Addictions Worker: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Sep 24, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an addictions worker. Get a quick overview of the requirements, plus details about degree and certificate programs, main job duties and important core qualities to find out if this might be the career for you.

It may be possible to begin a career as an addictions worker with a high school diploma and certification in some states; however, other states may require a bachelor's or master's degree to work in this field. Addictions workers use individual and group therapy to help clients struggling with addictions to drugs, alcohol or gambling, or those with eating disorders. They may work in hospitals, residential treatment centers, group homes, schools, or correctional institutions.

Essential Information

Addictions workers provide individual or group therapy to individuals struggling with drug addiction, alcohol addiction, gambling addiction and/or eating disorders. These workers not only counsel patients themselves, but may also work with a patient's family members or close friends. Additionally, they may participate in orientation sessions, informational programs and/or dependency prevention initiatives. Addictions workers counsel patients in group homes, residential treatment facilities, correctional institutions, or hospital treatment settings.

Required Education Varies widely depending upon duties and setting; generally, a high school diploma or GED, bachelor's degree or master's degree
Other Requirements Often, state licensure/certification for private practice; also crisis training or other on-the-job instruction
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 22% for substance abuse and behavior disorder counselors
Mean Salary (2018)* $47,920 for substance abuse and behavior disorder counselors

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Duties of Addictions Workers

An addictions worker creates records of each patient's history and charts patient progress during ongoing sessions. These workers implement treatment and recovery plans, and assess each patient's psychological condition. Addictions workers must ensure that treatment goals are being met, as well as attend staff meetings regarding patient care. They may obtain patient urine samples to determine whether a patient is remaining drug-free.

Addictions workers may also consult with other professionals to assess physical and/or mental progress as they guide each patient in overcoming addictions and addictive behaviors. Workers may suggest changes in living arrangements to remove patients from negative environments and influences. Addictions workers often work with their patients in aftercare programs as well, helping them to make adjustments without relying on their dependencies.

Job Requirements of Addictions Workers


Requirements for becoming an addictions worker typically vary by state. Sometimes a bachelor's degree or master's degree is required; however, completion of a certificate program is occasionally the only step necessary. Potential students should explore their state's specific expectations and prerequisites.

Some students may pursue a bachelor's degree in psychology, substance abuse, rehabilitation counseling, or addictions counseling. Courses may include case management, diagnosis and assessment techniques, ethical and legal concerns, preventive strategies, group counseling techniques, and counseling methods. Master's degree programs in mental health, substance abuse counseling and clinical counseling are also available. Students may want to choose programs that are certified by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP).

Generally, individuals who would like to become an addictions worker should possess a caring and compassionate nature. They should also be energetic and capable of providing ongoing emotional support to their patients.


A certification in addictions counseling is available through the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). Students who successfully pass this examination may not need to be certified by their state. Requirements for the Master Addictions Counselor credential include completion of 12 semesters of graduate courses in addictions, a passing grade on the Examination for Master Addictions Counselors (EMAC), plus three years of experience in addictions counseling.

Salary Info and Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors earned a mean annual salary of $47,920 in May, 2018. Those employed by junior colleges earned the most in the field, averaging approximately $63,760 per year as of that same date. The BLS predicts that employment of substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors will grow by 22% between 2018 and 2028, substantially faster than the national average for all occupations.

Those interested in pursuing a career as an addictions worker should check their state requirements as they vary widely, with some states requiring a high school diploma and certification, and others requiring a a bachelor's or master's degree and certification to work in this field. On-the-job training may also be required by some employers. Addictions workers help individuals who are addicted to various substances, providing counseling and therapy to them and sometimes to their families.

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