Best Online Certificate Programs in Substance Abuse and Addictions Counseling

Best Online Certificate Programs in Substance Abuse and Addictions Counseling

| Staff Writers

Best Online Certificate Programs in Substance Abuse and Addictions Counseling
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Substance abuse counseling certificate programs allow students to explore concepts in the field without completing general and elective coursework. These programs focus on counseling concepts, and usually include a practicum component. A certificate allows students to explore the counseling profession without spending years in the classroom. However, students who choose to pursue counseling professions may be able to apply their certificate coursework toward a degree.

Top 10 Best Online Certificate Programs in Substance Abuse and Addictions Counseling

Rank School Location
1 Bethel University Saint Paul, MN
2 City Vision University Kansas City, MO
3 National University La Jolla, CA
4 Assumption College Worcester, MD
5 Great Basin College Elko, NV
6 Jamestown Community College Jamestown, NY
7 Misericordia University Dallas, PA
8 Kansas City Kansas Community College Kansas City, KS
9 University of Cincinnati - Main Campus Cincinnati, OH
10 Northcentral Technical College Wausau, WI

This page explores undergraduate- and graduate-level certificate programs, along with state-mandated licensure and certification guidelines for substance abuse counselors.Readers should note, however, that certificate programs do not confer professional certification. Available at colleges and universities, certificate programs consist of coursework and practicum experience. Candidates for professional certification typically complete similar requirements, along with a standardized test. They must also submit an application and a fee. Generally, industry certifications are recognized by a wider professional base, as the conferring professional organization endorses the counselor by granting certification.

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Top Online Certificate Programs in Substance Abuse and Addictions 2020

  1. Bethel University

    Saint Paul, MN

    Minnesota-based Bethel University is the largest institution in the 13-member Christian College Consortium. Bethel's College of Adult and Professional Studies offers an online addictions studies certificate. The program reflects a Christian worldview, emphasizing applied research and evidence-based practice in addiction treatment.

    Online learners can complete the 18-credit certificate in as few as eight months. Classes are six weeks long and include counseling microskills, introduction to addictions counseling, pharmacology of addictions, assessment and treatment of co-occurring disorders, and professional practice issues and ethics.

    The addiction studies certificate program includes the coursework needed to meet Minnesota State Board of Behavioral Health and Therapy education requirements for licensure as an alcohol and drug counselor. Bethel also offers a 26-credit alcohol and drug counseling certificate that includes the required coursework and internship hours needed for state licensure. Applicants to both programs must have earned at least 60 credits from a regionally accredited institution and completed two years of work experience.

    Bethel University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  2. City Vision University

    Kansas City, MO

    City Vision is a private online Christian university based in Kansas City, Missouri. City Vision's Christian certificate program in addiction counseling fulfills the state's educational requirements for addiction counseling and substance abuse certification.

    The 30-credit program features five start dates throughout the year. Online learners take classes in eight-week sessions and complete the program in 12 months. Course delivery relies on an asynchronous format, allowing students to access recorded lectures and discussion forums at their convenience.

    The university maintains open enrollment, admitting students with a high school diploma, GED, or equivalent without requiring standardized tests like the SAT or ACT. City Vision boasts one of the most generous and flexible transfer credit policies of any online Christian school. The university accepts credits from any accredited U.S. or international school, and grants credits for prior learning experiences such as military, corporate, or ministry training.

    City Vision is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission.

  3. National University

    La Jolla, CA

    A private, California-based institution, NU provides accessible educational programs for adult learners. As a military-friendly and Yellow Ribbon school, NU offers financial assistance for veterans and tuition discounts for active duty personnel and dependents.

    NU's undergraduate certificate in alcohol and drug abuse counseling offers the skills needed to secure entry-level positions working with individuals and groups facing alcohol, drug abuse, and/or dependence issues. The accelerated certificate program features monthly year-round start dates. The convenient asynchronous format allows students to take one course in one subject each month, completing the 45 required quarter credits in ten months.

    NU holds approval from the California Consortium of Addiction Programs and Professionals, meeting the educational requirements for California state alcohol and substance abuse certification. Program coursework covers concepts in physiology and pharmacology of alcohol and drugs, case management, counseling, personal and professional growth, and law and ethics.

    National University holds accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.

  4. Assumption College

    Worcester, MD

    Assumption College is a private Catholic institution located in Worcester, Massachusetts. Assumption's Continuing and Career Education Division offers a 30-credit online certificate in alcohol and substance abuse counseling consisting of seven courses and a required internship. Coursework emphasizes addiction etiology, substance-use assessment and treatment, counseling techniques, and case management.

