How to Become an Addiction Counselor in Pennsylvania

Addiction Counseling Education Guide for Pennsylvania

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What is Addiction Counseling?


Pennsylvania is home to many colleges and universities that offer degree programs in addiction counseling. Students who are interested in this career field can choose from a variety of educational options including associate’s, bachelor’s, and graduate degrees. The programs offered at these schools vary in terms of the focus and curriculum, but the one you choose must provide students with the necessary skills and knowledge to work with clients who are struggling with addiction.

It takes specialized training and knowledge to provide addiction counseling. Addiction counseling degree programs are offered by a variety of schools and institutions. Through these, you can learn everything you need to function as a counselor for individuals who are struggling with addictions. These programs will educate graduates for employment in a variety of settings such as rehabilitation centers, private practices, and government agencies. They’ll be able to identify and plan treatments for addiction issues in clients of all ages.


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Top Ranked Online Colleges in PA

Online Addiction Counseling Education in Pennsylvania


Addiction counseling is a mental health field that specializes in the treatment of addiction and substance abuse. Addiction counselors work with individuals, families, and groups to help them overcome addiction and maintain sobriety. They can provide counseling and therapy, as well as education and support services.

Addiction counseling is a growing field, with demand for professionals outpacing supply in many places. There are many different types of addiction counselors including those who specialize in alcohol, drugs, gambling, food, sex addiction, and more. Some counselors specialize in working with adolescents or seniors, while others work with specific populations, such as veterans or teens.

The main role of an addiction counselor is to help clients recover from their addiction and live healthy lives free from substance abuse. Counselors can provide individual and group therapy, as well as educational lectures and support groups.

Online Associate Degree in Addiction Counseling (AS)

An online associate degree in addiction counseling can provide you with the training and knowledge you need to work with people struggling with addiction. You'll learn about the different types of addictions, how to create a treatment plan, and how to provide support and guidance to those who are trying to overcome their addiction. While you can work as a substance abuse counselor with a degree at this level, you will need to make sure that your program meets all the curriculum requirements the state requires. You can do this by checking with the school itself or your licensing board.

An associate degree generally takes around two years to earn, with the courses you’ll take including general education, which you could transfer on to a bachelor’s program, and some core courses focused on psychology, counseling, and substance abuse. If you wish to continue on to earn a bachelor’s after you complete an associate degree, you should ensure that the school you attend has a transfer agreement with a nearby four-year institution.

If you're looking for a way to make a difference in the lives of those affected by addiction, an associate degree in addiction counseling may be just what you need. Be aware, though, that those with an associate degree will need two years of experience to qualify as a full substance abuse counselor.

Online Bachelors Degree in Addiction Counseling (BS)

This type of program can be convenient for students who are already working in the addiction counseling field and want to further their education or for people who are interested in entering the addiction counseling field and have just completed high school. If you already have a job and want to get into the field without leaving your current job or location, you should definitely consider the online option. While these programs do not provide as much hands-on learning, they do offer quality degrees that can help you get into a career.

An in-person or online degree in addiction counseling can provide you with the knowledge and skills you need and access to better careers in the field than you would have with an associate degree alone. Coursework may include topics such as pharmacology, physiology of addiction, mental health disorders, and family dynamics. In addition to coursework, students typically complete a practicum or internship to gain hands-on experience working with clients who are recovering from addiction.

Online Master’s Degree in Addiction Counseling (MS or MC)

Earning an in-person or online master's degree in addiction counseling is a great way to expand your skills as an addiction counselor. These programs prepare students to sit for the examination for the certification of master addiction counselors and can allow them to work in private practice, either by themselves or with a group of other counselors and therapists. Graduates of these programs can find careers in hospitals, community mental health centers, employee assistance programs, and the juvenile justice system. If you're considering an online program, you should make sure it offers financing options, including grants and work-study programs.

The curriculum for a master's degree in addiction counseling includes foundational courses (which may look much like the courses you took in undergraduate programs but in grater depth), core classes, and electives. Your program’s curriculum might include subjects such as recovery and relapse, personality theories, and biological systems of chemical dependency. To earn a degree at this level, you must complete around 60 credit hours, maintain an appropriate GPA (usually around 3.0), and pass a comprehensive exam. Many programs offer part-time options because the program is meant for working professionals.

