What Degree Do You Need to Be a Drug Addiction Counselor?


A drug addiction counselor is one who offers advice to those with substance abuse problems. Most counselors must receive a license from the state in which they work. The requirements set forth by these states can vary greatly. While some states have specific educational requirements for counselors, in general, drug addiction counselors come from many different educational and professional backgrounds. There are several acceptable degrees that a counselor can receive.

Associate's Degree

Many drug addiction counselors hold associate's degrees in substance abuse counseling. These degrees, which take approximately two years to complete, offer a student courses in a number of fields with direct relevance to their future profession. For example, a student may take classes in psychology, to gain a better understanding of the mind of an addict, and classes in pharmacology, to better understand how drugs affect a person's body.


Many counselors receive bachelor's degrees or higher in psychology. Psychology has the most relevance to a career in counseling, as it is the discipline that covers the way people think and behave. Part of being a counselor is understanding why addicts may the decisions they do and how to alter the addict's decision-making process. Some agencies that employ counselors look particularly favorably on a job applicant with a psychology degree.

Medical Degree

Some counselors come from a medical background, including counselors who have received an M.D. While few employers of substance abuse counselors require counselors to be trained as psychiatrists, an understanding of cognition and neurology can be useful to a counselor. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, counselors with advanced degrees have a better chance of ascending to positions of authority, such as administrative positions, although many choose to continue to work directly with patients.

Social Work

Many social workers frequently work with clients who have substance abuse problems. As part of their job, these social workers typically provide much the same type of counseling that drug addiction counselors do, albeit in a different setting. For this reason, those with degrees in social work — either master's degrees or bachelor's degrees — either directly enter substance abuse counseling or make the transition after beginning their career as a social worker.

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