2023 Best Online Addiction Counseling Certificate Programs

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You might consider earning an addiction counseling certificate online if you’re an early- or mid-career professional who wants to learn more about how to help people dealing with addiction and substance abuse.

Best Online Addiction Counseling Certificate Programs

In graduate certificate programs, you can build upon the knowledge you’ve learned in a bachelors or masters program. You’ll typically learn how to identify and treat addictions by working with clients one-on-one.

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Addiction counselors tend to apply their knowledge in hospitals, private practices, outpatient care centers, and other healthcare settings.

Addiction Counseling Certificate Online Programs

Woman taking Online Addiction Counseling Certificate

Addiction counseling certificate programs online often cover how to assess, treat, and prevent substance abuse.

You may learn how to treat different types of disorders, how to treat people of different ages, and how to counsel in individual and group settings. While pursuing an online addiction counseling certificate, you will likely study some of the following topics:

  • Co-occurring disorders
  • Adolescent addiction
  • Substance abuse treatment
  • History of addictions
  • Relapse prevention
  • Family counseling
  • Ethical and legal issues
  • Group dynamics with addiction
  • Social science research and statistics

Graduates tend to pursue roles as counselors, where they might use their skills in addiction counseling. Some might work as marriage and family therapists, social workers, or community health workers. Although professionals in this field work in a variety of settings, they generally all fall under the healthcare umbrella. They may work in private practices, community centers, hospitals, or other settings.

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Students enrolled in an addiction counseling graduate certificate program have typically already received an undergraduate on-campus or online addiction counseling degree or, in some cases, a masters degree. Graduate certificate programs are meant to build on your previous education.

Many graduates decide to pursue a counselor license after a certificate program. The requirements for licensure vary by state and license type. Other graduates apply their education to their already existing career.

Addiction Counseling Careers & Salaries

Addiction Counseling Careers & Salaries

Many students who graduate from an addiction counseling program go on to become addition counselors, many of whom specialize in substance abuse. These types of counselors help evaluate and treat their clients’ addictive behaviors and help them work toward a substance-free life.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these are some potential careers associated with addiction counseling.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Social and Community Service Managers $74,000
Health Education Specialists $60,660
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists $60,250
Social Workers $50,390
Marriage and Family Therapists $49,880
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors $48,520
Community Health Workers $46,590
Rehabilitation Counselors $38,560
Social and Human Service Assistants $37,610
Psychiatric Technicians $36,570

Graduates may also pursue a variety of other counseling roles, including rehabilitation counselor and marriage and family therapist. These professionals may address clients’ addictions as they relate to other behaviors that require their assistance.

Your prior education and experience can impact your qualifications for therapy roles, as some positions require specialized education or training. If you prefer not to see clients one-on-one, an addiction counseling certificate could help you acquire knowledge and skills that can be useful in related careers.

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For example, some graduates work as health education specialists or community health workers. These roles typically aim to educate communities on addiction and other health issues.

Addictions Certificate Curriculum & Courses

Students taking Addiction Counseling Certificate

Your curriculum in an addiction counseling graduate certificate program can vary, but these are some examples of classes you may take.

  • Ethical and Professional Issues in Addiction Counseling: This class covers the various ethical and legal challenges an addiction counselor may encounter and how to address them.
  • Specialization in Professional Counseling: You’ll learn about the foundations of various counseling specializations, including addiction and trauma.
  • Culture, Gender, and Special Populations in Addictions: This course examines how different cultural backgrounds and gender identities may affect someone’s relationship with addictive substances.
  • Co-Occurring Disorders: You’ll learn how to identify, analyze, and treat co-occurring disorders.
  • Clinical Assessment of Substance Use Disorders: This class teaches you how to correctly identify substance abuse disorders to then come up with client treatment plans.
  • Family Issues and Addictive Disorders: You’ll learn about how substance abuse disorders can affect families and how to help.
  • Drugs and Behavior I: Basic Science: This course covers the effect different drugs can have on the brain.
  • Counseling Chemical Dependency Adolescents: You’ll learn about how to help adolescents specifically address and treat substance abuse disorders.
  • Treatment Planning and Evaluation in Addictions Counseling: This class teaches you how to create treatment plans and effectively communicate them to clients.
  • Addiction Counseling II: Advanced Techniques: You’ll learn various methods for treating addiction, including relapse prevention training and motivational interviewing.