    Open to students with a high school diploma or GED, the program fulfills the education eligibility requirements needed to take the Certified Alcohol/Drug Abuse Counselor (CADAC) exam. Students who complete the certificate program may apply all 30 credits to Assumption's bachelor of arts in human services and rehabilitation.

    In addition to meeting national CADAC requirements, the program has been approved by the National Certification Commission for Addiction Professionals and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health for the state's alcohol and drug abuse counselor license. Online students should check with their state licensing board to verify that the program meets their state's certification requirements.

    Assumption College is regionally accredited by the New England Commision of Higher Education.

  5. Great Basin College

    Elko, NV

    Established in Elko, Nevada in 1967, GBC offers online programs to over 3,800 students across the United States. The college's innovative two-semester certificate of achievement programs provide an abbreviated course of study corresponding to a two-year associate of applied science degree.

    GBC's certificate of achievement in substance abuse counselor training quickly prepares students for entry-level positions in substance abuse/addiction education, prevention, and/or intervention and treatment settings. The 30.5 credit program allows students to take most courses online through interactive video. The college also offers independent study programs on a case-by-case basis. Coursework covers the fundamentals of substance abuse, an introduction to human services and counseling methods, small group interaction techniques, and general psychology.

    The training program does not certify students to practice as substance abuse or addictions counselors in Nevada. However, the courses do apply toward meeting educational requirements for state licensure. Before enrolling in the program, out-of-state students should verify acceptability with their state licensing and certification board.

    Great Basin College is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

  6. Jamestown Community College

    Jamestown, NY

    Part of the State University of New York system, Jamestown Community College offers a certificate in addictions counseling. The program was designed for individuals with a bachelor's degree in human services, social work, or a related area who seek alcohol, substance abuse, or other addiction treatment credentials.

    Candidates can complete over three-quarters of the 35-credit certificate online. The two-semester curriculum consists of nine credits in general humanities, social sciences, and health sciences coursework and 26 core credits. Coursework explores family systems, alcohol/chemistry dependency and treatment, generalist practice skills, interviewing and counseling, group dynamics, abnormal behavior, and ethical issues in addiction services.

    Along with online classes, students complete a 135-credit field placement at an approved regional agency to prepare for the New York state credentialed alcoholism and substance abuse counselor (CASAC) license. The certificate program also fulfills the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services' 350-hour educational requirement for licensure.

    JCC holds regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  7. Misericordia University

    Dallas, PA

    Pennsylvania-based Misericordia University is a Catholic four-year institution offering liberal arts, preprofessional, and professional educational programs. The school's one-year addictions counseling certificate program is intended for bachelor's degree-holders and certified addictions counselors seeking recertification.

    Students may apply the credits earned in the certificate program toward the educational requirements for the certified alcohol/drug abuse counselor credential. However, completing course requirements alone does not automatically confer certification. Online students outside Pennsylvania should verify certification requirements with their state licensing board.

    Misericordia charges the same tuition rate for in-state and out-of-state online learners. Candidates may take courses entirely online or in a hybrid format requiring some on-campus attendance. The 16-credit curriculum includes classes in pharmacology; drugs and behavior; addiction dependency in adolescent, aging, and special populations; substance abuse and criminality; families in addiction and dependency; and professional ethics. Distance learners must also complete a three-credit internship.

    Misericordia is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  8. Kansas City Kansas Community College

    Kansas City, KS

    KCKCC is a public, two-year institution that serves over 5,300 students through more than 100 associate and certification programs, including an online addiction counselor certificate.

    The 34-credit program prepares students for professional roles in substance abuse disorder treatment and other behavioral health fields. The curriculum covers core content areas in addictions counseling, including abnormal psychology, pharmacology, counseling methods, family therapy, and group dynamics. The field practicum component requires a minimum of 300 hours.

    Program coursework partially fulfills the Kansas Behavioral Science Regulatory Board's academic requirements for licensure. The Missouri Credentialing Board also accepts credits earned through the program toward the substance use disorder treatment provider certification's educational requirements. Credential-seekers should always verify the specific credentialing/licensure requirements of the state in which they intend to work.

    KCKCC is committed to providing affordable education, offering the same online tuition rate for Kansas residents and out-of-state residents.

    KCKCC is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  9. University of Cincinnati - Main Campus

    Cincinnati, OH

    Established in1819, UC provides over 46,000 students with undergraduate, graduate, and professional education. UC's College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services offers an online substance abuse counseling certificate for students who hold or are currently pursuing their bachelor's degree. The 24-credit certificate prepares students for a variety of entry-level positions in human services, parole and corrections, social services, and mental health settings.

