How to Choose a School or Program for Addiction Counselors

Oct 20, 2021

Addiction counselors, also known as substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors, work with patients to treat and cure addictions; those planning to work in private practice must be licensed and obtain a master's degree. Addiction counseling programs are available at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and may be found at community and 4-year colleges and universities.

10 Addiction Counseling Schools

Here's a list of institutions with relevant programs:

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Tuition 2018-2019*
Arkansas State University Jonesboro, Arkansas 4-year, public Postgraduate certificate In-state $4,806
Out-of-state $9,612
Kent State University Kent, Ohio 4-year, public Master's In-state $11,536
Out-of-state $21,524
Minnesota State University-Mankato Mankato, Minnesota 4-year, public Bachelor's In-state $8,184
Out-of-state $16,235 (including fees)
University of Illinois at Springfield Springfield, Illinois 4-year, public Master's In-state tuition $8,550
Out-of-state tuition $15,247
Pennsylvania State University University Park, Pennsylvania 4-year, public Master's, Doctorate In-state $21,540 Out-of-state $36,974
University of New Hampshire Durham, New Hampshire 4-year, public Postgraduate Certificate In-state $13,840
Out-of-state $27,130
Drexel University Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 4-year, private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Postgraduate certificate Undergraduate: $53,244 (including fees)
Graduate: $34,155
Ohio Christian University Circleville, Ohio 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's $20,806 (including fees)
University of Utah Salt Lake City, Utah 4-year, public Postgraduate certificate Undergraduate:
In-state $9,222 (including fees)
In-state $6,988

*Source: National Center for Education Statistics

School Selection Criteria

Those interested in pursuing a career as an addiction counselor should consider many different aspects of potential programs before making a decision as to which school to attend.

  • Students looking for an addiction counselor program may want to consider the requirements of their state and area of specialization when choosing a school. Students living in states with more relaxed requirements for certification may enroll in certificate or associate degree programs in addiction counseling and substance abuse. In many cases, a higher level of education will decrease the mandatory minimum requirements for work experience, however.
  • Students living in states that require extensive clinical experiences may be interested in programs offering a larger amount of internships, or schools that offer assistantships, fellowships and externships as financial aid opportunities.
  • Students interested in unique clinical opportunities, such as individual observation, group observation, recording opportunities and one-way mirrors can look for school programs offering such facilities.
  • For students in need of scheduling flexibility, online programs are available at many levels of education.

Certificate in Addiction Counseling

Undergraduate certificate programs in drug and alcohol counseling are available and may serve as the sole educational requirement necessary to become qualified for certification in some states. These programs can commonly be completed in 12-18 months and often include internships.

Associate Degree in Addiction Counseling

A 2-year degree program in addiction counseling provides both theory and practical education in counseling techniques. Students can also complete practicum and internships to gain hands-on training.

Bachelor's Degree in Addiction Counseling

Bachelor's degree programs for addiction counselors are available in substance abuse counseling and addiction counseling. Some psychology degree programs are also available with a concentration in addiction. Students may become certified in some states with a bachelor's degree alone. In addition to internship requirements, bachelor's degree students will typically complete courses in addictive disorders, abnormal psychology, and case management.

Master's Degree in Addiction Counseling

Master's degree programs in substance abuse counseling and counseling psychology qualify students to sit for state certification examinations in most locations. Students may be required to complete a thesis as part of a master's program or additional clinical work in the form of practicums or internships.

Students interested in addiction counseling programs should ensure they will be prepared for licensure to work in their state. They should also research the scheduling flexibility, experiential learning components and financial aid opportunities.

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