How to Become an Addiction Counselor in Missouri

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What is Addiction Counseling?


Are you considering enrolling in an addiction counseling degree program in Missouri? This major is ideal for those who want to provide services and assistance to people addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. The field offers promising career prospects, in which professionals often enjoying sustained job security, decent pay, and opportunities to make lasting impacts on the lives of their patients.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors is expected to increase by 23% from 2020 to 2030. This is much faster than the average for all occupations and will add an average of 41,000 new jobs openings nationwide each year. Most job openings will result from higher demand for qualified addiction counselors as states amend their legal systems to sentence them to addiction treatment rather than time in jail. Current professionals choosing to retire or transfer to new occupations will also account for a significant portion of new employment opportunities.

Addiction counselors are primarily responsible for helping people who struggle with alcoholism and drug addictions. They often work with patients from a wide variety of demographics, using numerous techniques to help manage the various physical and psychological difficulties that accompany drug and alcohol dependencies. They may also serve as advocates, providing information and insight about these conditions. In some cases, these professionals may even meet and work with family members to help develop effective coping strategies. As with most psychological professionals, addiction counselors are not able to prescribe medications.


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Online Addiction Counseling Education in Missouri


The educational services, healthcare, and social assistance industry is the fourth largest in Missouri. It accounts for $33.3 billion in revenue each year. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the state employed 4,220 substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors in May 2021, with an annual mean wage for local professionals of $43,270. Notably, this is below the national average wage of $56,310 as reported for all occupations.

While online learning programs make it easy to obtain degrees from nearly anywhere, those who plan to become addiction counselors working in Missouri should give preference to colleges and universities located within the state. Many institutions offer viable degrees, but local schools ensure graduates have the knowledge and skills needed to become successful professionals in the area. Additionally, colleges and universities in Missouri are more familiar with the state’s specific licensure and certification requirements for substance abuse counselors. For those seeking jobs that do not require this credential, local institutions often have established relationships with nearby companies and organizations, which can make finding internships and/or employment opportunities easier.

Not all addiction counseling jobs are the same. Some professionals choose to specialize in the treatment of a specific population type such as teenagers, adults, veterans, or people with disabilities. Daily duties can vary quite a lot, but a significant amount of time is generally spent evaluating patients and assessing their need and readiness for treatment. They also create and review treatment plans and goals while helping their patients develop more positive skills and behaviors. Additionally, it’s common for addiction counselors to work and coordinate treatment with other medical and mental health professionals.

Most addiction counselors work in individual and family service centers, hospitals, or residential substance abuse facilities. While the profession can be extremely rewarding, the schedule can be demanding and some find the work emotionally draining. It’s common for these professionals to work evenings, nights, and/or weekends.

In most cases, addiction counseling professionals in Missouri will need academic degrees, whether it is at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral levels. While it’s possible to find employment in the field without extensive higher education, even the lowest form of certification in the state requires an associate degree. It’s worth noting that the best jobs in the field are likely to go to those who have earned more advanced degrees. Prospective students should, however, choose programs that align well with their specific career goals.

Online Associate Degree in Addiction Counseling (AS)

Associate degrees related to addiction counseling generally consist of 60 credit hours of coursework that takes full-time students approximately two years to complete. Part-time students, however, may require additional time to meet graduation requirements.

While every college and university sets their own curriculum, programs at this level often serve as introductions to the field. In addition to taking general education courses, students usually enroll in courses meant to teach the fundamentals of patient care and treatment.

Some of the most common offerings include:

  • Theories of Counseling
  • Case Management
  • Family and Group Counseling
  • Multicultural Counseling
  • Psychology

Graduates can choose to pursue professional employment or additional education. Associate degrees are enough to obtain the Missouri Associate Alcohol Drug Counselor (MAADCI) credential but, as the lowest of the state’s certification, this can lead to only limited employment opportunities. Some of the entry-level jobs that may be available include human services assistants, halfway house administrative assistances, and adolescent counselors.

