The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 6% increase in probation officers and correctional treatment specialist positions from 2016-2026. Graduates can also work in substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselor roles, which the BLS projects to increase 23% during the same time frame.

Many careers related to addictions counseling require at least a bachelor's degree. However, some occupations also require a graduate degree or licensure in some states. This guide examines careers related to addiction counseling, along with requirements, courses, and completion times for addiction counseling bachelor's programs.

What to Expect in an Online Bachelor's in Addiction Counseling Program

Curricula for addiction counseling bachelor's programs vary by school. However, students pursuing a substance abuse counselor degree online commonly take courses on medical aspects, behavior, theory, and ethical concepts related to addiction. Learners also examine psychology and individual stages of treatment, such as intervention and consultation.

Sample Courses for an Online Bachelor's in Addiction Counseling

Earning a substance abuse counselor degree online helps students build necessary skills for addiction counseling professions. For instance, counselors must understand the psychology and physiology behind addiction to create effective treatment plans. For this reason, programs often require courses in both areas.

Addiction counseling also requires communication skills for one-on-one and group counseling, as well as an understanding of relevant laws and policies. These concepts surface in substance abuse counselor degree programs online. Overall, addiction counseling programs provide a broad view of human nature and biology, and also group structure and addiction-specific terms, techniques, and theories for counseling careers.

Addiction Counseling Theories

Students explore theories related to addictions treatment, such as existential, family system, and psychodynamic concepts. Students in this class become familiar with treatment and therapy options for drug and alcohol abuse. Coursework may also examine counseling ethics and include the practical application of information.

Case Management

This course covers all stages of case management, such as communicating with patients, determining treatments, and maintaining records. Coursework may also address ethical concerns and train learners to work in groups. Learners explore case studies and may structure a plan for a stage of treatment, such as an intervention.

Abnormal Psychology

Students examine typical and atypical behavior and study details that can impact mentality, such as biology and culture. Learners explore common age ranges, theories, and histories related to specific mental illnesses. Coursework may also cover ethical and legal concerns for counselors.

Group Counseling

Students learn how to oversee and direct groups in therapy sessions. The course covers leadership concepts and helps students understand group dynamics. Learners often examine theories, ethics, and relevant research, and students may lead recorded group sessions.

Juvenile Justice

This course focuses on the legal system for juveniles. Learners study laws, programs, practices, and societal perspectives on juvenile delinquency. Coursework may address the history of the U.S. juvenile justice system, along with modern issues and regulations. Students may also explore juvenile policies of other nations.

Online Bachelor's in Addiction Counseling Completion Time

Earning an accredited substance abuse degree online typically requires about 120 credits, which most students complete in four years. However, degree completion time depends on program characteristics such as credit requirements and format. Additionally, some schools offer extra semesters, in addition to fall, spring, and summer terms, which allow students to earn more credits per academic year.

Enrollment status also impacts graduation time, since part-time learners complete fewer credits each year than full-time students. Additionally, students in accelerated programs can graduate even more quickly. Enrollment status can also impact program cost; some schools charge a higher per-credit tuition rate for part-time students and for students who exceed a full-time course load.

Cohort programs require students to progress through classes with a small group of peers. Learners interested in personalizing their program pace should opt for individually paced programs.

Skills Gained in an Online Bachelor's in Addiction Counseling Program

Many online addiction studies degrees require practicum experiences, during which learners apply addiction counseling knowledge in practical settings. Students may also construct mock treatment plans, deliver oral reports, and create solutions to counseling problems.

Additionally, coursework often addresses theories and counseling techniques. Students learn about treatment options and develop career-relevant skills. For example, delivering oral reports helps students gain group communication skills, and creating treatment plans trains students to think critically about counseling sessions.

  • Communication

    Addictions counseling professionals often interview patients to determine their needs. Counselors may also oversee group therapy sessions, which requires an understanding of group dynamics. Professionals may also testify in court and educate family members about a patient's illness.

