California MS MA Substance Abuse Counseling Masters Degrees

Substance abuse counseling master's degree students learn to work with people who have physical, emotional, or mental addictions to substances such as alcohol, drugs, and food to help them identify the source of their addiction and to provide treatment. Counselors work with individuals or groups of substance abusers and sometimes their friends and families. 

Substance Abuse Counseling Master's Degree Curriculum

Master's degree substance abuse counseling programs help educate people through core and elective coursework to work with people who abuse substances. In addition, students in graduate-level programs might choose to complete a practicum and internship prior to graduation. Most programs also require students to take and pass a comprehensive exam at the end of their programs.   

Common Masters Courses: 

As mentioned above, graduate students in substance abuse counseling typically complete both core and electives coursework to earn a masters degree in substance abuse counseling. Some examples of common core subjects may include: 

  • Introduction to counseling and rehabilitation 
  • Ethical and legal aspects of the profession
  • Psychiatric and social rehabilitation 
  • Counseling theories and philosophies 
  • Family treatment in substance abuse rehabilitation 
  • Group counseling 
  • Addictive behavior 
  • Human growth and development 
  • Biological factors of addiction
  • Multicultural counseling in rehabilitation 

These and other subjects commonly constitute the core for graduate programs in substance abuse counseling.  

In addition, many programs allow students to specialize their degrees by taking electives. Some examples of common elective subjects may include:

  • Detoxification 
  • Inpatient rehabilitation centers, hospitals, and clinics 
  • Outpatient counseling and treatment 
  • Substance abuse counseling administration, politics, and economics 
  • Legal rights and ethics of the profession 

These are just some of the many directions students might take to specialize their degrees. 

Substance Abuse Counseling Master's Degree Program Practicum and Internship Requirements 

While many some within the field of substance abuse counseling might not require graduate degrees, students pursuing one may desire to pursue careers as counselors in private practices or in positions that require licensure. Because of this, many graduate-level programs require students to complete a practicum or internship prior to graduating. 

Substance Abuse Counselor Licensure Requirements and Certifications

Many positions within the field of substance abuse counseling, especially those involving a private practice or the delivery of psychiatric treatment, require professionals to obtain state licensure to practice. In most states, students have to have earned a master’s degree and worked a certain number of supervised hours in the field prior to testing for licensure. Students can visit the National Board for Certified Counselors to determine the licensure requirements in their states.   

Professional Organizations for Substance Abuse Counselors

There are numerous professional organizations and industry resources throughout the United States and world that rehabilitation counseling professionals and students may join and utilize. Some include: 

  • The Association for Addiction Professionals (also known as the National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors) (NAADAC)
  • The National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP)
  • The American Counseling Association (ACA)
  • The American Mental Health Counselors Association (ACC) 

Students and professionals may also join state-based professional organizations that focus on the field of substance abuse counseling and psychology. 

Areas of Specialization for Substance Abuse Counseling Graduate Students

Substance abuse counselors may specialize in a variety of areas: 

  • Individual or group counseling
  • Family counseling 
  • Substance abuse of drugs, alcohol, or food  
  • Medical or psychosocial diagnoses, analyses, and treatment 
  • Substance abuse research 
  • Specific populations (teenagers, veterans, or people with disabilities, for example)
  • Crises or non-crises intervention 

These and many other areas of specialization may be options for students seeking to pursue careers as substance abuse counseling professionals.    

Substance Abuse Counselor Career Paths

Substance abuse counselors work in an array of capacities and settings. They work as counselors, therapists, educators, program and case administrators or facilitators, or in any number of other roles. They might work in public, private, or non-profit institutions on a local, state, or national scale, and they might work independently or with others as a part of a program, support system, or treatment facility. Substance abuse counselors work wherever there is a need for substance abuse counseling, education, or treatment.    

Substance Abuse Counselor Salary and Job Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that jobs for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors will increase by 31% between 2012 and 2022.  This increase means that about 28,200 new potential career opportunities may become available to individuals holding a master's degree in substance abuse counseling.

In 2012 the median annual salary for substance abuse counselors was $38,520.  The top 10% of earners made more than $60,000 and the bottom 10% of earners made less than $25,140. The following chart shows the annual median wage for professionals in the field of substance abuse counseling. 

Salary of Substance Abuse Counselor

Find Schools