    The nine-month program consists of eight online courses that cover pharmacology, drugs and behavior, assessment and diagnosis, counseling skills, group counseling, case management and treatment plans, and counseling for families. UC provides distance learners with a variety of helpful resources, including tutorials to help them navigate the Blackboard learning system, an online library, and technological support.

    Bachelor degree-holders who complete the certificate program meet the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board's academic requirements for licensure.

    The University of Cincinnati holds regionally accredited from the Higher Learning Commission.

  10. Northcentral Technical College

    Wausau, WI

    NTC, a public community college based in central Wisconsin, offers associate degrees, technical diplomas, and more than 100 certificates at its campus locations and online. NTC's substance abuse counselor education technical diploma fulfills the academic requirements established by the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services for substance abuse counselors. The 30-credit certificate also provides almost half of the total credits needed to complete the college's substance use disorder associate degree.

    Admissions requirements include official high school transcripts, a cumulative 2.5 GPA, and a composite ACT score of 16 or higher. The three-term, fully online curriculum features coursework in psychology, ethics, casework management, counseling methods and practice, and pharmacology. Distance learners who enroll full time typically earn their certificate within one year.

    Graduates find entry-level employment opportunities working with individuals, families, and groups dealing with addiction issues, as substance abuse counselors, intake counselors, and assessment and treatment counselors.

    NTC is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  11. Montgomery County Community College

    Blue Bell, PA

    Located northwest of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, MCCC offers over 100 associate degrees, certificates, and continuing education programs. The college's certificate programs provide the discipline-intensive educational training needed for entry-level employment. Course credits may be applied directly to a corresponding associate degree program.

    The addictions certificate best serves students who do not wish to pursue an associate degree in human services and bachelor degree-holders from other disciplines seeking a career change. The program provides the educational credits needed to obtain the Pennsylvania Certification Board's certified addiction counselor or prevention specialist license.

    Most courses in the program are delivered online through the Blackboard learning management system. Distance learners may finish the 36-credit program in two semesters, taking courses in theories of counseling, drug and alcohol treatment processes, human services assessment and documentation, and social policy and ethics. The curriculum also includes an onsite 280-hour human service practicum that provides hands-on training in a community agency.

    MCCC is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  12. Albright College

    Reading, PA

    Albright College is a private liberal arts institution affiliated with the United Methodist Church. Albright's certificate of addiction studies is approved by the Pennsylvania Certification Board to fulfill educational requirements for the certified drug and alcohol counselor and associate addiction counselor credentials.

    This program allows students not currently enrolled in a bachelor's degree program to obtain a certificate in addiction studies. The coursework also counts toward a bachelor's degree at Albright College's School of Professional Studies, providing the credits needed to complete a minor in addiction studies.

    The 20-credit certificate consists of five online courses delivered in an accelerated seven-week schedule. The curriculum addresses theories and treatment of addictive behaviors; drugs, addiction, and society; family systems and addiction; addictive behaviors and special populations; and assessment and counseling.

    The School of Professional Studies admits adult learners 21 years of age or older, active duty military personnel, and veterans, and does not require standardized tests. The cost of tuition includes digital textbooks and other educational materials.

    Albright is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  13. Central Texas College

    Killeen, TX

    CTC serves a twelve-county area, including the city of Killeen and the Fort Hood military installation. This two-year, open enrollment community college offers over 60 online associate degrees and certificate programs, including a substance abuse prevention specialist certificate. This program prepares graduates for entry-level careers in counseling, social services, and mental health settings. Credits earned in the certificate program may also apply toward associate or bachelor degree programs in counseling, human services, and psychology.

    The 36-credit program is presented in an asynchronous delivery format, allowing students to complete courses at their own pace over three semesters. Distance learners take classes in substance abuse and addictive disorders, intervention and prevention, behavior management and modification, pharmacology, communication skills, and health psychology. Candidates also gain hands-on experience through practicums.

    Committed to the academic success of all students, CTC provides comprehensive programs for special populations and an array of resources and support services for students with disabilities, nontraditional students, single parents, and online learners.

    CTC is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  14. Rio Salado College

    Tempe, AZ

    Part of Arizona's Maricopa County Community College District, RSC began providing accessible education and workforce training in 1967. The college converted most of its programs to online formats by 2006.

    RSC's online certificate of completion in professional addictions counseling fulfills the educational requirements needed to pursue state and/or national addiction and substance abuse certification. It also meets the continuing education requirements for practicing substance abuse and addictions counselors. Program applicants who reside outside Arizona should check with their state's licensing board to ensure the program meets state requirements.

