How to Become an Addiction Counselor in Oregon

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What is Addiction Counseling?


Are you considering enrollment in an addiction counseling degree program in Oregon? This is an ideal major for those who are interested in learning how to provide services and assistance to people with drug and/or alcohol addictions. Prospective students should be aware that the profession can be demanding and emotionally taxing, but professionals generally enjoy decent job security and pay potential. The most rewarding aspect of this profession, however, is the opportunity to positively impact the lives of others.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors is expected to increase by 23% from 2020 to 2030. Notably, this is much faster than the average for all occupations and will result in an additional 41,000 new job openings in the nation each year. The primary reason for this growth has to do with many state legal systems moving towards sentencing drug offenders to addiction treatment rather than time in jail. Another significant impacting factor is the need for qualified professionals to replace professionals in the field who retire or transfer to new occupations.

Addiction counselors provide assistance and a wide variety of services to people who are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. These professionals utilize various specialized techniques to help their patients manage the many physical and psychological difficulties that accompany substance dependencies. They may also serve as advocates by coordinating education programs about the condition and/or by offering information and insight to the families and friends of those affected.

Daily duties and responsibilities can vary, as professional expectations often differ depending on the type of facility that employs the addiction counselor. Options range from community centers and halfway homes to hospitals and private practices. In most cases, however, those in this field can expect to spend a significant amount of time assessing the needs of substance abuse patients and preparing them for treatment. Other common tasks frequently include creating and reviewing treatment plans, managing goals, and helping patients develop more positive skills and behaviors. Additionally, many addiction counselors coordinate with other medical and mental health professionals, as alcohol and/or drug addictions often accompany other conditions.


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Online Addiction Counseling Education in Oregon


The educational services, healthcare, and social assistance industry is the fourth largest in Oregon. It accounts for $22.7 billion in revenue each year. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the state employed 6,610 substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors in May 2021. Additionally, there were 1,950 mental health and substance abuse social workers. The annual mean wage for these professionals in Oregon ranged between $52,660 and $59,910. While substance abuse social workers tend to make below the state’s annual mean wage of $59,070 reported for all occupations, the annual mean wage for substance abuse counselors is just above this number.

The state is home to many colleges and universities that offer addiction counseling as a major. While prospective students may be tempted to enroll in programs offered elsewhere in the country, those who want to work in Oregon should strongly consider schools in the state first. This is because local academic institutions tend to have a better understanding of employer requirements and expectations, as well as licensure requirements, and adjust their curriculums accordingly. Education obtained elsewhere may be less pertinent to the region and can make obtaining Oregon certifications more difficult. Only local institutions are familiar with the various laws and regulations pertaining to official counseling licensure procedures in the state. Additionally, many Oregon-based schools have established relationships with potential employers in the region, which can make it easier to obtain internships and employment. Notably, some colleges and universities in the state do have distance learning options available if personal and/or professional obligations make attending classes in person impossible.

While addiction counselors generally have the knowledge and skills necessary to work with patients from all demographics and backgrounds, some choose to specialize in the treatment of specific populations. As a result, some professionals may spend more time treating teenagers, adults, veterans, or people with disabilities. These preferences can also impact working locations, although most find employment with individual and family service centers, hospitals, or residential substance abuse facilities. Prospective students should be aware that, while the profession is often rewarding, demanding work schedules and emotionally charged situations can be taxing over time.

While not all addiction counseling professionals in Oregon require higher education, most choose to obtain degrees of some kind. The amount of education needed depends on the type of profession sought. Colleges and universities in the state offer relevant programs at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels.

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. Students usually take both general education and subject-specific classes, resulting in a broad introduction to higher education and the field of counseling. Those enrolled can expect to learn about the fundamentals of patient care and treatment, as well as theories of counseling, case management, multicultural counseling, psychology, and family and group counseling.

This type of degree is ideal for students seeking a general introduction to addiction counseling. Graduates are often qualified to apply for entry-level employment as human services assistants, halfway house administrative assistants, and adolescent counselors. Notably, associate degrees are not necessary to obtain the Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor I (CADC I) credential in Oregon.

Graduates are also better prepared for further study in the field. In fact, undergraduate credits earned can be transferred to other academic institutions and applied toward bachelor’s degrees. Most colleges and universities accept between 60 and 90 hours of coursework from other accredited schools, allowing those with associate degrees to enter programs as juniors with only two years of education remaining.

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. As with associate programs, they require both general education and major-specific classes.

Some of the most common topics covered include:

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

In some cases, majoring in addiction counseling may not be an option. Many other areas of study such as psychology, sociology, clinical social work, or mental health counseling allow students to select concentrations related to substance abuse.

This type of degree is generally considered the minimum standard for professionals in the field. Graduates are qualified to pursue many types of employment. This type of degree also meets the education requirement for the Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor II (CADC II) credential in Oregon.

Alternatively, those with bachelor’s degrees in addiction counseling can enroll in master’s degree programs. Those interested in graduate school 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)

Master’s degrees in addiction counseling generally consist of 60 credit hours of coursework that takes full-time students approximately two years to complete. These programs do not require any general education classes. Instead, instruction focuses solely on topics related to addiction and counseling. Students can expect to learn how to utilize various counseling approaches and research methods.

Common topics covered 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

Additionally, many colleges and universities require students to complete field work and capstone project presentations prior to graduation.

This type of degree satisfies the education requirement for the Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor III (CADC III) credential in Oregon. Graduates also tend to enjoy more employment opportunities and higher earning potentials.

Online PhD Degree in Addiction Counseling (PhD)

Doctorate degrees in addiction counseling generally consist of between 90 and 120 credit hours that take full-time students five to seven years to complete. These programs are typically designed to provide an in-depth assessment of the field, as well as comprehensive valuations of the social and cultural causes behind addiction.