Most professionals in the field have bachelor’s or master’s degrees in addiction counseling, as they are needed for more professions in the field. Fortunately, associate degree credits earned at accredited colleges and universities can be transferred and used toward bachelor’s programs. In general, associate degrees equal two years of undergraduate education.

Online Bachelor's Degree in Addiction Counseling (BS)

Bachelor’s degrees in addiction counseling generally consist of 120 credit hours of coursework that takes full-time students approximately four years to complete. Part-time students will require more time to graduate, often at least two to four additional years. As previously mentioned, however, transferring credits can associate degrees may allow incoming students to enter programs as juniors instead of as freshmen.

College and university programs vary, but students should expect to take both general education and major-specific classes.

Titles will different from institution to institution, but some common course offerings include:

  • Group and Individual Counseling
  • Social Research Methods
  • Diagnosis of Chemical or Behavioral Dependency
  • Psychological Evaluations and Assessments
  • Pharmacology and Psychopharmacology

It’s also worth mentioning that there are several related majors for prospective students to consider. Examples include psychology, sociology, clinical social work, and mental health counseling. In many cases, colleges and universities with these programs also offer the opportunity to select a concentration in substance abuse.

Typically, bachelor’s degrees are the minimum standard for professionals in the field. Those with this level of education can be considered for the Missouri Associate Alcohol Drug Counselor II (MAADCII) credential. Four-year undergraduate degrees are also necessary when applying to master’s programs. Prospective students should be prepared to meet minimum grade point average (GPA) requirements, as well as provide Graduate Examination Record (GRE) scores.

Online Master's Degree in Addiction Counseling (MS)

Online master’s in addiction counseling generally consist of 60 credit hours of coursework that takes full-time students approximately two years to complete. As this is a graduate-level degree, undergraduate course credits cannot apply toward the requirements.

Every curriculum is different, but students will no longer need to take general education classes. Instead, coursework tends to focus solely on information related directly to the field. Colleges and universities usually strive to ensure students have the knowledge and skills necessary to utilize various counseling approaches and research methods. In many cases, field work is necessary, with capstone project presentation common prior to graduation.

Possible course titles include:

  • Testing and Assessment
  • Human Growth and Development
  • Addiction Prevention and Intervention
  • Social and Cultural Foundations of Counseling
  • Psychopathology and Personality Disorders
  • Building Your Ideal Private Practice

Graduates will qualify for some of Missouri’s top credentials, including Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC). While opportunities and results to vary, those with this level of education tend to experience better job security and higher pay than those with only associate and/or bachelor’s degrees.

Online PhD Degree in Addiction Counseling (PhD)

Doctorate degrees in addiction counseling may consist of between 90 and 120 credit hours that take full-time students five to seven years to complete. These programs are typically meant to provide students with comprehensive assessments of the social and cultural causes behind addiction. However, they are also much more research-oriented and will require some sort of dissertation presentation prior to graduation.

Some possible courses include:

  • Epidemiology of Drug and Substance Abuse
  • History of Addiction and Human Behavior
  • Prevention of Chemical Abuse in Childhood
  • Group Psychotherapy Techniques and Treatment Methods

While this type of degree is not required for most addiction counseling credentials and jobs in Missouri, it is considered a great method for career advancement. Not only will graduates be accepted as leaders in the field, but they will qualify for some of the top jobs available. In addition to counseling positions, those with this level of education can also pursue employment related to substance abuse research, leadership, and/or postsecondary education.

Become a Substance Abuse Counselor in Missouri


The first step in becoming an addiction counselor in Missouri is to identify your career goals. Your aspirations will often dictate the type and amount of education necessary, as well as which credentials you will need.

It’s important to realize that all 50 states and the District of Columbia require chemical dependency counselors with private practices to be licensed. The state offers several options, which are overseen by the Missouri Credentialing Board (MCB).