    Distance learners complete 11-14 credits over two semesters, following a predetermined program sequence. Along with core content areas in treatment, intervention, recovery, and prevention, the curriculum explores issues such as domestic violence, family dynamics and addictions, and street drugs. Developed for practicing health providers, the program requires applicants to hold an associate, bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree in a behavioral health discipline or related field.

    RSC is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  15. Utah Valley University

    Orem, UT

    UVU, a public university founded in 1941 in Orem, Utah, offers more than 160 undergraduate and graduate programs and 44 certificates, including an online certificate of proficiency in advanced substance use disorder counseling. The certificate partially fulfills requirements for the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing's substance use disorder counselor and alcohol substance abuse disorder counselor licenses.

    Distance learners enrolled in the 32-credit certificate program complete nine credits of matriculation requirements in writing, psychology and human development and 23 credits in core discipline coursework, including a six-credit onsite internship. Online students must earn a grade of C- or higher in all courses to receive the certificate of proficiency.

    UVU maintains an open admission policy for applicants with a high school diploma or GED. As a State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) member institution, the university adheres to uniform standards for distance learning programs and offers online education for students in all SARA member states.

    UVU holds regional accreditation from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

Types of Substance Abuse and Addictions Certificate Programs

Substance abuse counseling certificate programs train candidates to become counselors or provide current counselors with continuing education (CE) experiences. Schools may deliver undergraduate, graduate, or CE certificates in substance abuse counseling. State authorities can help learners determine what type of education and which credentials they need to become a substance abuse counselor.

Often requiring 21 or fewer credits, undergraduate certificates address introductory topics in the field, including family dynamics, counseling strategies, psychology, and biology. These programs usually require a practicum in an addictions-related setting. Graduates may use their certificates to pursue bachelor’s degrees or to indicate field knowledge on a particular substance abuse topic.

Graduate-level certificates explore advanced counseling concepts, such as treatment planning, preventative measures, intervention, and clinical practice. Students in these programs typically complete field experiences and graduate within two years. Graduate certificates particularly benefit current professionals who want to advance their careers and students with unrelated bachelor’s degrees who want to explore the field. Admissions requirements may include a bachelor’s or graduate degree.

CE certificates enhance preexisting field knowledge and help candidates fulfill state renewal criteria needed to maintain counseling licensure. Schools offer CE certificates for individual courses, multiple courses, or training programs on specific topics in substance abuse counseling. CE certificate programs may culminate in a test or field experience. They may take up to a year to complete, although many programs are shorter.

Individuals interested in substance abuse counseling positions should earn a related degree. This page connects readers with associate, bachelor’s, and master’s programs that can lead to substance abuse certification. The article also addresses substance abuse counseling certificate programs online and examines professional requirements and possible work settings for substance abuse counselors.

Substance Abuse and Addictions Counselor Certification

While regulations for substance abuse counselors vary by state, counselors who work in private practice must hold a license. Licensing guidelines also vary according to state and by credential type, with licensed clinical addiction counselors, licensed addiction counselors, and licensed mental health counselors facing different criteria. Often, candidates are expected to hold a related bachelor’s or master’s degree, complete a field experience, and pass a criminal background check and a licensing exam.

State regulatory boards may require candidates to complete coursework in certain areas, such as physiology, ethics, and pharmacology, or to complete a practicum experience. While substance abuse counseling certificate programs frequently meet both criteria, some states expect licensure candidates to hold a degree. In these instances, certificate programs lay the academic groundwork for advanced educational guidelines.

Candidates who want to work in settings that do not require a license may still benefit from certificate programs, which can verify their understanding of and experience with substance abuse concepts. Licensing requirements also evolve over time, and candidates who obtain these credentials now could qualify for upcoming substance abuse counseling positions in the future.

Individuals who do not wish to pursue licensure should still consider earning a certificate to enhance their counseling skills. Often, certificate programs require two years of study or less. Depending on the state and practice type, certificates may also meet educational standards for certain careers related to substance abuse and addiction.

In addition to state licensure and substance abuse counseling certificates, candidates can earn related professional substance abuse counselor certifications online and in person through organizations like the Association for Addiction Professionals (NAADAC). These credentials may fulfill CE requirements for license renewal and lead to additional career opportunities. For instance, the NAADAC offers certifications for nicotine dependence specialists and adolescent addiction counselors. Learners may also consider the National Certified Counselor credential through the National Board for Certified Counselors.

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