Common topics covered 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

Notably, the academic experience is highly research-oriented and students are expected to write and defend dissertations prior to graduation.

Few addiction counseling professionals require this level of education. The degree is, however, beneficial to those interested in research and academia. Graduates may also qualify for related employment in leadership and management.

Become an Addiction Counselor in Oregon


The first step in becoming an addiction counselor in Oregon is determining your ultimate career goals. Graduating with this type of degree can qualify you for many employment opportunities with varying requirements. Identifying your preferred profession will help you select the most appropriate academic program, as well as ensure you pursue all necessary knowledge, skills, training, and experience prior to applying for jobs.

Certification for addiction counselors in Oregon are managed through the Mental Health and Addiction Certification Board of Oregon (MHACBO).

There are a few relevant credentials available:

  • Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor I (CADC I)
  • Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor II (CADC II)
  • Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor III (CADC III)
  • Certified Recovery Mentor (CRM)
  • Certified Recovery Mentor II (CRM II)

All CADC credentials require interested parties to register with MHACBO. This places CADC Candidate profiles in the MHACBO Registry and signifies acceptance of the MHACBO Code of Ethics. After this, each credential has its own unique requirements and scope of practice.

CACD I requires 150 education hours, 1,000 supervised experience hours in addiction counselor competencies, and successful completion of the National Certified Addiction Counselor (NCAC) I certification examination from the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC). Notably, the CADC I does not require an associate degree. The combination of education, supervised experience hours, and examination approximate the associate proficiency level.

CACD II requires a minimum of a bachelor’s degree or equivalent. Candidates must have 300 education hours, 4,000 supervised experience hours in addiction counselor competencies, and a passing score on the NCAC II certification examination. After passing the NCAC II examination, candidates will be granted CADC I certification. CADC II certification is only awarded after successfully completing the written Jurisprudence Ethics Exam.

CACD II requires a minimum of a master’s degree with at least 300 alcohol and drug education hours. Candidates must also have 6,000 supervised experience hours in addiction counselor competencies and a passing score on the Master Addictions Counselor (MAC) national certification examination from NAADAC. After passing the MAC examination, candidates will be granted CADC I certification. CADC III certification is only awarded after successfully completing the written Jurisprudence Ethics Exam.

Alternatively, those who have struggled with addiction can pursue CRM or CRM II credentials. CRMs are addiction treatment and/or recovery consumers who have been trained to help other consumers identify and achieve self-determined goals of recovery. These individuals cultivate the ability to make informed, independent choices in addicts, while also assisting them in gaining needed information and support from the community. CRMs must be in recovery and submit proof of an OHA-approved addiction training program. Candidates are also required to complete the MHACBO CRM Ethics Quiz, sign the code of conduct, and undergo background checks. CRM II is a national credential that can be transferred between other states. Additional requirements include a high school diploma or GED, 80 hours of peer support training, successful completion of the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC) Peer Recovery (PR) examination, and 500 supervised internship hours in the IC&RC Peer Domains.

Potential Counseling Careers for Graduates


  • Behavioral Therapist:
    Behavioral therapists treat patients who have been diagnosed with behavioral disorders, delivering treatments at patient homes, in the community, and/or in clinical environments. These professionals utilize various behavioral techniques in order to modify and/or replace negative behaviors with positive ones. They also monitor patient progress and adjust treatment plans when needed. According to PayScale, behavioral therapists make an average base hourly rate of $17.44, which translates to approximately $41,650 per year.
  • Career Counselor:
    Career counselors assist clients in identifying and pursuing their ideal careers. They utilize various personality, interests, and aptitude assessments, then provide relevant employment advice. These professionals also research and explain education requirements, as well as offer a wide variety of career-related services, including resume evaluations and mock interviews. Career counselors may also help current professionals transition into new professions. According to PayScale, career counselors make an average base salary of $46,450 per year.
  • Clinical Social Worker:
    Clinical social workers assist individuals who need mental and/or emotional support by providing psychosocial evaluations and therapy. They often coordinate patient care interactions in hospitals, mental health clinics, residential nursing facilities, home healthcare companies, and substance abuse treatment centers. These professionals may also secure additional resources with third party groups. According to PayScale, clinical social workers make an average base salary of $57,600 per year.
  • Grief Counselor:
    Grief counselors assist people who have recently lost loved ones. They help clients progress through the various stages of grief while encouraging healthier and more productive ways to cope with loss. These professionals may also provide direct counseling treatments when needed. According to PayScale, grief counselors make an average base salary of $46,850 per year.
  • Mental Health Counselor:
    Mental health counselors diagnose and treat patients with mental health problems and illnesses. They provide various services, including one-on-one and/or group therapy sessions, to help work through or resolve issues. These professionals may specialize in one type 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 services and support to residents of live-in facilities. These professionals work with various types of patients, including those with addictions or disabilities, as well as the elderly and trouble youth. They utilize both individual and group counseling sessions to address various topics, as well as resolving conflicts and/or crisis situations. 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 high school students achieve their personal, academic, social, and development goals. They often provide insight and support during challenging situations, as well as meet with teachers and/or parents to ensure the best outcomes. These professionals may also refer students to other support services when necessary. According to PayScale, school counselors make an average base salary of $51,350 per year.
  • Sports Psychologist:
    Sports psychologists provide support to athletes, coaches, and referees as they deal with various mental and physical demands. These professionals are familiar with the challenges associated with athletic training and competition, as well as the consequences of sustaining injuries. They also offer support to referees and coaches. According to PayScale, sports psychologists make an average base salary of $72,250 per year.

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