How to Become an Addiction Counselor in North Dakota

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What is Addiction Counseling?


North Dakota is a sparsely populated state which is famous for brutal winters. The chief industries in North Dakota are led by mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction. ND has the #12 spot in the country in this industry. The state's economy is also led by industries such as real estate, wholesale trade, social services such as education and healthcare; and manufacturing rounds out ND's top five industries.

An addiction counselor is a mental health professional who works exclusively with clients or patients who have been diagnosed with substance abuse disorder. These clients may be addicted to alcohol, opioid medications, cocaine, or methamphetamine, to name a few of the primary culprits.

Addiction counselors spend their time trying to mitigate the damage done by opioids, alcohol, and other drugs. They most often work with substance abuse disorder victims in an addiction rehabilitation center. Depending on their licensure level, addiction counselors may work with patients in an educational setting, teaching patients how to avoid relapse, for instance, or instructing patients on the pharmacology of various drugs. Only those with a master’s degree or greater conduct psychotherapy with patients on an individual basis.


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Online Addiction Counseling Education in North Dakota


Apart from a few industries, such as mining and agriculture, North Dakota's economy is much like many other states. Though the state lacks any major urban center, many problems that used to be the domain of larger cities have come to roost in North Dakota. In particular, the problem of highly potent and addictive drugs has visited this state and other smaller states. This trouble started with the opioid epidemic, during which pharmaceutical companies urged doctors to over-prescribe addictive medications. This helped to create a new generation of addicts who either overdosed or advanced their addiction with the street form of their prescribed opioids, heroin. Meanwhile, methamphetamine has continued to gain potency and addictive potential, as well.

To address this social problem, the state of North Dakota has put a lot of support behind efforts to rehabilitate addicts and to hopefully stem the growth of that population. To help to rehabilitate addicts, North Dakota is educating more and more addiction counseling professionals all the time. Where most states regulate addiction counselors much like psychologists, ND allows counselors to earn licensure with only a bachelor's degree. This helps the sparsely populated state create a larger force with which to combat the scourge of addiction.

North Dakota's colleges and universities also help out with degree programs that meet the state's licensure requirements. They strive to recruit the best faculty members for their addiction counseling programs, as well as related, allied health departments. Not only do they look for faculty members with top academic credentials, but they seek out professors who are familiar with North Dakota's culture, including the regulatory environment. These personal experiences help make the material more relatable and help students navigate the licensure issue.

In order to work in the field of addiction recovery, it's ideal for workers to hold a license that allows them to work in a counseling capacity. The state of North Dakota allows two basic licenses: the LAC (licensed addiction counselor) and the LMAC (licensed master addiction counselor). The two are similar, and each can be obtained with as little as a bachelor’s addiction counseling degree.

Licensed addiction counselors who hold a bachelor’s degree need to also complete 960 hours of clinical training. A master’s degree only requires an additional 700 hours of clinical, supervised work. This means that both degrees can result in a career where the professional works as an independent counselor to people who have been diagnosed with substance abuse disorder. Those who wish to become LMAC certified must complete an additional 2,000 supervised hours in clinical practice, with at least 50% of that time spent working under a licensed North Dakota addiction counselor or clinical supervisor.

Online Associate Degree in Addiction Counseling (AS)

An associate addiction counseling degree can be a terrific way to get started in the field. While North Dakota does not offer licensure to those who earn a degree at this level, the degree may still be of great use. For instance, an associate degree in counseling or a related field may help the student start work in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center. They may not yet be able to work as a counselor but their experience in operations or administration will be invaluable.

This approach can be very useful because it allows the student to gain first-hand experience in the field of addiction rehabilitation. It also is great preparation for those who wish to earn a license from the state of North Dakota. The two-year degree requires that students complete general education and core college curriculum focused on psychology and counseling. When they are ready to complete a bachelor’s addiction counseling degree, they can focus clearly on their major without having to bother with any of the general education courses again.

Best Online Addiction Counseling Associate Programs

Online Bachelor's Degree in Addiction Counseling (BS)

A four-year undergraduate degree is the entry-level threshold for a North Dakota license in addiction counseling. Students who are interested in pursuing a career in addiction counseling should discuss their choice of degree program with an academic adviser. This is because the state will acknowledge a degree from a related field, but it's important to confirm that one's hard work will pay off with a license.

A bachelor’s addiction counseling degree is not all that's needed to pursue work in the field of addiction counseling. The state requires that those with a four-year undergraduate degree also complete 960 hours of supervised clinical work, with at least 480 of those hours spent with a licensed addition counselor. After earning the LAC licensure, these counselors can add 2,000 supervised hours to their resume and work as LMAC, or licensed master addiction counselors. For those who wish to elevate their status even higher, a bachelor’s counseling degree can help a student enroll in a master’s addiction counseling degree program through the North Dakota university of their choosing.

Best Online Addiction Counseling Bachelor's Programs

Online Master's Degree in Addiction Counseling (MS)

For much of the counseling profession, a master’s degree is a minimum requirement. For counselors in most states, a master’s degree is the primary hurdle on the way to a counseling career. North Dakota's addiction counseling professionals can work as counselors with as little as a bachelor’s degree. However, a master’s degree is still a very desirable degree to earn.

This is because employers will appreciate candidates who have an advanced degree and will likely be more interested in hiring someone with this level of academic achievement. A master’s degree may also allow those working in the field to earn higher incomes. Insurers and employers tend to reward counselors who hold advanced degrees with higher pay. Furthermore, clients may be more likely to seek out a counselor with a master’s degree than one with a bachelor’s. A master’s degree also enables a secondary income to those who want to teach at the post-secondary level, though they may only be able to teach at the adjunct level.

