Substance Abuse Counselor Schools in North Carolina

Substance abuse counselors in North Carolina can make a difference in the lives of those who have struggled with addiction. They provide treatment and support for those who want to overcome their addiction, modify their behavior, and develop coping skills to help avoid a relapse into old habits. And because the issue of substance abuse knows no geographic boundaries, there's a need for trained counselors throughout the state -- in larger cities like Charlotte and Raleigh or in the smaller communities on the Outer Banks, Appalachian foothills, or the Piedmont region.

Substance abuse counselor schools in North Carolina

Those interested in substance abuse counselor training in North Carolina can begin their journey with as little as a high school diploma or GED and a Certified Substance Abuse Credential. This credential does not allow counselors to work independently with patients, nor does it allow them to advance very far as a substance abuse counselor, so many students will want to opt for additional education and earn a bachelor's or master's degree. Coursework will tend to be centered on these topics:

  • Counseling techniques
  • Theories of addiction and addiction disorders
  • Addiction treatment, including populations such as chemically dependent adolescents
  • Legal issues and ethics

Those who earn the master's degree must also complete supervised field work, including an internship. In North Carolina this internship is required. Those who plan to earn their master's degree online can fulfill this internship requirement through agreements with their local hospital, substance abuse counseling center or substance abuse clinic.

North Carolina licensing and certification requirements for substance abuse counselors

Most states, including North Carolina, require that students graduate from an accredited program in order to obtain certification. The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs currently accredits over 600 programs in North America, including several substance abuse counselor schools in North Carolina.

North Carolina also requires that substance abuse counselors hold a credential issued by the North Carolina Substance Abuse Professional Practice Board. For those who have not yet completed the master's degree, earning for a Certified Substance Abuse Credential will be a good starting point. The stringent requirements for this credential include the following steps:

  • Registration: This is the first step of certification. A registered person is a substance abuse professional who is under the supervision of a certified clinical supervisor or clinical supervisor intern. The supervision ratio must be at least 1:10 hours. Registration is good for five years, after which time the applicant must reapply.
  • Intern: An intern must have completed the registration requirements above, as well as a 300-hour supervised practicum. As an intern you'll be eligible to sit for the intern exam, and will spend the next few years working towards your full certification.
  • Full certification: The intern must complete 6,000 hours (about three years) of supervised substance abuse counseling experience, 270 hours of education in counseling (190 of which must be targeted in substance abuse), completion of two colleague or coworker evaluations, and successful completion of the certification examination.

Those who want to become a Licensed Clinical Addiction Specialist must graduate with a master's degree from an accredited college or university, as well as complete a clinical internship. To earn this credential, substance abuse counselors must complete the following steps:

  • Registration: This consists of supervised work at varying ratios, depending upon prior experience and education.
  • Associate licensing: Some can immediately take the associate licensing examination after registration; others must meet additional criteria, such as a 300-hour practicum and supervision agreements.
  • Full licensure: Again, this varies from one person to another. Typically, you must complete 2,000 hours to 4,000 hours, and in some cases recommendation letters might be required.

Aspiring counselors can also apply for other credentials, including that of clinical supervisor, prevention specialist, criminal justice addictions professional and residential facility director. For a detailed list of the exact requirements for substance abuse credentials in North Carolina, visit the North Carolina Substance Abuse Professional Practice Board.

Salary and career overview for substance abuse counselors in North Carolina

Substance abuse counselors nationwide will have a faster-than-average employment growth of 31 percent from 2012 to 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those who want to practice in North Carolina will find even more favorable growth at 31.9 percent, with an average of 80 job openings each year from 2012 to 2022, according to Projections Central. Much of this growth is due to changes in health insurance plans that now cover many substance abuse counseling programs, as well as a push for treatment and counseling for drug offenders rather than jail time.

The nationwide mean annual wage for substance abuse counselors was $38,620 in May 2013, according to the BLS. Top-paying industries included colleges, universities and professional schools, elementary and secondary schools, junior colleges, educational support services and nursing care facilities. In North Carolina, the BLS reported a mean annual wage of $44,620 for the 1,370 substance abuse counselors employed in the state in 2013.


Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs, http://www.cacrep.org/

Credentialing, North Carolina Substance Abuse Professional Practice Board, http://www.ncsappb.org/credentialing/

Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211011.htm

Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/substance-abuse-and-behavioral-disorder-counselors.htm#tab-1

Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors, Projections Central, North Carolina Long Term Occupational Projections, https://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm

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