Substance Abuse Counselor Majors and Undergraduate Degree Programs

Apr 24, 2020

Essential Information

Individuals interested in becoming a substance abuse counselor should major in addiction studies, social work, or a related field. While enrolled in these majors, students will learn about the effects of addiction on the individual as well the individual's family. People who want to work in this field should have the desire to help others, as well as strong listening and interpersonal skills. Graduates should plan on continuing their education at the master's degree level in order to earn licensure as a counselor.

Substance Abuse Counselor Majors

Students in an addiction studies or social work bachelor's degree program examine the psychological motivations behind various addictions, in addition to exploring how addictions can develop into dangerous substance abuse. Through classroom lectures and supervised sessions, students gain in-depth understanding of the implications of and treatments for substance abuse. They also learn to work in one-on-one and group counseling situations. Coursework in an addiction studies undergraduate program might include the following:

  • Foundation of addiction studies
  • Drug types
  • Substance abuse and society
  • Intervention
  • Prevention and treatment
  • Group and individual counseling

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (, the number of jobs for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors was expected to grow 22% between 2018 and 2028. In May 2019, the median annual salary for a substance abuse counselor was $46,240.

Continuing Education

Licensure requirements for substance abuse counselors vary by state, but most require a minimum of a master's degree, as well as a set number of hours of supervised work experience. Thus, aspiring substance abuse counselors should pursue a master's degree or Ph.D. in a human services field, such as addiction studies or group and family counseling. Substance abuse counselors may also seek voluntary credentialing as an Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Counselor (AODA) or an Advanced Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Counselor (AAODA) through the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (

People who want to become licensed substance abuse counselors must obtain a bachelor's degree in a field like addiction studies or social work, as well as a master's degree. Licensing requirements vary for each state, so students should make sure their program meets the state requirements.

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