CADC Degree Program Overviews

Prospective alcohol and substance abuse counselors can enroll in programs at the associate's and bachelor's degree levels. Find out what kind of requirements and course topics are included, as well as job outcomes and continuing education options.

Essential Information

Bachelor's programs in Certified Alcohol and Drug Counseling (CADC) tend to require more general education coursework than associate's programs, though both require students to have a high school-level education. Licensure requirements for individuals who want to open private practices may include completion of a master's program, extensive clinical experience hours and an exam.

Associate's Degrees in Alcohol and Drug Counseling

These two-year undergraduate degree programs, sometimes referred to as substance abuse or addiction counseling programs, are often offered through a school's human services department. Students are required to complete 60-65 credit-hours of coursework between general education requirements as well as courses in alcohol and drug counseling. Most programs include an internship or fieldwork. Course topics might include:

  • Psychology
  • Theories of addiction
  • Counseling strategies
  • Family intervention

Bachelor's Degrees in Alcohol and Drug Counseling

These four-year programs provide a solid educational foundation for those interested in a career treating and preventing alcoholism and substance abuse. In most states, those who earn a bachelor's degree in this field meet state licensing requirements. Students complete approximately 122 credit hours of coursework in addiction studies and general education. Topics of study include:

  • Chemical dependency
  • Psychopharmacology
  • Prevention strategies
  • Ethical issues in counseling

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors, including CADCs, earned a median salary of $39,980 in May 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, Most of these counselors were employed by outpatient care centers, substance abuse treatment facilities, and other family service organizations. The BLS expected employment to grow by 22% between 2014 and 2024, because more individuals choose to seek treatment and individuals facing drug charges are mandated to seek help as part of their parole or probation agreements with the court.

Certification and Continuing Education

The Association for Addiction Professionals offers certification for Substance Abuse Professionals and Adolescent Specialists as well as special focuses in spiritual care-giving and resolution in recovery. Annual conferences and additional continuing education opportunities are also available.

Licensing and Certification

State licensing and certification requirements for alcohol and drug counselors vary by state. They may be regulated through a state's Department of Health, Department of Licensing, or through special departments focusing on the regulation of substance abuse professionals. Some states have adopted the Association for Addiction Professionals certification ( Basic certification requires three years of work experience, a minimum number of contact hours, and passing the certification exam.

Both associate and bachelor level programs in alcohol and substance abuse counseling include a combination of didactic and hands-on practical training in the fundamentals of addiction and counseling strategies. Graduates will be prepared for a number of possible job opportunities and will have the skills necessary to earn certification and possibly licensure.

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