How to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor Online

Dec 06, 2019

Substance abuse counselors help clients or groups cope with the tribulations of addiction and the journey of recovery. Learn more about a career as a substance abuse counselor, and explore steps you can take to work towards becoming one online.

Information on a Substance Abuse Counselor Career

Substance abuse counselors may be responsible for evaluating the health status and needs of a group or individual, developing treatment plans, monitoring clients' progress, helping set goals, developing strategies for avoiding negative behaviors and engaging instead in positive behaviors, and other related tasks. Substance abuse counselors may utilize or incorporate the 12 step program or may employ other proven methods. Substance abuse counselors typically work in outpatient substance abuse centers but can also work in hospitals, residential facilities, government facilities, or in private practice. Given the varied state licensure requirements, becoming a substance abuse counselor online can have some difficulties when it comes to meeting work experience requirements.

Required Skills Compassion, listening skills, patience
Job Growth (2018-2028) 22% (all substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors)*
Median Salary (2018) $44,630 (all substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Online Steps for Becoming a Substance Abuse Counselor

Becoming a substance abuse counselor likely entails earning a bachelor's degree but can also mean earning a master's degree. State licensure requirements vary from one state to the next, but they often include work experience. That said, most of the following requirements can be completed by utilizing online resources, although the final step does involve a good amount of in-person work.

Step 1: Earn Your Bachelor's Degree

Although there can be a variety of different requirements for this position owing to the varying preferences of employers and clients and the differences in state licensure requirements, this position typically requires you to have a bachelor's degree at minimum. There are some degree programs you can find online related to this career field. For example, there are online offerings for Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in substance abuse counseling. These bachelor's degree programs typically last four years and can help you build a solid foundation through coursework in areas like group counseling, crisis management, and pharmacology. Some programs also offer internship opportunities.

Step 2: Complete a Master's Degree

A master's degree might be required or otherwise preferred by certain organizations, employers, or clients. Master's degree programs can also qualify substance abuse counselors for different types of work in this field, such as one-on-one counseling sessions, and master's-qualified workers also need less oversight and perhaps less work hours to qualify for certification or licensure. Earning a master's degree in counseling or psychology is possible online. Some of these programs even focus on substance abuse counseling specifically.

Step 3: Prepare for Licensure

Licensure is a requirement for individuals wishing to provide counseling services in a private practice. Qualifications for licensure vary from state-to-state; however, they generally include some proof of education, documentation of a given number of work hours, and passing scores on an exam. There are some online resources that can help you prepare for licensure, such as online practice tests, webinars, and video guides. This step will, however, require a lot of in-person work to complete the necessary hours of documented work experience and training.

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