For people interested in becoming a substance abuse counselor, there are plenty of great schools to choose from. Some students prefer to attend private colleges, others prefer more affordable state schools, and some prefer the convenience of online schools. A degree is not required to be a group counselor in most states, but most state require a degree for people who want to open a private practice.
When choosing a graduate school to earn your Master’s degree and receive your substance abuse counselor training, it’s important to make sure the school is accredited. In most states, the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs (CACREP) is accepted. Before you decide on a school, make sure the schools credentials meet your state requirements.
State requirements are different. The main advantage to choosing a school in the state where you want to practice is that the programs will be geared to meet state requirements. Other advantages include the opportunity to meet local professionals in the field. Local education and experience may provide an edge when the time comes to find a job. State schools are also usually considerably less expensive to attend.
Today, finding a great job often depends on professional networking. By building contacts during college years, students can jumpstart a lucrative career path. Students with strong local experience and connections will be the first to hear about available jobs and upcoming opportunities.
According to U.S. News & World Report, the top ten universities in the U.S. are:
If attending graduate school is not within your budget or impractical for other reasons, online school is an option that’s growing in popularity. Online schools are typically far less expensive, but that’s not the only reason to consider schooling from home. Online school is more flexible and you can work at your own pace.
Some online universities require some face-to-face attendance, so choosing a school you can get to may be important.
Whether you attend a physical school or an online program, you’ll have to complete 2,000 to 3,000 hours of practical experience in a clinical setting before you can get a license for private practice. Each state sets its own requirements for number of clinical hours and level of education necessary for certification. Aspiring substance abuse counselors must take a state board exam once all the requirements are met.
While most states require a Master’s degree, clinical hours, and a state exam to open a private practice or take a supervisory position, you may not need a degree to work as a counselor under supervision of a licensed professional.
Earning a Master’s degree is expensive and time consuming, but it opens the door to a long and satisfying career.