  • Stress Management

    Recovering from addiction often involves setbacks and frustration, which can manifest during counseling and treatment sessions. Addiction counselors should be able to manage tense situations and guide struggling patients.

  • Critical Thinking

    Each client suffers from unique symptoms and circumstances, which change over time. Addiction counselors should think critically to find the most effective treatment for each patient and to adjust treatments as necessary.

Online vs. On-Campus Programs: What's the Difference?

Candidates pursuing an online addiction counseling degree usually complete the same courses and practicums as on-campus learners, under the guidance of the same faculty. However, online students generally have more flexibility and fewer costs, since they do not need to visit campus. Learners in asynchronous programs have the most flexibility, since they do not need to log in at specific times.

Some online programs include in-person components. Distance learners may need to attend an on-campus orientation or complete an internship. However, most online learners undertake fieldwork at an approved location in their area.

Education and Training Beyond a Bachelor's in Addiction Counseling

The BLS projects substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselor positions to increase 23% from 2016-2026, which translates to more than 320,000 new jobs. Because of this growth, many graduates of addictions counseling programs pursue related positions.

After completing substance abuse counselor degree programs online, aspiring addiction counselors must obtain a license. The licensure process varies in each state, but candidates must typically take a certification assessment. Individuals must also have completed field experience with a licensed worker; states often require more than 2,000 supervised hours.

Regulations also differ for counselors in private practice. Private practitioners need a master's degree in the field, while non-private requirements may not include a degree level. States do not typically require a doctorate in the field, though the terminal degree demonstrates an individual's advanced knowledge and can lead to more employment opportunities. For more information on state-specific requirements, candidates should consult their state's licensing organization.

In addition to credentials, employers often look for counselors who boast empathy, patience, and strong communication skills.

Career and Salary Outlook for Online Bachelor's in Addiction Counseling Graduates

After earning a substance abuse degree online, graduates can pursue careers helping individuals who suffer from drug and alcohol addiction. Addiction counseling professionals often work at community organizations, hospitals, clinics, and law enforcement agencies.

Professionals in any setting should understand the physical and psychological concerns of addiction and should have patience, compassion, and problem-solving skills. However, some careers require advanced knowledge in specific areas. For example, probation officers may need an understanding of legal concepts, while other professions may require pharmaceutical knowledge.

Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

These counselors help clients who struggle with problems such as drug and alcohol addictions, mental health issues, and nutritional disorders. These professionals determine client needs, design treatment schedules, and discuss issues with the patient's loved ones. Counselors may lead patients to full recovery or help them manage problems through behavioral changes. These counselors typically need at least a bachelor's degree.

Median Annual Salary: $44,630

Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists make sure offenders uphold probation agreements through drug tests, home examinations, and family interviews. These workers also connect clients with facilities related to treatment and employment assistance. Typically, candidates need a bachelor's for these careers. Additional requirements may include training and certification.

Median Annual Salary: $53,020

Substance Abuse Counselors

Substance abuse counselors may assist clients individually or in groups. Professional responsibilities include assessing needs and constructing treatment plans. These counselors also determine if and when to adjust these plans, and they connect patients with external resources for recovery. These positions often require a master's degree. An online bachelor's in addiction counseling is a stepping stone toward that requirement.

Median Annual Salary: $38,837

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers

Mental health and substance abuse social workers help individuals with addictions and mental illnesses. These employees can work at hospitals, outpatient clinics, and community organizations. They provide therapy and information on mental health and substance abuse. These professionals often need a social work license and a master's degree, for which a bachelor's is a prerequisite.

Median Annual Salary: $44,840

Social and Human Service Assistants

Social and human service assistants help with several types of problems, including addiction. These professionals connect individuals with resources, such as support groups and treatment facilities. Individuals can qualify for this position with only a high school diploma. However, candidates with advanced education often receive more integral assignments, such as managing or organizing projects.

Median Annual Salary: $33,750

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