Drug Counselor Career Info and Education Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a drug counselor. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

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Essential Information

Drug counselors, also known as substance abuse or behavioral disorder counselors, work with patients on an individual or a group basis to help them address their addiction issues. They assist patients as well as friends and families of patients with coping methods and recovery programs. Drug counselors must be licensed by the state where they work, which usually requires at least a master's degree. Professional certification is not required, but may increase employment opportunities.

Required Education Master's degree in substance abuse counseling or other relevant field is most common
LicensingLicense needed in all states, but requirements vary
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)* 31% for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors
Median Salary (2013)* $38,620 for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Drug Counselor Career Info

Drug counselors usually assist individuals in controlling their addiction to drugs or alcohol; however, a drug counselor may also help patients with gambling problems or eating disorders. Drug counselors must be available for their patients in moments of weakness. In addition to scheduled therapy sessions, a drug counselor performs emergency crisis-counseling sessions and is expected to sometimes take drop-in patients who need support therapy. Drug counselors work closely with patients to put together customized programs that aid in recovery. Some drug counselors also start community outreach programs to try and prevent future substance abuse problems.

Education Requirements

While obtaining a position as a drug counselor in the United States has different requirements depending on the state of practice, it is typically necessary for a drug counselor to have a master's degree. The Master of Science in Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counseling is a possible option, and many schools that don't offer that exact degree program will offer master's programs in counseling that emphasize substance abuse education.

Every state requires counselors to have a license before they can practice; however, like the degree requirement, licensure procedures vary from state to state. Upon obtaining licensure, it is not uncommon for drug counselors to be heavily monitored or directly employed by state and federal government agencies.

The National Board for Certified Counselors offers an optional certification process for drug counselors. Those who pass the certification can earn the title of National Certified Counselor. This certification process is not mandatory in any state, but obtaining certification can greatly enhance employment opportunities.

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