How Do You Become a Substance Abuse Counselor?

Substance Abuse CounselorIf you would enjoy working with people who are currently dealing with issues related to drug and substance abuse, you should become a substance abuse counselor. Substance abuse counselors are highly educated and credentialed individuals who offer consultations to individuals who suffer from a variety of substance addiction disorders such as alcoholism and drug addiction. With the advent of cocaine, heroin and pain killer addiction problems in the United States, there are a huge demand for substance abuse counselors and therapists.


Typically, it is expected that substance abuse counselors need to obtain at least a bachelor’s degree or higher in order to become employable in a wide variety of settings. Most substance abuse counselors study fields such as psychology, sociology, social work, and other fields related to human development. Prospective substance abuse counselor will also need to take general studies courses while obtaining a bachelor’s degree. This will include taking courses such as English composition, college algebra, history, social studies and some sort of foreign language. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree, most substance abuse counselors will then proceed to obtain a degree in clinical psychology, social services, social work or another field where they can obtain a concentration in substance abuse counseling. These courses can be taken online from a number of accredited programs.


Substance abuse counselors work in a wide variety of settings. Many of them work in outpatient mental healthcare facilities, community service organizations, social service agencies, prisons, hospitals and other larger outpatient facilities. Substance abuse counselors can also work for private mental health therapists and licensed clinical social workers to offer group counseling services to their patients.

Job Outlook

There is a huge and growing demand for licensed substance abuse counselors in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the substance abuse counseling field is expected to grow over 31 percent over the next 10 years. Many drug rehab centers, outpatient facilities, social service agencies and public health agencies heavily utilize substance abuse counselors in tandem with offering mental health services. With the rise of ravaging drug addictions in the United States, in particular in large suburban communities, more and more places are offering drug addiction treatment services to diverse populations of people.


Salaries for substance abuse counselors will vary based on a variety of factors such as geographic location, size of the employer, type of the employer, years of experience, education and seniority. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for substance abuse counselors in 2012 was around $39,000. Salaries for substance abuse counselors at the entry-level point in larger cities such as New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago will be higher and typically are over $45,000.

Related Resource: Crisis Intervention Specialist

Substance abuse counseling is definitely a great career to look into if you want to help people get cured of drug addictions other types of addictive disorders. If you enjoy working with people and would like to help transform peoples’ lives for the better, become a substance abuse counselor.