Substance Abuse Counselor Job Description & Career Outlook

The job of a substance abuse counselor is to work with individuals in various stages of the recovery process from addiction to drugs and/or alcohol.

The substance abuse counselor evaluates each individual client to see where that individual falls in his/her personal recovery. Many of their clients are court referrals following charges of impaired driving or possession of a controlled substance. The counselor completes and evaluation which may include written tests, drug screens, and talk therapy. Once the evaluation is complete, the counselor then makes recommendations for the course of treatment required to assist the individual in learning to cope with his/her addiction. Some individuals may require an educational program only; however, others may require intense intervention which may include detox or inpatient treatment. The substance abuse counselor follows the individuals progress while he/she is in the program recommended by the counselor. Treatment provided may include education, one-on-one counseling, group counseling and referrals for further intervention.

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How to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor

To become a Substance Abuse Counselor, most states require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and supervised experience working with individuals who are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. The supervised experience must occur under a licensed counselor. Many states require a minimum of a master’s degree and licensure in order to work as a substance abuse counselor. Check with your state for full requirements.

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Substance Abuse Counselor Salary

Average salary for a substance abuse counselor is between $27,000 to $40,000 per year depending on education and licensure status of the individual as well as the agency/entity in which he/she performs the duties of an SA counselor.

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Substance Abuse Counselor Job Outlook

As the nation’s substance abuse problem grows, there is increased demand for qualified substance abuse counselors to meet the growing needs. Because there are many different agencies/entities that employ substance abuse counselors, individuals can focus on a particular aspect of substance abuse when seeking employment (i.e. school counseling, prison counseling, hospitals, etc.).

Substance Abuse Counselor Related Degrees from Accredited Schools

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University of Phoenix
Campuses: 1Online
Popular Degrees:

  • Addictions Certificate
  • M.S. in Psychology/Industrial- Organizational Psychology
  • B.S. in Psychology

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Capella University
Campuses: 1Online
Popular Degrees:

  • MS - Addiction Counseling
  • MS - Counseling Psychology
  • PhD - Counselor Education and Supervision

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Liberty University
Campuses: 1Online
Popular Degrees:

  • MA Human Services:  Addictions and Recovery
  • PhD in Counseling - Professional Counseling
  • PhD Counseling: Advanced Clinical Skills

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Walden University
Campuses: 1Online
Popular Degrees:

  • Ph.D. in Social Work - Addictions and Social Work
  • M.S. in Addiction Counseling - Addictions and Public Health
  • M.S. in School Counseling - Crisis and Trauma

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California University of Pennsylvania
Campuses: 1Online
Popular Degrees:

  • Graduate Certificate in Sports Counseling

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Grand Canyon University
Campuses: 1Online
Popular Degrees:

  • M.S. in Christian Counseling
  • M.S. in Christian Counseling of Substance Abuse and Addictive Disorders
  • M.S. in Professional Counseling

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Colorado Technical University Online
Campuses: 1Online
Popular Degrees:

  • Bachelor of Science in Psychology


Page Edited by Charles Sipe.