Top Substance Abuse and Addictions Counseling Certificates

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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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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.

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
  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.

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

  • 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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Advertisement 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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