Best Online Addiction Counseling Master's Programs

Online PhD Degree in Addiction Counseling (PhD)

A PhD in addiction counseling is the peak credential for this field. The state of North Dakota, however, sees this degree level as nearly identical to those who hold a master’s counseling degree. For both the master’s and doctorate candidate, the experience requirement is identical for both the LAC and LMAC licenses. However, a PhD may come with certain benefits not available to those with only a master’s degree.

For one thing, a doctorate degree is sure to stand out when it comes time to hire a new counselor. A rehabilitation facility that can boast more advanced degrees than their competition is sure to attract more clients. They may even be able to charge more for the rehabilitation services they offer. Insurers are likely to allow a higher hourly rate when insured addicts seek counseling from a PhD level counselor.

Additionally, those who earn a PhD can leverage it toward a teaching career at the college level. They may even be able to work on research that would not be accessible to those with less education. This expands your employment opportunities to the very top of the field.

Become a Substance Abuse Counselor in North Dakota


It's a rather big decision to become an addiction counseling professional in North Dakota. After all, this is a profession where the success rates are often seen as quite slim. This is because certain drugs, like methamphetamine and opioids like fentanyl, are increasingly addictive. Thus, an addiction counselor may see many of their clients relapse and even overdose after undergoing treatment. Nevertheless, strong souls continue working to help these addicted people. To pursue a successful career, aspiring addiction counselors need to complete certain steps.

First off, to earn a license as an addiction counselor in North Dakota, students need to first earn a degree. While it is possible to earn an associate counseling degree and work in a rehabilitation facility, the state of North Dakota will not confer a license at this degree level. An associate may be good for landing a job in administration or operations, but counselors must have a bachelor's degree in order to become licensed addiction counselors (LAC).

Students who pursue a bachelor's degree should look for a degree program in addiction counseling or a closely related field. Students should discuss their eventual licensure with their academic adviser. Those in a psychology or allied health degree program will likely find that their adviser can help them plan for an eventual license. It will be very helpful for student to complete an internship along the way to graduation, as well. The internship will help them gain valuable experience while also helping them confirm that the field is right for them. It cannot be stressed enough how difficult this career can be. You may want to ensure that you attend a program that is accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA), as well.

After graduation, a bachelor's degree holder needs to then undergo a period of supervised practice in order to earn a North Dakota state license to work as an addiction counselor. At this degree level, the state requires 960 hours of supervised work. Half of those hours must be under the direct observation of a state licensed professional.

The state also provides addiction counseling licensure for those with a master’s degree or a PhD. These mental health experts must also earn a license by way of a period of supervised work. For those with advanced degrees, the North Dakota Board only requires 700 hours of supervised counseling time. These counselors can distinguish themselves with the added status of an advanced degree and the elevated pay that comes with those credentials.

Careers for Addiction Counseling Graduates


  • School Counselor:
    This job involves counseling students in a school setting. School counselors all have a master of education with a specialty in counseling. Most states also require that they hold a teaching credential, which usually involves passing the PRAXIS subject test for counseling. Much like teachers, school counselors can work with elementary, middle school, or high school students.
  • Clinical Social Worker:
    This is one of the more flexible careers in the counseling realm. A licensed clinical social worker can practice therapy with individual clients. They can even choose to work with a variety of clients who suffer with a variety of maladies. For instance, they could choose to specialize in family counseling for those with addicted members. They could also work with a non-profit or governmental social services agency.
  • Adult and Geriatric Counselor:
    These counseling professionals have chosen to specialize in working with clients who are in their sunset years. This specialty doesn't often require any special licensure but certifications in the field will help to bolster any counselor's resume.
  • Sports Psychologist:
    This job involves helping athletes achieve their peak performance. Sports psychologists often work with professional athletes, but they can also work as coaches for high school sports teams, or they may form their own sports camps that help students focus on and improve their performance in their favorite sports.
  • Career Counselor:
    These counseling professionals don't need state licensure, but they most often hold a master’s degree in career counseling. Their work is done on the campuses of colleges and universities. They may work with individual students to help them discover the best career path for them. They also organize campus events such as job fairs or similar recruiting events.
  • Child Counselor:
    These counseling professionals specialize in working with small children who may have experienced trauma or chemical imbalances. To work in this field, it’s necessary to earn a master’s counseling degree that specializes in counseling children. Child counselors often employ special methods in their sessions such as art therapy, music therapy, and play therapy.
  • Group Counselor or Therapist:
    This counseling specialty is one that may comprise a counselor’s entire practice. A licensed counselor may find that certain individual clients may benefit from speaking with one another, or they may choose to run a support group or be requested to do so in a rehab facility. They may have similar issues to work through or may share other characteristics that could benefit from a group dynamic. To work in this field, it is necessary to be a licensed counselor and it may be beneficial to earn a special certification in group therapy.
  • Mental Health Counselor:
    These mental healthcare workers are what we often think of when we think of a counselor. These counseling professionals must hold either a master’s or a PhD in clinical psychology in order to earn their state licensure. Once fully credentialed, a mental health counselor can work in private practice where they help their clients work through personal problems.
  • Grief Counselor:
    Unfortunately, death is an inevitable event for us all. When the deceased leave behind aggrieved loved ones, grief counselors are there to help them sort out and cope with the loss. Grief counselors can also be helpful when large groups are impacted by a terrible loss, or they can work with those who have experienced other losses, such as a terrible divorce.
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