Certified Substance Abuse Counselor Education Requirements

Sep 09, 2019

Becoming a substance abuse counselor requires becoming certified or licensed, which can be acquired at multiple levels; requirements vary from state-to-state. Once certified, counselors will be able to provide therapy to people who have substance abuse problems.

Essential Information

Substance abuse counselors provide assessments and therapy to people who have addictions to alcohol or drugs. The requirements for getting certified or licensed vary by state. Some states rely on the NAADAC Certification Commission, which provides several levels of national certification in substance abuse counseling.

Required Education Varies by certification from a high school diploma to a master's degree
Required Experience 125-500 contact hours and 3-5 years of experience in the field, depending on certification level
Specialization Options Level I National Certified Addiction Counselor,
Level II National Certified Addiction Counselor,
Master Addiction Counselor
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) 22%* (for all substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors)
Median Salary (2018) $44,630* (for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Certified Substance Abuse Counselor Education Requirements

Basic Certification Education Requirements

For basic certification, substance abuse counselors must have at least a year of experience in treating substance abuse in recommended practice areas, 125 hours of education or training and at least a high school diploma. Applicants need to meet any requirements set by their state board. They must also read the code of ethics from either their state board of substance abuse counseling or NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals.

Level I National Certified Addiction Counselor (NCAC I) Education Requirements

This certification requires a state license in substance abuse counseling and 270 contact hours of training in substance abuse counseling. Candidates must have completed at least six hours of training in HIV/AIDS education and the same in ethics. The applicant also needs three years or 6,000 hours of work experience, normally supervised, as a substance abuse counselor. New applicants must have had both AIDS training and ethics training not more than five years ago.

Level II National Certified Addiction Counselor Education Requirements

The Level II National Certified (NCAC II) is the lowest level of substance abuse counseling certification that requires a college degree. The applicant's bachelor's degree must be from an accredited college or university. State licensing or certification and six hours each of recent ethics and HIV/AIDS training are needed, just as for NCAC I certification. Applicants must have at least 450 contact hours of education or training related to substance abuse. Finally, applicants must have at least five years or 10,000 hours of full-time substance abuse counseling experience.

Master Addiction Counselor (MAC) Certification Requirements

For MAC qualification, applicants must show that they have at least 500 hours of education or training. This has to include a master's degree in a human services field, such as social work, family therapy, psychology, counseling or even nursing. Applicants must have a current professional certificate or license in the state where they practice their profession. They must show proof of three supervised years of experience in counseling. Two thirds of this must have been after master's degree completion. New applicants must have undergone training in ethics and HIV/AIDS education during the past five years.

Other Certifications and Requirements

Besides the above certifications, the NAADAC Certification Commission offers several endorsements for those who wish to work in substance abuse counseling. These include Nicotine Dependence Specialist, Adolescent Specialist Endorsement, Conflict Resolution in Recovery Certificate and Certificate in Spiritual Caregiving. State boards may require their own certifications or licenses for substance abuse counselors. Requirements for these certifications vary.

For an individual to become a substance abuse counselor, they must be licensed on a state level and can receive a license that ranges between the basic certificate to a master's degree with the Master Addiction Counselor certificate. Substance abuse counselors will be able to provide therapy to people with a history of addiction and can earn a median salary of $44,630.

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