Become a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor: Career Roadmap

Find out how to become a licensed chemical dependency counselor. Research the education requirements, and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in counseling. View article »

View 10 Popular Schools »

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

94% college-bound high school students
…said it was important to communicate with colleges during the search process. (Source: Noel-Levitz 2012 trend study)

Select a school or program

View More Schools
Show Me Schools
  • 0:00 Chemical Dependency Counselor
  • 1:08 Check Licensing Requirements
  • 1:38 Earn a College Degree
  • 2:25 Gain Practical Experience
  • 2:52 Attain National Certification
  • 4:03 Stay Current

Find the perfect school

Video Transcript

Chemical Dependency Counselor

Chemical dependency counselors, also known as substance abuse counselors, teach individuals to cope with addictions to alcohol or drugs. They might work with clients in a group setting or on an individual basis. Chemical dependency counselors assess patients and help them change their behaviors by discovering situations in their lives that might be making recovery difficult. Lack of resources and dealing with crisis situations can make this profession stressful at times.

Degree Level Minimum varies by state, but associate's, bachelor's, or master's degree may be preferred or required; private practice requires a master's
Degree Field Behavioral science, social work or related; counseling education required for certification
Licensure and/or Certification Licensure is required, eligibility requirements vary by state; specialty and national certification is available
Experience 2,000 to 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience for licensure; counseling experience and post-master's supervision required for certification
Key Skills Strong verbal communication, people and listening skills, patience and compassion; familiar with related medical software, able to use related tools, such as alcohol analyzers
Salary (2015) $42,920 (mean annual salary for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Board for Certified Counselors, O*Net Online

Let's find out how to become a licensed chemical dependency counselor.

Step 1: Check Licensing Requirements

Check with the state for information on licensing requirements. All states require some form of licensure for counselors in private practice. But counselors who work with substance abuse are typically governed by a different state agency than other counselors. Licensing requirements vary by state, but generally include some combination of education and experience, and passage of a state-approved written exam. A licensing fee is usually required as well.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Clinical Pastoral Counseling
  • Community Health Services
  • Genetic Counseling
  • Marriage and Family Counseling
  • Medical Social Work
  • Mental Health Counseling
  • Mental Health Services Technician
  • Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis
  • Substance Abuse Counseling

Step 2: Earn a College Degree

The minimum educational requirement to become a licensed counselor varies by state. For example, Ohio has four levels of licensure for chemical dependency counselors. The first level requires 40 hours of education in addition to practical experience working or volunteering in a counseling setting. The second level requires an associate's degree, while the third and fourth levels require a bachelor's and master's degree, respectively.

Some states require a master's degree as the minimum educational requirement for licensure. Typical bachelor's or master's degree programs for those going into the field of chemical dependency counseling include addiction counseling, clinical counseling, behavioral science, or psychology.

Step 3: Gain Practical Experience

Hands-on experience is often a requirement for licensure as a chemical dependency counselor. Some states require as much as 2,000 to 3,000 hours of clinical experience under the supervision of a licensed chemical dependency counselor. Volunteer work in a chemical dependency or mental health facility, internships, and work experience are all generally accepted as experience.

Step 4: Attain National Certification

Chemical dependency counselors can attain a national credential by passing the National Certification Commission (NCC) exam, offered under the auspices of the NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals. Some states permit counselors to use the NAADAC certification test to meet state certification requirements.

Counselors can earn four NAADAC credentials, including the National Certified Addiction Counselor (NCAC), Levels I and II, Master Addiction Counselor (MAC), and Tobacco Addiction Specialist (TAS). In addition, professionals can earn a qualification as a Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) or an Adolescent Specialist Endorsement (ASE).

To be certified as an NCAC I, alcohol or drug counselors typically must be certified or licensed to practice in their state of residence and pass a written exam. Additional hours of training and supervised experience may also be required. Continuing education credits are necessary to maintain certifications.

Step 5: Stay Current

In addition to maintaining and earning new certifications, professionals can stay current by joining a professional organization such as the NAADAC. Such memberships commonly provide access to industry publications, job boards, and other field-specific opportunities.

In summary, a chemical dependency counselor must meet education and experience requirements to qualify for licensure. Specific requirements vary by state. National certification is also available in this field.

Next: View Schools

What is your highest level of education?

Some College
Complete your degree or find the graduate program that's right for you.
High School Diploma
Explore schools that offer bachelor and associate degrees.
Still in High School
Earn your diploma or GED. Plan your undergraduate education.

Schools you may like:

Popular Schools

The listings below may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users.

    • MS in Psychology - Addictions
    • MS in Psychology - Applied Behavioral Analysis
    • MS in Nursing
    • Master of Healthcare Administration
    • MS in Educational Psychology
    • BS in Psychology in Addictions
    • BS in Health and Wellness
    • BS in Health Science

    What is your highest level of education completed?

    • BA: Psychology - Clinical/Counseling

    What is your highest level of education completed?

    • Doctor of Philosophy in Counselor Education and Supervision
    • Ph.D. in General Psychology - Performance Psychology
    • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
    • MS in Addiction Counseling
    • M.S. in Mental Health and Wellness with Emphasis in Grief and Bereavement
    • M.S. in Mental Health and Wellness with Emphasis in Prevention
    • M.S. in Mental Health and Wellness
    • M.S. in Mental Health and Wellness with an Emphasis in Community Mental Health Administration
    • MS in Christian Counseling
    • BS in Counseling - Addiction, Chemical Dependency, and Substance Abuse
    • BS in Health Care Administration
    • BS in Health Sciences: Professional Development & Advanced Patient Care
    • Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Science

    What is your highest level of education?

    • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Healthcare Leadership
    • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership - Healthcare Management
    • Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling
    • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Management
    • Bachelor of Science in Psychology - Clinical and Counseling Psychology

    What is your highest level of education completed?

    • Graduate Specialization - Healthcare Administration

    What is your highest level of education?

  • What is your highest level of education completed?

  • What is your highest level of education completed?

    • MS in Criminal Justice Behavior Analysis

    What is your highest level of education completed?

  • What is your age?

    • MBA - Healthcare Administration
    • MFT
    • MFT - specialization in Medical Family Therapy
    • Master of Marriage and Family Therapy - Child & Adolescent Therapy
    • Master of Marriage and Family Therapy - Therapy with Military Families
    • Master of Marriage and Family Therapy - Treatment of Trauma

    What is your highest level of education completed?

Find your perfect school

What is your highest level of education?