Top Substance Abuse and Addictions Counseling Certificates

Updated June 27, 2023

A substance abuse counselor certification can help you land a job as a substance abuse and addictions counselor. Learn about pursuing an addiction counselor certification online with this resource. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Recently, the U.S. has seen a greater demand for substance abuse counseling. This largely due to the criminal justice system placing more emphasis on rehabilitation and treatment for drug and alcohol offenders. Subsequently, the national total of substance abuse counselors is projected to grow by 25% through 2029, according to projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Substance abuse and alcohol counselors play an integral role in helping people who need guidance and treatment. In 2017, only about 19% of the 20.7 million people who needed treatment for substance abuse disorder sought help. Individuals aspiring to enter this profession should earn a bachelor's or master's degree in counseling or psychology. They can also choose to pursue substance abuse counselor certification, which can help them specialize in the area and prepare them for licensure. These programs require anywhere from 15-45 college credits and can last up to one year. For many students, pursuing a substance abuse counselor certification online offers convenience and flexibility. Online substance abuse classes allow distance learners to log on, watch lectures, and complete assignments at their own convenience. You can learn more about the top online programs through the list below.


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Best Online Certificate Programs in Substance Abuse and Addictions Counseling
#1 Elgin Community College Elgin, IL
#2 Northern Virginia Community College Annandale, VA
#3 Waubonsee Community College Sugar Grove, IL
#4 Ocean County College Toms River, NJ
#5 San Jacinto Community College Pasadena, TX

Featured Online Programs

Figuring out where to apply? These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online degrees. Consider one of these accredited programs, and discover their value today.

  1. Elgin Community College

    Elgin, IL

    ECC's human services-substance abuse counseling certification trains students to become addiction recovery counselors. Graduates with certification qualify to assist people through private practice or in substance abuse treatment centers. Experienced instructors in the human services field teach the curriculum.

    Students learn to conduct systemic analyses of service needs and understand the interaction between human systems, from the individual to societal. Participants also examine their own values, personalities, reaction patterns, and limitations, to better understand how they might interact with clients struggling with addiction and recovery issues. The program also includes field seminars for hands-on experience.

    Courses Include

    • Issues in Human Services
    • Introduction to Group Processes
    • Basic Substance Abuse Pharmacology
    • Special Populations
    • Intro to Psychology

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $132-$396 per credit depending on location and format (online vs. on campus)
    • Credits Required: 38 credits
    • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Additional accreditation is through the Illinois Alcoholism and Other Drug Abuse Counselor Certification Board (IAODAPCA), the National Addiction Studies Accreditation Commission (NASAC), and the Council for Standards in Human Services Education (CSHSE).
  2. Northern Virginia Community College

    Annandale, VA

    Taught through the Alexandria campus, NOVA's substance abuse rehabilitation counselor certificate prepares enrollees to assist clients through the process of rehabilitation and recovery from substance abuse disorders.

    The curriculum introduces students to substance abuse and its relationship to quality of life. Coursework focuses on the history of alcohol use, the concept of chemical dependency as a disease, and research efforts tied to genetic determinants. The program also teaches students how to encourage addicts to get help and understand the processes behind successful interventions.

    The program includes an internship with supervised didactic and experiential learning. Coursework also fulfills the Virginia state educational requirements for substance abuse counselor certification.

    Courses Include

    • Basic Counseling Skills
    • Developmental Psychology
    • Group Dynamics
    • Effects of Psychoactive Drugs
    • Case Management and Substance Abuse

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $180 per credit (in-state) / $360 per credit (out-of-state)
    • Credits Required: 37 credits
    • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  3. Waubonsee Community College

    Sugar Grove, IL

    Situated in the far west Chicago suburbs, WCC's addictions counseling certificate of achievement prepares individuals for employment as alcohol and other drug abuse (AODA) counselors. The curriculum provides education and field training for those interested in serving those with substance abuse disorders and struggling with psychoactive substances. Students with prior and/or additional education may complete this program to become AODA counselors.

    The curriculum qualifies students to sit for the Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC) exam. Both classroom instruction and course-related field experience may also be applied toward WCC's associate in applied science degree in human services.

