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Major Overview: Drug and Alcohol Counseling

Majors Overview March 24, 2015

Get information about bachelor’s degree programs in drug and alcohol counseling and their education requirements, coursework, job and wage outlook, and continuing education choices.

Drug and Alcohol Counseling Majors

Those who seek a career in this field may choose from various academic avenues, including the most popular Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Counseling and Addiction Studies. Those enrolled in these programs can expect to gain the skills and training they need in providing treatment and assessment to people suffering from alcohol and drug addiction.

Students can choose from many programs in the field to develop the tools they would need for working with the friends and families of individuals suffering from drug and alcohol treatment. A greater emphasis on prevention and education pertinent to addictive behavior is available through some undergraduate programs.

Students that seek admittance to a drug and alcohol counseling major are taught about addictive personality disorders, in addition to the specific chemicals that addictive personalities are attracted to. Many graduates from the bachelor’s degree program leverage their credits from the program to seek admittance to a master’s degree program in counseling as employers in the industry often prefer holders of master’s degrees.

Education Requirements

Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold a GED certificate or a high school diploma. Applicants are required to complete general education classes in mathematics, science, psychology, and communication before they can begin core courses.


The curriculum combines theoretical understanding of psychology with a practical grasp of counseling basics. Core coursework may include topic areas such as:

•Developmental psychology
•Methods of individual counseling
•Group methods
•Chemical dependence and youth
•Family therapy
•Assessment and treatment techniques
•Introduction to substance abuse
•Drug and alcohol addiction
•Social work
•Abnormal psychology
•Addictive populations

Job and Wage Outlook

A much-higher-than-average job growth rate of 31% has been predicted for drug and alcohol counselors over the 2012 – 2022 decade (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). In 2012, these professionals brought in an average annual wage of $38,520 (BLS). In 2012, over 89,600 individuals were employed in the United States as drug and alcohol counselors (BLS).

Continuing Education Choices

Graduates from a bachelor’s degree program in drug and alcohol counseling may opt for continuing education by earning a master’s degree in the field, such as a Master of Arts (M.A.) in Substance Abuse Counseling, to gain advanced training and experience in addiction studies and methods of counseling.

Requirements vary by state for substance abuse counselors that seek licensure. In some states, students are required to have master’s degrees, while others would need only some professional experience and a certificate as offered by organizations such as the Association for Addiction Professionals, which also offers national certification choices.

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