Online PhD in Addiction Counseling (PhD)

In a world where technology is ever-growing, more and more people are turning to online PhD programs to obtain their terminal degree. An online PhD in addiction counseling can be the perfect fit for those who are already busy professionals but want to make even more of a difference in the lives of those affected by addiction. The curriculum for an online PhD in addiction counseling is comprehensive and covers topics such as assessment, diagnosis, treatment planning, and relapse prevention. Students may also learn about the different types of addiction and how to work with clients from diverse backgrounds. An online PhD in addiction counseling can help professionals to reach the highest pinnacle of their careers, whether they are currently a substance abuse counselor or therapist or working in another field. Graduates can also go on to work in research or teaching positions at universities or colleges.

Online Addiction Counseling Certifications

There are many different types of addictions that people can suffer from. Gambling, drug abuse, and sex addiction are just a few examples. Some people are even struggling with an addiction to the internet itself, unable to pull themselves away long enough to engage with their real life. Luckily, more and more people who are struggling with an addiction and making it a priority to seek professional help. By earning certifications, you can gain an insight into specialties such as sex addiction and internet addiction so that you can better understand your clients who struggle with these addictions.

There are many different types of online addiction counseling certifications available. Some programs focus on providing counseling for specific types of addictions, such as shopping or sex addiction, as mentioned. Other programs offer general online addiction counseling certification that can be used to provide counseling for any type of addiction. And many are meant to also provide continuing education credits for those who are looking to maintain a license. Before enrolling in a program, it’s important to research the different options available and choose the program that best suits your needs.

Become an Addiction Counselor in Pennsylvania


In order to become an addiction counseling professional in Pennsylvania, there are a few steps that must be followed.

  • Step 1: Earn a degree in addiction counseling

    The field of addiction counseling is growing rapidly as more and more people are affected by addiction. If you want to help people struggling with addiction, a degree in addiction counseling can provide the training you need. Addiction counseling degrees can be found at many different levels, from associate degrees to doctorates.

  • Step 2: Become a certified addiction counselor

    Certified addiction counselors are in high demand and are expected to continue to be in demand for years. If you're interested in helping people who are struggling with addiction, becoming a certified addiction counselor is a great option. There are many different certification programs available, so you can choose one that fits your skills and interests. Certification programs typically include coursework in counseling theory and practice, addiction treatment methods, and case management. Licensure will also require supervised clinical experience. Once you're certified, you can work in a variety of settings including hospitals, clinics, and rehabilitation facilities.

  • Step 3: Obtain experience in the field of addiction counseling

    If you are looking to obtain experience in the field of addiction counseling, there are a few steps you can take. You could find an addiction counseling internship. Or you could volunteer at a local substance abuse treatment center. Volunteering can be a great way to gain experience and learn more about the field of addiction counseling. If you’ve already completed your degree, you might also be able to find an open position for a group counselor to run a support group or to help in a rehab facility.

  • Step 4: Gain licensure

    Once you have your degree and experience in the field, the only thing left is for you to gain licensure and specialize in the part of the field you are most interested in. There are many different certification programs available that can help you do this, so you can choose one that fits your skills and interests. Certification programs typically include coursework in counseling theory and practice, addiction treatment methods, or case management. At this level, you will be prepared to work in a huge variety of settings including hospitals, clinics, and private practice.

What Can I Do with a Bachelor's in Addiction Counseling?


Certified addiction counselors are in high demand, as the number of people with addiction problems continues to grow. If you're interested in helping people who are struggling with addiction, becoming a certified addiction counselor is a great option. As mentioned before, you can work in many settings, though the options will expand as you gain more education and licensure. However, there are fewer requirements for addiction counselors in this state than there are in some others, so you may not need to earn a master’s degree. A bachelor’s may be enough to get you access to most of the positions in the state that deal specifically with addiction, though that’s no reason to stop earning certifications if they can help you advance your career or reach a larger group of patients.