    Courses Include

    • Survey of Human Services
    • Group Dynamics
    • Psychopharmacology and the Addictive Process
    • Clinical Skills for Addiction Counselors
    • Crisis Intervention

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $4,020 for full program (in-state) / $10,719 (out-of-state)
    • Credits Required: 33 credits
    • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Programmatic accreditation is through the Illinois Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Professional Certification Association (IAODAPCA)
  4. Ocean County College

    Toms River, NJ

    Based in Toms River, OCC offers a certificate of completion in addictions counseling that helps students become credentialed as a certified alcohol and drug counselor in New Jersey. Emphasizing ethics and legal conduct, the program prepares students to meet the psychological and physiological challenges involved with treating addiction disorders.

    The State of New Jersey Board of Marriage and Family Therapy Examiner's Alcohol and Drug Counseling Committee and Addictions Professional Certification Board of New Jersey approved the specialized courses for the required 270 education hours.

    The curriculum trains students to treat substance abuse disorders and provide resources and support to all stakeholders involved. Participants also learn the importance of documentation and ethical aspects of addiction counseling, as well as legal conduct. Graduates can work in positions as counselor interns in community treatment settings.

    Courses Include

    • General Psychology
    • Addictions Disorders and Recovery Supports
    • Addiction Counseling Skills
    • Addiction Counseling Methodology
    • Assessing Addictive Disorders

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $175 per credit (in-county) / $193 per credit (out-of-county) / $270 per credit (in-state)
    • Credits Required: 24 credits
    • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  5. San Jacinto Community College

    Pasadena, TX

    The mental health, substance abuse counseling, level 2 certificate offered through San Jac prepares students to provide specialized services to individuals and families experiencing the impact of substance abuse. Graduates from the Texas school's program learn to identify and administer assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of those struggling with substance abuse disorders.

    All students take part in a required internship/capstone experience within a substance abuse facility where they apply their learnings to real-world scenarios. Students come away from the program with the skills and ethics to work in hospitals, rehabilitation clinics, research facilities, pain management clinics, and counseling centers.

    The program includes 4,000 hours of paid work experience, meeting the educational and employment requirements needed for graduates to become licensed chemical dependency counselors.

    Courses Include

    • Introduction to Social Work
    • Pharmacology of Addiction
    • Ethics for Social Service Professionals
    • Addicted Family Intervention
    • Behavior Modification with Cognitive Disorder

    Unique Features

    • Cost: $78 per credit (in-district) / $135 per credit (out-of-district) / $210 per credit (out-of-state)
    • Credits Required: 33 credits
    • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)

Applying to a Substance Abuse and Addictions Counseling Certificate

The admissions requirements for substance abuse and addiction certificates vary. Some certification programs allow individuals to apply with just a high school diploma, whereas other certificates require a certain number of college credits. Higher-level certification programs can require a bachelor's or master's degree. Certification programs consider candidate's GPAs, but students do not necessarily need to meet a minimum GPA requirement. Certificates sometimes require previous work experience in the field, with higher certification levels typically requiring more experience. The top-level certification programs require counselors to possess licensure, but not all certificates do.

Frequently Asked Questions About Substance Abuse and Addiction Counseling Certifications

What is the difference between a license and a certificate?

Substance abuse and addictions counselors need licensure in order to legally work and apply for their license from a state government agency or board. In contrast, these professionals do not necessarily need a certificate in order to work; however, it can boost their credentials and chances of employment. Additionally, certifications usually come from a professional association or a university, rather than a government agency.

What is accreditation and why is it important?

Accreditation ensures that academic programs meet nationally recognized quality standards established for the counseling profession. Students should be wary of enrolling in unaccredited programs and should understand that employers typically prefer graduates from accredited institutions. In addition, counselors need an accredited degree in order to qualify for licensure and certification.

What degree do you need to apply to a substance abuse and addictions counseling certificate?

In order to apply for substance abuse counselor certification, you need a bachelor's or master's degree in counseling, psychology, or a related field. Some programs accept applicants with 60 hours of college credit or an associate degree, and undergraduate certification programs consider students with high school diplomas, as well. For this specific certification, students should also choose a degree specialization in substance abuse and addiction.

What can I do with a substance abuse and addictions counseling certificate?

This certificate allows professionals to find jobs as certified drug and alcohol counselors or certified substance abuse and addictions counselors. The certification adds a degree of credibility to your professional qualifications, which can boost your employment prospects and potentially bring in more clients.

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