CADC Degree Program Overviews

Learn about associate's and bachelor's degree programs in alcohol and drug abuse counseling. Find out about licensing and certification requirements for certified alcohol and drug counselors (CADCs).

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Essential Information

Prospective alcohol and substance abuse counselors can enroll in programs at the associate's and bachelor's degree levels. Both of these programs include a combination of didactic and hands-on practical training in the fundamentals of addiction and counseling strategies; clinical internships or fieldwork opportunities are often available. Bachelor's programs generally take four years of full-time study to complete, while associate's program are often two years in length. Bachelor's programs tend to require more general education coursework than associate's programs.

Earning an undergraduate degree in alcohol and drug counseling can lead to professional certification or licensure in the field, but it's important to note that credentialing requirements vary widely by state. In some states, for example, only a high school diploma and on-the-job training may be required for certification. Licensure requirements for individuals who want to open private practices may include completion of a master's program, extensive clinical experience hours and an exam.


Associate's Degrees in Alcohol and Drug Counseling

These two-year undergraduate degree programs, sometimes referred to as substance abuse or addiction counseling programs, are often offered through a school's human services department. A high school diploma or its equivalent is required for admission.

Program Coursework

Students are required to complete 60-65 credit-hours of coursework between general education requirements as well as courses in alcohol and drug counseling. Most programs include an internship or fieldwork. Course topics might include:

  • Psychology
  • Theories of addiction
  • Counseling strategies
  • Family intervention

Licensing and Certification

State licensing and certification requirements for alcohol and drug counselors vary by state. They may be regulated through a state's Department of Health, Department of Licensing, or through special departments focusing on the regulation of substance abuse professionals. Some states have adopted the Association for Addiction Professionals certification (www.naadac.org). Basic certification requires three years of work experience, a minimum number of contact hours, and passing the certification exam.

Bachelor's Degrees in Alcohol and Drug Counseling

These four-year programs provide a solid educational foundation for those interested in a career treating and preventing alcoholism and substance abuse. Bachelor's degree programs require at least a high school diploma or its equivalent for admission. In most states, those who earn a bachelor's degree in this field meet state licensing requirements.

Program Coursework

Students complete approximately 122 credit hours of coursework in addiction studies and general education. Many schools provide students with opportunities for hands-on experience through internships or clinical experiences. Topics of study include:

  • Chemical dependency
  • Psychopharmacology
  • Prevention strategies
  • Ethical issues in counseling

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors, including CADCs, earned a median salary of $38,520 in May 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov). Most of these counselors were employed by outpatient care centers, substance abuse treatment facilities, and other family service organizations. The BLS expected employment to grow by 27% between 2010 and 2020, because more individuals choose to seek treatment and individuals facing drug charges are mandated to seek help as part of their parole or probation agreements with the court.

Certification and Continuing Education

The Association for Addiction Professionals offers certification for Substance Abuse Professionals and Adolescent Specialists as well as special focuses in spiritual care-giving and resolution in recovery. Annual conferences and additional continuing education opportunities are also available.

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