In addition to courses like these, your online addiction counseling certification program may include opportunities for internships or supervised work hours.

Admissions Requirements

Man preparing requirements for Addiction Counseling Certificate

Much like an on-campus or online substance abuse counseling degree, the admissions requirements for a graduate certificate program can vary, but these are a few common criteria you may encounter when looking at programs:

  • Bachelors degree or higher
  • Undergraduate transcripts
  • GRE or GMAT scores (only required at some schools)
  • Statement of intent

Additional potential admissions requirements include professional experience and letters of recommendation. Not every school looks at GRE or GMAT test scores, so it’s helpful to look at your school’s requirements before taking the test.


University offering Addiction Counseling Certificate

When looking for a substance abuse certificate online, it’s strategic to check whether a prospective school is regionally accredited. This status means that the school has met a series of academic quality standards.

Attending a regionally accredited school may be a valuable addition to your resume when looking for jobs down the line, as many employers check for this status. An accredited education may also be required for some professional certifications.

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To find out if the school you’re interested in is regionally accredited, you can visit the US Department of Education’s website.

Addiction Counseling Licensure and Certifications

Certified Addiction Specialist who completed drug and alcohol counselor certification

The requirements for becoming a licensed addiction counselor vary by state. They generally involve completing specific coursework and supervised fieldwork in addition to passing an exam.

Below are a few examples of certified addiction counselors:

  • Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselors
  • Master Addiction Counselor
  • Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor
  • Certified Addiction Specialist

It may be helpful to look up which licenses are available in your state before beginning a certificate program.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Addiction Counseling Certificate financial aid

There are a variety of financial aid opportunities available to qualifying students, including scholarships, loans, work-study programs, and more. On the graduate level, some students may be eligible for direct PLUS loans or direct unsubsidized loans.

For students enrolling in drug counselor certification programs, a work-study program may be a beneficial option. These jobs allow students to earn at least the federal minimum wage while in school. Some employers also offer tuition benefits to workers who are furthering their professional development.

Financial aid may be granted to qualifying students on the federal and state levels as well as through schools. To learn more about available government aid options, you can visit the Federal Student Aid website.

What Is a CAC Certification?

Substance Abuse Counselor evaluating a patient

A certified addiction counselor (CAC) certification is a professional credential given to those who meet their state’s specified criteria, including educational and fieldwork requirements.

Addiction counselors aim to help their clients recover from substance abuse and other addictions. They may also help them create long-term plans to try and avoid relapsing. Certified addiction counselors typically have a master’s degree in the field.

The required level of education for addition counselors may differ depending on their exact role as well as their state’s licensing requirements.

What Can You Do with an Online Addiction Counseling Certificate?

Marriage and Family Therapist in a session with her clients

Professionals with an online addiction counseling certificate typically choose to pursue careers in substance abuse or mental health counseling. Counseling roles also generally require an addiction or drug and alcohol counselor certification.

Depending on their previous education and experience, graduates may also work as marriage and family therapists, social workers, and social and community service managers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many roles associated with addiction counseling, such as substance abuse counselors, are projected to grow faster than average over the next ten years.

What Does a Substance Abuse Counselor Do?

Substance abuse counselor, in a session with a patient

A substance abuse counselor helps people identify, address, and recover from addictions. They may either work with people one-on-one or in a group setting.

Substance abuse counselors aim to address the root cause of their clients’ addictions so that they can come up with effective treatment plans. They often teach their clients techniques to help them recover, and they may also recommend other means of getting support.

