for a master’s degree.7 Graduate-level counselor education programs in colleges and universities are usually in departments of education or psychology. For those pursuing a graduate degree, a program that includes training in clinical counseling, such as a master’s in counseling, master’s in clinical psychology, or a master’s in social work are highly recommended. Some states require counselors in public employment to have a master’s degree; others accept a bachelor’s degree with appropriate counseling courses.7

Counselors can become supervisors or administrators in their agencies. Some counselors move into research, consulting, or college teaching, or go into private or group practice.7

How long do these educational programs take?
Typical full-time associate’s degrees take approximately two years. Full-time bachelor’s degree programs require a four-year commitment. Most clinical graduate programs (at the master’s level) last two years full time. Many graduate students, however, pursue their degree while working full or part time and, therefore, extend their graduate studies to anywhere from three to seven years.

Is an internship or practicum needed?
Intern opportunities for undergraduates, if available, would be quite valuable and are highly recommended. Graduate programs in counseling, clinical psychology or social work, typically include a practicum or internship as a prerequisite for graduation. Practicum or internship experiences usually last one year and often take place during one’s final year of study.

Use the Directory of Addictions Studies Database on the ATTC Network Web site to find educational facilities in your area that offer degrees and courses in addictions. Be sure to see what is required for each program and how long they are.

back to top

 

Certification


What is certification?
Certification is one of the credentialing methods required for counselors who provide services in an alcohol and drug treatment program licensed by the state. A certified addictions counselor (CAC) possesses a body of knowledge, skills, training and work experience in the treatment of alcohol or substance use disorders that distinguishes the addictions counselor from other health care professionals. Proficient alcohol and drug counselors encompass a spectrum of skills specific to treating alcohol and substance use clients/patients. Counselor certification consists of several levels depending on the state in which the addictions counselor resides. No counselor is allowed to provide clinical services beyond his/her level of competence, certification or licensure.
 
Do I need to become certified?
Across the United States, certification is becoming a fundamental prerequisite to work as a health care professional. Some states require a national and/or state certification in order to work as an addictions counselor.  Certification indicates to others that you have the necessary education, training, skills and knowledge to work effectively in this role. While a license or state certification is important to perform in a given field, national certification is important for professional recognition and external verification and accountability. Some states also require a license or registration. Each state may have different levels of credentialing. It is important to learn what the requirements are for your state.

Use the Certification Info portion of the ATTC Network Web site to find information about the certification and licensing requirements of your state.

back to top

 

Employment Information


What are the duties of a substance use disorders counselor?
Addiction counselors provide counseling to clients, groups and sometimes families. They help clients adjust to life changes; develop treatment plans; provide education to clients and family members about addiction and treatment; take notes and keep records about clients histories and progress; evaluate clients’ advancement towards intended goals; coordinate counseling with other mental and health care professionals as needed, and meet with other care team members to coordinate services for clients.

What other jobs are available in the substance use disorders treatment field?

    • Recovery Coach
    • Clinical Supervisor
    • Co-occurring Disorders Counselor (Mental Health and Substance Use)
    • Vocational Counselor
    • HIV Counselor
    • Nurse/Psychiatric Nurse
    • Detox Specialist
    • Psychologist
    • Psychiatrist
    • Addictionologist/Medical Director
    • Family Therapist
    • Social Worker
    • Case Manager
    • Administrative Support
    • Researcher
    • Educator/Teacher/Professor

back to top

 

In what type of settings do addictions professionals work?

    • Behavioral health units in hospitals
    • Hospital emergency rooms and trauma units
    • Community mental health centers
    • Behavioral health centers
    • Detoxification centers
    • County subsidized clinics and rehabilitation centers (inpatient and outpatient)
    • Methadone clinics
    • Children and adolescent treatment centers
    • Psychiatrist practices
    • Psychologist practices
    • Crisis hotlines centers
    • Geriatric service agencies
    • Centers treating co-occurring disorders
    • Student assistance programs
    • Employee assistance programs
    • HIV/AIDS clinics
    • Halfway houses
    • Managed care companies
    • Insurance companies
    • Case management groups
    • Licensing organizations
    • Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO)
    • State monitoring boards
    • Certification boards
    • Staffing agencies
    • Criminal justice organizations and agencies
    • Adult and juvenile probation/parole organizations
    • Correctional facilities
    • Therapeutic communities
    • Juvenile detention centers
    • Educational, academic or training institutions and centers
    • Research facilities

back to top

 

What are the salary ranges for substance use disorder counselors?8

Annual salary for a counselor (no degree)
This individual provides a wide range of counseling and educational services to clients. Often must obtain a state certification or license. (Certification and licensure requirements vary from state to state).

 
Minimum
Maximum
Average
Midwest Region
$20,500
$38,000
$27,144
Northeast Region
$23,000
$45,000
$29,632
South Region
$20,000
$45,000
$30,000
West Region
$18,720
$36,000
$27,025

 

Annual salary for a counselor (bachelor’s degree)
This individual provides a wide range of counseling and educational services to clients and holds a bachelor’s degree. Often must obtain a state certification or license. (Certification and licensure requirements vary from state to state).

 
Minimum
Maximum
Average
Midwest Region
$15,184
$38,243
$27,179
Northeast Region
$23,000
$45,000
$32,213
South Region
$22,000
$45,000
$31,937
West Region
$23,920
$38,251
$30,680

 

Annual salary for a counselor (graduate degree)
This individual provides a wide range of counseling and educational services to clients and holds a graduate degree. Often must obtain a state certification or license. (Certification and licensure requirements vary from state to state).

 
Minimum
Maximum
Average
Midwest Region
$25,200
$40,000
$31,628
Northeast Region
$23,000
$55,700
$35,528
South Region
$28,000
$43,000
$35,179
West Region
$25,417
$50,000
$37,182

 

Annual salary for a clinical supervisor
This individual plans, organizes and directs operations of the clinical services area and provides clinical supervision to counseling/clinical staff.

 
Minimum
Maximum
Average
Midwest Region
$25,000
$46,125
$36,614
Northeast Region
$29,532
$65,000
$41,516
South Region
$32,000
$61,000
$48,406
West Region
$30,600
$53,000
$37,761

 

Annual salary for a clinical director
This non-physician clinician is responsible for the development and implementation of the clinical components of a treatment program. He/she ensures that staff are credentialed appropriately and maintain their credentials. Provides for or ensures that clinical supervision is provided to all clinical staff.

 
Minimum
Maximum
Average
Midwest Region
$36,109
$70,400
$50,726
Northeast Region
$28,000
$64,300
$48,297
South Region
$32,000
$85,000
$60,270
West Region
$31,200
$75,000
$54,838

 

Annual salary for a chief executive officer
Provides overall direction and leadership to the organization; establishes strategic plans and guides their implementation; provides leadership and support to the Board of Directors; selects and directs executive staff and represents the organization to major external authorities and constituencies.

 
Minimum
Maximum
Average
Midwest Region
$40,000
$223,600
$94,767
Northeast Region
$40,000
$146,800
$92,360
South Region
$65,000
$129,266
$88,752
West Region
$50,000
$95,000
$65,000

back to top