Some relevant offerings include:

  • Missouri Associate Alcohol Drug Counselor I (MAADCI)
  • Missouri Associate Alcohol Drug Counselor II (MAADCII)
  • Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC)
  • Certified Reciprocal Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CRADC)
  • Certified Reciprocal Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CRAADC)
  • Registered Alcohol Drug Counselor – Provisional (RADC-P)
  • Certified Gambling Disorder Counselor (CGDC)
  • Missouri Prevention Specialist (MPS)
  • Certified Reciprocal Prevention Specialist (CRPS)
  • Missouri Advanced Prevention Specialist (MAPS)

Each credential has its own unique requirements. A Missouri Associate Alcohol Drug Counselors (MAADCI), for example, requires only an associate degree or applicable one-year addiction certificate, while a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC) must have a master’s degree. These differences are why it’s so important that you identify your professional goals before enrolling in an academic program.

Requirements to receive a credential via MCB vary and are subject to change without notice, making it essential to check the specifics. All applications must be typed and mailed, with associated fees paid upon receipt. Applicants must also reside and/or be employed in the state of Missouri at least 51 of the time.

Careers for Addiction Counseling Graduates


Many graduates from addiction counseling degree programs in Missouri go on to become addiction counselors. There are, however, a number of other related professions available in the state. Career specifics vary, with salaries and responsibilities ranging quite significantly.

  • Behavioral Therapist
    Behavioral therapists treat patients diagnosed with mental health disorders. They utilize various behavioral techniques to modify and replace negative behaviors and closely monitor progress. Treatments may be provided at home, in the community, or in clinical environments. According to PayScale, behavioral therapists make an average base hourly rate of $17.44, which translates to approximately $41,650 per year.
  • Social Worker
    Clinical social workers work with individuals who require mental or emotional support by providing psychosocial evaluations and therapy. They also regularly coordinate patient care interactions and negotiate with third party groups offering resources. These professionals may work in many different settings including hospitals, mental health clinics, residential nursing facilities, home healthcare companies, or substance abuse treatment centers. According to PayScale, clinical social workers make an average base salary of $57,600 per year.
  • Grief Counselor
    Grief counselors, also known as bereavement counselors, help people who have recently lost loved ones. They assist them in working through issues commonly associated with grief, offering guidance and support. These professionals encourage healthy coping techniques and spend a lot of time providing direct counseling treatments. According to PayScale, grief counselors make an average base salary of $46,850 per year.
  • Mental Health Counselor
    Mental health counselors diagnose and treat mental health problems and illnesses. They provide one-on-one and/or group therapy sessions meant to help patients work through or resolve existing issues. These professionals often specialize in particular areas of treatment, such as addiction. According to PayScale, mental health counselors make an average base salary of $44,250 per year.
  • Residential Counselor
    Residential counselors provide a wide variety of counseling services to residents of live-in facilities. They often offer both individual and group counseling, especially to address conflicts and/or crisis situations. These professionals must have the knowledge and skills necessary to work with varying patient types, such as people with addictions and disabilities and the elderly and troubled youth. According to PayScale, residential counselors make an average base hourly rate of $14.46, or approximately $39,700 per year.
  • School Counselor
    School counselors help students achieve their personal, academic, social, and development goals in high school. They often provide assistance and support during challenging situations, and may refer other support services when needed. It is also not uncommon for these professionals to meet with parents to ensure the best possible outcomes for students. According to PayScale, school counselors make an average base salary of $51,350 per year.
  • Psychologist
    Sports psychologists ensure that athletes, coaches, and referees are adequately prepared for the various mental and physical demands associated with athletic training and competition. They often assist athletes in dealing with the consequences of sustaining injuries, as well as provide support to referees and coaches coping with the stresses of their positions. According to PayScale, sports psychologists make an average base salary of $72,250 per year.

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