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These types of counselors can work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, private practices, outpatient care centers, and community centers.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Certificate in Addiction Counseling Online?

Woman taking online addictions counseling certification

The timeframe for completing a graduate certificate in addiction counseling online can vary depending on your program and school.

For instance, if you are enrolled full-time in a 12 credit hour program, it may take as little as 6 months to complete your program. If you enroll part-time or take fewer credits each semester, it may take about 1 year to graduate. An online degree may allow for added flexibility when balancing a class schedule and various outside obligations.

What’s the Difference Between an Addiction Counselor Certification vs. Certificate?

An addiction counselor certificate and certification may sound similar, but there are actually a few key differences between these two terms.

Addiction Counselor Certificate Addiction Counselor Certification
  • Academic credential
  • Earned by completing coursework through a postsecondary institution
  • Can help prepare you for professional certification exam
  • Professional credential
  • Earned by passing a standardized test and meeting board’s requirements
  • May require occasional continuing education to maintain

A certificate is typically received by students who complete an educational program. Certification is generally awarded to professionals who meet a state or national board’s eligibility requirements and pass a test.

Is an Online Certificate in Addiction Counseling Worth It?

Drug and alcohol counselor, a group therapy session

Yes, an online certificate in addiction counseling is worth it for many students. A graduate certificate can help you expand your expertise in the field of addiction and substance abuse counseling. This type of certificate program can also help you prepare for professional certification.

Many of the roles associated with addiction counseling are projected to experience faster than average job growth. For instance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 22% job growth for substance abuse, mental health, and behavioral disorder counselors over the next ten years.

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Many professionals find these roles to be rewarding, as these types of counselors commonly help people in a one-on-one or group setting.

Universities Offering Online Graduate Certificate in Addiction Counseling Programs

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

Appalachian State University

Appalachian State University campus

Appalachian State University offers an Addiction Counseling Graduate Certificate that can potentially lead to professional licensure in the state of North Carolina. Class sizes are small to help students develop personal relationships with their classmates. New students can begin in either the fall or the spring.

Appalachian State University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Arizona State University

Arizona State University campus

Arizona State University offers an online program for a Graduate Certificate in Addiction and Substance Use Related Disorders. It requires the completion of 21 credit hours. The curriculum consists of seven classes that are each 7.5 weeks long. The coursework is designed to cover all the content areas required for licensure in the state of Arizona.

Arizona State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

East Tennessee State University

East Tennessee State University campus

East Tennessee State University offers a Clinical Addiction Counseling Studies Certificate that can be earned 100% online. Only one course requires synchronous meetings. Otherwise, coursework can be completed according to a student’s own schedule. The program is intended for those who already have a bachelor’s degree in a behavioral health field.

East Tennessee State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Eastern Kentucky University

Eastern Kentucky University campus

Eastern Kentucky University’s Graduate Certificate in Addictions Intervention is available 100% online, but the opportunity to participate in a practicum is available. The curriculum consists of 18 credit hours of coursework that is completed in accelerated, 8 week terms. Classes may be attended full-time or part-time. Online students at EKU have access to tutoring, career services, and other assistance.

Eastern Kentucky University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Indiana Wesleyan University

Indiana Wesleyan University campus

Indiana Wesleyan University offers a program for a Graduate Certificate in Addictions Counseling that is aimed at adult learners. It requires the completion of 18 credit hours of coursework and may be completed online. Potential courses include Human Growth and Development, Issues in Addiction Recovery, Psychopharmacology, Psychopathology, and Theories and Treatment of Addiction.

Indiana Wesleyan University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Minnesota State University – Moorhead

Minnesota State University Moorhead campus

Minnesota State University—Moorhead offers an Addiction Counseling Certificate program that is available entirely online, but some classes do have face-to-face options. The program offers practicum and internship opportunities. Potential classes include Theories of Counseling, Counseling Skills, and Psychopharmacology for the Helping Professions.

