Master’s in Addiction Counseling Program Guide

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By Doug Wintemute

Published on August 30, 2021

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A master's degree in addiction counseling opens the doors to various support positions within the community and social services industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the addition of nearly 350,000 new jobs in this sector between 2019 and 2029, with almost 80,000 new positions in mental health and addiction counseling.

This graduate program provides graduates with the skills and expertise needed to support people with various addiction and mental health challenges. Graduates can also pursue licensure for a larger role and a greater treatment scope. Read on to learn more about the degree and its career potential.

Should I Get a Master's in Addiction Counseling?

A master's degree in addiction counseling can lead to a rewarding career in a growing industry. Graduates can pursue addiction or mental health counseling positions, licensure, or a doctoral degree. Counseling professionals enjoy the personal rewards of helping individuals, families, and entire communities while also benefiting from strong salaries and growth potential.

The BLS projects 25% job growth in the field between 2019 and 2029, more than six times faster than the projected growth rate for all occupations. Graduates with a master's degree in addiction counseling and licensure can access some of the most desirable and lucrative positions in the field.

Counseling professionals enjoy the personal rewards of helping individuals, families, and entire communities while also benefiting from strong salaries and growth potential.

Earning a master's degree in addiction counseling can prove challenging, as these programs typically require two years of study, extensive research, and significant clinical components. Professionals who wish to earn licensure must complete substantial postgraduate clinical requirements, which often include 3,000-5,000 supervised hours.

Once eligible, candidates must pass an examination to earn licensure. They then need to maintain their license by completing a certain number of continuing education credits every 2-3 years.

Find the best online master's in addiction and recovery programs.

What Will I Learn in an Addiction Counseling Master's Program?

Master's programs in addiction counseling can feature very different curricula. Many schools offer foundational coursework in addiction and the various causes that can lead to addiction, such as mental health disorders and societal influences. Possible courses may include counseling law and ethics, trauma and families, and approaches to substance abuse disorders.

Students can gain skills in assessment and treatment planning, motivational enhancement, and diagnosis. They also learn how to adjust their treatments and approaches to the situation, adapting to diverse cultures, dependencies, mental health disorders, and settings, including individual, group, and family counseling.

Prospective students may get to choose between MA and MS programs in addiction counseling. While these two degree types can offer similar coursework, some MA programs feature more interdisciplinary approaches, whereas MS programs tend to focus more on technical skills and clinical practice.

Concentrations

Treatment
Treatment specializations focus on the treatment planning and implementation for different types of patients and settings. Students learn how various diagnoses lend themselves to different therapeutic and management approaches.
Prevention
Prevention specializations teach students what methods and models work and how they were developed. Learners also explore how to develop and implement their own addiction prevention community programs.
Mental Health
Mental health specializations teach students about various mental health disorders and how they can influence addiction challenges. Learners also examine how to diagnose and treat the different disorders.
Clinical
Clinical specializations emphasize practical training and treatment center approaches for patients with addiction issues. Students learn to assess, diagnose, and treat various forms of addiction.
Play Therapy
Play therapy specializations teach students how toys and games can allow children to express themselves and communicate better. In addition to offering a means for healthy development and mental health, play therapy can help counselors understand children's experiences.

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How to Get Into an Addiction Counseling Master's Program

For admission into a master's degree in addiction counseling, prospective students typically need a bachelor's degree. Some schools may require a psychology-related degree and a minimum GPA. Others may require some counseling or psychology course prerequisites.

Applicants may also need to submit letters of recommendation and GRE scores. Though rare, some programs may require prospective students to have professional experience.

Read Our Guide to Graduate Admissions.

What Can I Do With a Master's in Addiction Counseling?

A master's degree in addiction counseling prepares graduates for various community service occupations. In the addiction counseling field, graduates can pursue leadership positions and licensure. They can also pursue doctoral degrees in addiction counseling or a related field.

Graduates with a master's degree in addiction counseling may also pursue related counseling and community service occupations, such as mental health counseling and community service management. The following sections highlight some of the more popular career and educational pathways available.

Popular Career Paths

Popular Continuing Education Paths

How Much Money Can I Make With a Master's in Addiction Counseling?

Salary potential for graduates with a master's degree in addiction counseling depends on experience, licensure, and location. According to the BLS, community and social service professionals earn a median annual wage of $47,520, more than the median annual wage for all occupations.

Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Addiction Counseling Programs

What is addiction counseling?

Addiction counseling is a form of treatment and therapy for individuals struggling with substance abuse, alcoholism, and gambling. Counselors assess patients and help them form a treatment and management plan. Licensed counselors may diagnose and treat various conditions.

Is a master's in addiction counseling worth it?

For many people, a master's degree in addiction counseling is very worthwhile. The degree offers access to a personally and professionally rewarding career. According to the BLS, the field features a growing workforce and a higher median annual wage than the median salary for all occupations.

How much do addiction counselors make with a master's degree?

According to the BLS, addiction counselors make a median annual wage of $47,660. With a master's degree in addiction counseling, professionals may have access to the higher salaries in the field, such as government positions, which pay a median annual wage of $54,070. The top 10% of earners in the field make over $78,700 per year.

What degree do you need to be an addiction counselor?

Graduates with a bachelor's degree may find employment as an addiction counselor, but requirements can vary. For licensure, graduates usually need a master's degree in addiction counseling, along with substantial clinical experience.

What are the courses involved as an MS in addiction counseling?

Every master's degree in addiction counseling offers a unique curriculum, but prospective students may find many of the same core courses at different schools. Covered topics often include psychopharmacology, mental health disorders, multicultural concerns in counseling, and bio-psycho-social theories.

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