Mental Health Counselor
Bachelors In

Substance Abuse Counseling Degrees

The complete guide on what you’ll learn, job prospects, university programs, and saving time and money.

Why We Love It

  • $45,080
    Potential Avg. Salary*
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook

* Salary & growth data is based on the recent Bureau of Labor and Statistics data published at for 21-1014 Mental health counselors 11/2021. Based on national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary.

A bachelor of science in substance abuse counseling is a psychology degree that’s focused on educating students in treating addiction, chemical dependency, and substance abuse.

You’ll learn about the different types of substance disorders, understand how to coach addicts to recovery, gain intervention expertise, and learn about family dynamics in addict’s households in order to counsel family members of addicts.

What is a Degree in Substance Abuse Counseling?

If you’re interested in pursuing a career helping people overcome addiction and substance abuse, a bachelor of science in substance abuse counseling may be right for you. In a substance abuse degree program, you’ll gain the education and skills needed to become licensed to provide substance abuse counseling to addicts and their family members.

Students study basic psychological concepts, understand what factors drive addiction, and learn how to conduct interventions and treatment counseling.

In some states, a bachelor’s degree is sufficient for earning a license as a substance abuse counselor, but in other states a master’s degree is required. It’s important to review the requirements of your state before choosing a program.

However, even without becoming licensed as a counselor, there are many ways graduates can put their knowledge and skills to use. Some work in rehab clinics as clinical assistants and support staff, and others work for non-profits supporting the families of addicts.

Recommended Schools

What Courses Would I Take For a Major in Substance Abuse Counseling?

  • Introduction to Counseling Theories
  • Foundations of Addiction and Substance Abuse Disorders
  • Group Interventions and Communications
  • Crisis Intervention Skills for Addiction
  • Relapse Prevention in Addiction Treatment
  • Family Dynamics in Substance Abuse Households
  • Trauma, Addiction, and Substance Use Disorders
  • Treatment of Addiction and Substance Use Disorders

What Jobs Can You Get with a Degree in Substance Abuse Counseling?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors is expected to see significant growth in the coming decade. Growth is expected to be driven by the fact that many health insurance companies are now providing coverage for mental health treatment.

Additionally, growth in the field will also be driven by state governments seeking to treat offenders through counseling and rehab services rather than sending them to jail for minor crimes.

How Long does it take?

A bachelors in Substance Abuse Counseling will have a typical length of 4 years in a full time schedule. That said, there are many ways to speed up the timeframe by either taking more units via online coursework, community college, or taking free classes at that could transfer to universities in the US.

Online Substance Abuse Counseling Degree

Substance abuse counseling is highly demanded job with expectations for further growth in demand. Most states require having a bachelor’s degree in the field to have the license as a counselor.

Students are required to complete around 120 credit hours to earn their degree. Most programs also require completing an internship or training at an approved place. There are several substance abuse counseling programs that are offered completely online which is a good choice for adult students who need more flexibility in scheduling.

What Can You Do With a Substance Abuse Counseling Degree?

Substance abuse refers to the excessive, addictive, or harmful use of psychoactive substances including drugs and alcohol. Examples for drugs that are commonly abused include cocaine, LSD and heroin among others. Substance abuse represent a major problem with significant health and economic impact.

Statistics in 2017 indicated that around 9.4% of men and 5.2% of age more than 12 suffered from a substance abuse disorder. Substance abuse can result in losing jobs, breaking down families, significant health problems or even death. The devastating effects of this problem and the large number of people affected increased the need for well trained and educated counselors specialized in substance abuse.

They play a vital role in helping people suffering from substance abuse disorders overcome their problems and regain their normal life.

What does a substance abuse counseling student learn?

Substance abuse counselors should learn about the psychological motives or problems causing these disorders. They should also know about the psychological effects of substances. They should also learn the effective techniques for counseling.

The following list shows the courses commonly offered in substance abuse counseling degree programs:

  1. Introduction to counseling theories: the course presents the main theories or approaches used for counseling including psychodynamic, Gestalt, person-centered, cognitive and behavioral therapy, and narrative and solution focused therapies.
  2. Addiction and substance use disorders: this is one of the most important courses introducing the fundamentals of the field including topics as biopsychosocial dynamics, stages, processes and impact of addiction. It also introduces the role of counselors in prevention, intervention and aftercare. The course also includes the code of ethics and legal issues related to the field.
  3. Psychopharmacology in treatment of addiction and substance abuse: this course introduces the biological and psychological basics of substance abuse including basics from pharmacology, anatomy and physiology.
  4. Co-occurring disorders: the course presents the psychiatric disorders that occur with substance abuse.
  5. Multicultural counseling and social diversity: the course focuses on cultural sensitivity and cultural competence as they determine the choices related to treatment plans.
  6. Other courses: group interventions, case management, crisis intervention, family dynamics, domestic violence, child and elder abuse, and trauma.

Now I have the substance abuse counseling degree…where can I work after graduating?

Substance abuse counselors are highly needed with the high prevalence of addiction and substance abuse. In some states, having an associate degree in the field is enough to become a counselor but, in most states, a bachelor degree is needed.

There are various settings where substance abuse counselor can work:

  1. State and federal authorities: there is increasing tendency in juridical systems to refer people convicted with felonies or crimes related to substance abuse to mandatory counseling. This has proved in most of the cases to be a better approach for more efficient integration into the society compared to sending them to jail.
  2. Private counseling clinics: you can provide your services through counseling centers or clinics. People seek help either through person affected directly or the families. You should keep in mind that the laws governing such services can differ significantly between countries and states.
  3. Public education: substance abuse counselors can act proactively by providing education to the public in schools, media or other gatherings.

Should I choose a substance abuse counseling degree?

Substance abuse is a specialized field of study that can be difficult to study for many students. It is a good choice for students who are passionate about helping people in need and leaving positive impact on life.

The career can be stressful when it comes to the difficult cases with tragic details that can be involved however, it is rewarding when you witness the transformation that some people can achieve.

Studying substance abuse counseling will help you develop several useful skills:

  1. Exceptional communication skills: counselors need to communicate effectively and clearly with their clients who might have social or communication difficulties because of the substance abuse.
  2. Ability to set boundaries between work and personal life: substance abuse counseling can be stressful as cases may deteriorate or end in unfavorable way. It takes much effort and practice to keep away this from damaging your personal life.
  3. Time management: counselors should provide their services in timely manner as delays can result in devastating consequences on the clients.
  4. Professionalism: patient privacy and confidentiality are critical in this job.

Recommended Schools

Best Jobs for Substance Abuse Counseling Degrees

Graduates of bachelor’s degree programs in substance abuse counseling can find work in a variety of counseling and support roles. You may find work as an addiction counselor in a variety of settings, including rehab clinics, private practices, church organizations, and mental health centers.

Additionally, some graduates open their own private practices and work as both counselors and small business owners.

How to save time and money

Our mission is to help you to avoid paying full price for college. We want your Substance Abuse Counseling degree to be affordable and accessible. Here’s how you could save:

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Find a Combined BS and MS Program

If your state requires you to have both a bachelor of science and master of science to earn licensure as a substance abuse counselor or therapist, you may want to look for a degree program that allows you to earn both at the same time.

A combined BS and MS program usually only requires five years of study and awards both a bachelor’s and master’s degree. Earned separately, these two degrees usually require six years of study, so students can shave a year of their education by entering a combined program.

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