Drug Abuse Counselor Education Requirements and Career Info

In order to become a licensed drug abuse counselor, a master's degree in addiction and substance abuse counseling is required. A master's degree program in substance abuse counseling can be competed in two years and often concludes with an internship or a capstone experience.

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Education Requirements

Before a student can enroll in a master's degree program in counseling, he or she must first complete an undergraduate degree. Students hoping to work as drug abuse counselors have a number of options available to them at the undergraduate degree level. A common area of study for these aspiring drug abuse counselors is psychology. After this degree is completed, students then enroll in a master's degree program in drug abuse and addiction counseling.

Bachelor of Arts in Psychology

A Bachelor of Arts in Psychology provides students with an overview of the discipline. Coursework pulls from the major areas of psychology, such as social psychology, developmental psychology, neuroscience, clinical psychology and industrial and organizational psychology. Many programs allow students to choose a specialization, and those considering a career in counseling often choose a clinical or health-related option. Foundation courses in psychology cover topics such as social development, cognition and social perception, the physiological foundations of behavior and how information is processed by the brain.

Master of Science in Substance Abuse Counseling

A master's degree program in substance abuse counseling focuses on the theory, practices, ethics and research methods of substance abuse counseling. Program classes address substance abuse counseling within the context of marriage and family therapy, pharmacology, ethics and issues of diversity. An internship or a research project is often required to complete the degree.

Career Information

Drug abuse counselors work with individuals, either in a group setting or in a one-on-one consultation, to help identify the behaviors or emotional problems that underline their addictive behaviors. Often a person does not know why he or she is addicted to drugs, and a drug counselor can help isolate a reason. Group settings are extremely effective because they provide a sense of community among people suffering from substance abuse problems. During group counseling, participants speak about their actions and recognize the harm they are doing to themselves and the people who know and love them.

Once a drug abuse counselor helps a client recover, additional meetings at home or at a counseling center may be needed to ensure that this person does not slip back into behaviors that led to substance abuse. In order to create a sense of support, a drug abuse counselor may work with families.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), a 27% increase in the employment of substance abuse counselors is expected for the 2010-2020 period. One of the reasons for this better-than-average employment figure is the increasing number of people who are aware of their own addictive and drug abuse behaviors and are willing to seek help. The median annual salary in 2012 was $40,920, according to the BLS.

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