United States Substance Abuse Counselor Graduate Schools

Why Consider Substance Abuse Counselor Graduate Schools

Attending a substance abuse counselor school may be a perfect way to prepare for a career path with important social impact. During your program, you may explore both the foundations of counseling as a discipline, and the particulars of helping patients who struggle with addiction.  And by choosing to study on campus, you could potentially be part of a supportive cohort with similar career goals and challenges! Below, you can read more about earning a graduate addiction counseling degree on campus, plus check out a list of prospective substance abuse counselor schools worth exploring!

Why Pursuing a Graduate Addiction Counseling Degree May Be the Perfect Next Step [i]

You might be asking, “So what degree do you need to be a counselor?”. Well, substance abuse counselors who wish to work in a private practice must typically earn a masters degree in substance abuse counseling or a similar area. That’s because counselors in private practice are required to pursue licensure from their state, which calls for earning a masters and completing 2,000 to 4,000 hours of supervised clinical experience. Other licensure requirements may vary by state, but earning at least a masters in addiction counseling is mandatory no matter where you live.

Not interested in working in a private practice? Most other substance abuse counselor roles require you to earn a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, though not all states have specific degree requirements. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics mentions that counselors with more education may be able to offer a wider range of services to clients, and they may not need as much supervision. If you are interested in offering, say, one-on-one counseling, you might wish to pursue further education to better serve your patients.

Did you know? In 2016, 30% of substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors earned a masters degree, while another 19% earned a professional degree.[ii]

Substance Abuse Counselor Graduate Schools to Consider

Substance Abuse Counselor Graduate Schools may go by a variety of names, like drug and alcohol counseling degree, addiction studies degree, chemical dependence services degree, and others. Graduate substance abuse counselor schools may offer degrees at various levels: masters, certificate, and in some cases, doctoral programs. Here’s what to potentially expect from your program:

Masters in substance abuse counseling – As mentioned previously, earning a masters in substance abuse counseling may be required for counselor licensure, particularly if you hope to work in private practice. i In addition to studying the theory and practice of counseling and substance abuse, you may engage in counseling research and even an internship or practicum. You may study the psychological and familial causes and effects of substance abuse, as well as explore treatment options and counseling strategies that could make a difference in patients’ lives.

Here are a few potential courses you might take while pursuing a masters degree in substance abuse counseling:

  • Psychology of addiction
  • Substance abuse prevention
  • Counseling ethics
  • Psychopharmacology
  • Group counseling
  • Sexual addiction

Schools and programs vary. Check out our directory of masters in substance abuse counseling programs to learn more.

Certificate in addiction counseling – Earning a graduate certificate in addiction counseling may be a way to build on previous education while readying for new challenges in the field of addiction and substance abuse counseling. A graduate certificate program is a non-degree course of study and often has a shorter completion time than other graduate level programs. You may be able to select courses that interest you, or pursue a fixed course plan, depending on the substance abuse counselor school. You may also pursue a supervised counseling internship as part of a certificate program.     

Here are a few potential courses you might take while earning a graduate certificate in substance abuse counseling:

  • Theories of chemical dependency
  • Counseling individuals, groups, and families
  • Treatment planning
  • Neuropsychopharmacology of addictive drugs
  • Co-occurring disorders
  • Diversity and ethics in addictions

Contact your preferred program for details or browse our directory of potential certificate in addiction counseling programs to learn more.

Doctorate in addiction counseling – Earning a PhD or D.S.W. (Doctor of Social Work) with a focus on addictions and substance abuse counseling may be a path worth considering, especially if you have an interest in research. Typically, earning a doctorate is not required for a substance abuse counselor career path. That said, you may wish to pursue a doctorate to potentially prepare for enhanced roles, such as in clinical supervision and administration. Substance abuse graduate programs at the doctoral level typically call for original research in addition to coursework. This may help you build on previous professional knowledge or explore topics that interest you.

Your studies might vary depending on your area of focus, but here’s a sampling of courses you could take in a rehabilitation counseling PhD program:

  • Advanced clinical counseling
  • Ethical and legal issues in counseling
  • Rehabilitation counseling
  • Biostatistics
  • Research in rehabilitation

Learn more and explore our directory of doctorate in addiction counseling programs here.

Potential Benefits of Attending Substance Abuse Counselor Graduate Schools

For some, little can replace the traditional graduate school experience that may be available at substance abuse counselor schools. Perhaps you’ve always dreamed of wandering a campus and sipping coffee in the local café. Other great reasons for earning a substance abuse counselor degree on campus could include:

In-person learning. As you probably know, counseling is a career path that calls for interpersonal skills, compassion, good listening, and public speaking skills. So it may be only natural to want to engage with instructors and peers in an in-person, interactive setting. Plus, you may be able to see professionals put the very concepts you are learning into action.

Getting involved and networking. Meeting passionate, likeminded professionals could be a reason to pursue substance abuse graduate programs on campus. You could potentially join professional and social organizations and become an active part of your campus community.

Campus resources. From libraries and fitness centers to community partnerships and potential internship opportunities, your campus may have a lot to offer! Check with your prospective school to see what facilities and services may be available. 

It’s Time to Start Your Search

Whether you’re interested in pursuing a masters in addiction counseling program, a graduate certificate, or a doctoral degree, you’re in the right place! Below, you’ll find some sponsored listings for substance abuse counselor schools that could help you prepare to meet counsel and help those in need. Sort by degree level or location to narrow down your results. Good luck finding an addiction counseling degree program that’s perfect for you!


Sources: [i]bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/substance-abuse-and-behavioral-disorder-counselors.htm#tab-4 | [ii]onetonline.org/link/summary/21-1011.00

Find Schools