Potential Career Options and Salaries for Addiction Counseling Graduates


  • Clinical Social Worker:

    Clinical social workers provide emotional and social support to patients and their families. They work with patients to help them cope with their illness, understand their treatment options, make decisions about their care, and develop a support system. Clinical social workers also provide crisis intervention and counseling services.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • Master’s degree in social work
    • Licensed by the state in which they practice
    • Clinical experience

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for mental health and substance abuse social workers in the US in 2021 was $49,130
    • The mean annual wage for mental health and substance abuse social workers in Pennsylvania is $43,650
  • Adult and Geriatric Counselor:

    An adult and geriatric counselor will provide counseling and therapy services to adults and seniors. They will work with clients to address issues such as anxiety, depression, grief, and stress management. The counselor will also provide guidance on life transitions, such as retirement or empty nest syndrome.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • Master’s degree in counseling, psychology, social work, or a related field
    • Licensed or certified as a counselor in the state of practice
    • Experience working with adults and seniors preferred
    • Strong communication and interpersonal skills

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for rehabilitation counselors in the US in 2021 was $38,560
    • The mean annual wage for rehabilitation counselors in Pennsylvania is $42,630
  • Health Psychologist:

    Health psychologists are responsible for helping people manage their physical and mental health. They may work in a hospital, clinic, or private practice.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • Doctoral degree in psychology
    • Licensed to practice in their state

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for clinical and counseling psychologists in the US in 2021 was $82,510. Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors earned $48,520
    • The mean annual wage for clinical and counseling psychologists in Pennsylvania is $77,140. Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors earn $49,480
  • Child Counselor:

    A child counselor will provide counseling and guidance to children who are experiencing emotional or behavioral difficulties. They will work with the child to identify the root of the problem and develop a plan to address the issue. The counselor will also work with the child's family to provide support and guidance.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • Master's degree in counseling or social work
    • Licensed by the state as a counselor or social worker
    • Experience working with children

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors in the US in 2021 was $60,510 and counselors (all others) earned $45,160
    • The mean annual wage for educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors in Pennsylvania is $66,390 and counselors (all others) earn $56,630
  • Military Counselor:

    A military counselor provides support and guidance to service members and their families. They help individuals cope with the challenges of military life, such as deployments, separations, and other stressors. Counselors in this specialty also provide crisis intervention and referrals to other services as needed.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • Master’s degree in counseling or a related field
    • Must be licensed or certified as a counselor in the state where practicing
    • 2 years of experience working with military personnel and their families is preferred

    Estimated Salary

    • Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors earned $48,520 and counselors (all others) earned $45,160
    • Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors earned $49,480 and counselors (all others) earn $56,630
  • Residential Counselor:

    A residential counselor provides support to residents in a group home setting. Responsibilities include developing and implementing individualized service plans, providing crisis intervention and support, facilitating recreational and social activities, and documenting residents' progress. They also promote positive relationships with families and other service providers.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • Bachelor's degree in social work or a related field
    • Working with individuals with mental illness
    • Strong communication and organizational skills
    • Ability to work independently

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for residential advisors in the US in 2021 was $31,220. Clinical and counseling psychologists earned $82,510 and rehabilitation counselors earned $38,560. Substance abuse and mental health counselors earned $48,520
    • The mean annual wage for residential advisors in Pennsylvania is $34,770. Clinical and counseling psychologists earn $77,140 and rehabilitation counselors earn $42,630. Substance abuse and mental health counselors earn $49,480
  • Grief Counselor:

    A grief counselor provides support and guidance to those who are grieving the loss of a loved one. They help individuals process their emotions, work through their grief, and develop coping mechanisms to deal with their loss.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • Must have a master’s degree in counseling or a related field
    • Must be licensed to practice counseling in the state where they will be working
    • Must have experience working with individuals who are grieving

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors in the US in 2021 was $48,520 and clinical and counseling psychologists earned $82,510.
    • The mean annual wage for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselor in Pennsylvania is $49,480 and clinical and counseling psychologists earn $77,140
  • Sports Psychologist:

    A sports psychologist will be responsible for providing psychological support to athletes in order to help them improve their performance and well-being. They will work with athletes to assess their needs and develop psychological interventions that address those needs. This psychologist may also be responsible for conducting research on sports psychology topics.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • A doctoral degree in psychology
    • Experience working with athletes

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for counselors (all others) in the US in 2021 was $45,160 and psychologists (all others) earn $102,900
    • The mean annual wage for counselors, all other in Pennsylvania is $56,630 and psychologists (all others) earn $100,290

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