Minnesota State University – Moorhead is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Montana State University

Montana State University

Montana State University offers a Graduate Certificate in Addiction Counseling that can be earned entirely online. The program offers internship opportunities and aims to prepare students for licensure in the state of Montana. Its courses are highly interactive and designed to facilitate discussions. GRE scores are not needed to apply.

Montana State University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

Pennsylvania Western University – California

Pennsylvania Western University campus

Pennsylvania Western University—California offers an online program for a Graduate Certificate in Addictive Disorders Counseling. It can typically be completed in just 15 weeks over the summer semester. Courses are delivered asynchronously, but students can connect with classmates through discussion forums. All faculty members are licensed professional counselors.

Pennsylvania Western University – California is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Post University

Post University campus

Post University offers a Certificate in Alcohol and Drug Counseling that can be earned online. The curriculum emphasizes real-world applications and offers the opportunity to complete two field practicums to gain hands-on experience. Credits earned in the program may be applied toward a Master of Science in Counseling and Human Services.

Post University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Purdue University

Purdue University campus

Purdue University offers an online program for a Graduate Certificate in Addictions at Purdue University. Each course is 10 weeks long, and students usually dedicate 15 to 18 hours per week to their studies. Two terms in the program are dedicated to participating in a practicum to gain real-world experience. The full program can usually be finished within 1 year.

Purdue University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

St. Cloud State University

Saint Cloud State University campus

St. Cloud State University offers a Graduate Certificate in Addictions that can be earned on campus or online. The curriculum is designed to prepare students for the Minnesota License Alcohol and Drug comprehensive exam, and credits may be transferred into a master’s degree in counseling. The program has an 87% job placement rate.

St. Cloud State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of Florida

University of Florida campus

The University of Florida offers an online program for a Graduate Certificate in Addiction and Recovery that requires the completion of 18 credit hours. Courses are designed to be flexible and engaging. Students may work at their own pace and can potentially finish in 3 semesters. Applications are accepted year-round to begin in the fall, spring, or summer.

The University of Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of Georgia

University of Georgia campus

The University of Georgia offers an online program for a Graduate Certificate in Substance Use Counseling. Coursework is highly flexible and asynchronous. The program requires the completion of 12 credit hours, 9 of which may be transferred into a Master of Social Work. The curriculum emphasizes evidence-based practices that can be applied in diverse settings.

The University of Georgia is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of Nebraska – Kearney

University of Nebraska at Kearney campus

The University of Nebraska—Kearney offers an online program for a Graduate Certificate in Alcohol and Drug Counseling. The program requires the completion of 12 credit hours. Potential courses include Clinical Treatment Issues in Addictions Counseling and Medical and Psychosocial Aspects of Addictions.

The University of Nebraska – Kearney is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of North Carolina – Pembroke

University of North Carolina Pembroke campus

The University of North Carolina—Pembroke offers a Graduate Certificate in Addictions Counseling. The program is exclusively online. Potential courses include Issues in Addictions for Counselors, Contemporary Issues and Special Populations in Addictions, and The Family and Addictions.

The University of North Carolina at Pembroke is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Getting Your Addiction Counseling Certificate Online

Man pursuing Addiction Counseling Certificate online

If you’re interested in a career that helps people, you might consider earning an addiction counseling certificate.

A graduate certificate could be a strategic way to broaden your education and develop specialized skill sets in this growing field. A certificate program could help you work toward professional certification as well. Some programs are designed for professionals who hold bachelor degrees in any field, while others are tailored to current counselors, therapists, or social workers who want to expand their skill sets.

You can start this next step in your educational and professional journey today by exploring online addiction counseling certificate programs from accredited schools.

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Stephanie Friedman
Stephanie Friedman
Stephanie holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of California, Irvine and a Certificate in Journalism and Newswriting from New York University. Stephanie focuses on researching affordable education opportunities, non-traditional career paths, and online learning.