According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the minimum degree for a substance abuse counselor is a bachelor's degree, but a master's degree is necessary for state licensure to practice independently. Relevant certificate and doctoral degree programs are also available in this field.
10 Schools with Alcohol Counselor Programs
The following schools offer applicable programs:
|College/University||Location||Institution Type||Degrees Offered||Tuition 2015-2016*|
|University of Minnesota-Twin Cities||Minneapolis, Minnesota||4-year, Public||Master's||In-state $15,844;
|University of Cincinnati-Main Campus||Cincinnati, Ohio||4-year, Public||Bachelor's, Certificate, Graduate Certificate|| In-state $11,000; Out-of-state $26,334 (undergraduate)
In-state $12,790; Out-of-state $24,532 (graduate)
|University of Iowa||Iowa City, Iowa||4-year, Public||Master's, Doctorate||In-state $8,396; Out-of-state $25,574|
|University of Nevada-Las Vegas||Las Vegas, Nevada||4-year, Public||Graduate Certificate||In-state $4,968; Out-of-state $18,878|
|East Carolina University||Greenville, North Carolina||4-year, Public||Bachelor's, Master's, Certificate, Doctorate|| In-state $6,580; Out-of-state $22,154 (undergraduate)
In-state $4,434; Out-of-state $17,036 (graduate)
|University of South Carolina-Columbia||Columbia, South Carolina||4-year, Public||Graduate Certificate||In-state $12,384; Out-of-state $26,532|
|Western Michigan University||Kalamazoo, Michigan||4-year, Public||Graduate Certificate||In-state $12,727; Out-of-state $26,958|
|University of Akron Main Campus||Akron, Ohio||4-year, Public||Certificate||In-state $10,509; Out-of-state $19,040|
|University of Toledo||Toledo, Ohio||4-year, Public||Master's, Doctorate||In-state $13,166; Out-of-state $23,502|
|Drexel University||Philadelphia, Pennsylvania||4-year, Private not-for-profit||Graduate Certificate||$31,239|
Source: *National Center for Education Statistics
School Selection Criteria
When choosing between programs, it is helpful to remember the following:
- Different programs prepare students for different careers. For instance, a master's degree is necessary for private practice, while a doctoral degree is intended for individuals who plan to pursue a career in research.
- When looking at programs that include an internship, prospective students should make sure that opportunities are available in settings where they would like to practice, such as an alcohol recovery center.
- Students who are considering master's degree programs may want to find out what the pass rate is for graduates on the state's board exam.
- It is important for students to make sure that they meet the minimum educational requirements to enroll in the program. For instance, some graduate certificates are only available for professionals who already hold a master's degree in counseling, while others are available to students with bachelor's degrees.
Bachelor's Degree Programs
At the undergraduate level, it is possible to earn a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Counseling with a focus in addiction, chemical dependency and/or substance abuse. These programs provide a comprehensive introduction to psychology and mental health counseling techniques. Students are also required to fulfill general education requirements. Graduates of bachelor's degree programs are qualified for work in supervised clinical settings, such as drug rehabilitation clinics, but they are not eligible to become licensed for private practice.
Master's Degree Programs
In order to practice independently in this field, aspiring alcohol counselors must earn a master's degree in clinical counseling with a focus in addictions or drug and alcohol counseling. These programs combine advanced scientific coursework in psychology and pharmacology with practical training in diagnosis, recovery planning and treatment methods. Students must complete a certain number of hours of supervised training prior to gradation. Upon completion, graduates are eligible to take the state licensure exam for addictions counselors.
Doctoral Degree Programs
Individuals interested in conducting advanced research related to alcohol counseling can pursue a PhD in Addiction Psychology or Addiction Neuroscience. Students in these programs choose an area of interest within the field, such as the genetic factors underpinning alcohol addiction, the effects of alcohol abuse on the brain or possible pharmacological treatment techniques. These programs culminate in a final, publishable dissertation. Graduates typically find research positions at universities or research institutions.
Graduate Certificate Programs
There are several types of graduate certificate programs related to alcohol counseling. For trained counselors who hold a master's degree with a specialization in a different subfield, some schools offer graduate certificate programs in addictions counseling that provide preparation for the licensure exam. This can allow experienced counselors to redirect their careers toward addictions counseling or expand the variety of services that they are qualified to provide. Alternatively, there are graduate certificates for students who hold a bachelor's degree and want to take advanced courses in the field but don't intend to take the licensure exam.
Relevant programs for students who are interested in alcohol counseling are available at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Students should consider their future career goals when deciding between programs.