How to Become an Addiction Counselor in Virginia

Addiction Counseling Education Guide for Virginia

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What is Addiction Counseling?


An addiction counseling professional is a person who helps others overcome their addiction to drugs, alcohol, or even behaviors in some situations. This person may work in a hospital, clinic, or private practice. They may also work in an outpatient setting, such as a community mental health center. Addiction counselors use a variety of techniques to help their clients including individual and group therapy, family counseling, and cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Addiction counselors must have at least a master’s degree in counseling or a related field. They must also be licensed by the state in which they practice. In some states, they must also pass a certified addiction counselor exam. Most states require that counselors complete continuing education credits every year to maintain their license.

Addiction counselors help people with substance abuse disorders and mental health disorders. They typically work with clients who have alcohol use disorders, drug use disorders, or both.


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Online Addiction Counseling Education in Virginia


An online degree in addiction counseling can lead to a rewarding career helping those struggling with addiction. There are many online colleges and universities that offer programs in this field, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. You can earn your degree online or through an in-state program that is sure to prepare you for state licensure and certification.

An addiction counseling program will typically include coursework in psychology and human services, as well as specific classes on addiction and recovery. Students will learn about the different types of addictions, their causes, and how to best treat them. They will also gain skills in individual and group counseling, crisis intervention, and case management.

Graduates of accredited substance abuse programs are often eligible for licensure as Licensed Professional Counselors (LPC) or Licensed Clinical Addiction Counselors (LCAC), Certified Addiction Counselors (CAC), or Master Addiction Counselors (MAC). In Virginia, those who are ready to receive licensure will be known as either a Certified Substance Abuse Counselor Assistant (CSAS-A) or a Certified Substance Abuse Counselor (CSAS).

Online Associate Degree in Addiction Counseling (AS)

An online associate degree in addiction counseling is a two-year degree that prepares students for further education in a career as an addiction counselor or allows them to shift to a different field if they decide the addiction counseling profession isn’t for them. These degrees usually take around two years to complete and, if you attend a program that will allow you to transfer your earned credits, you may be able to start a bachelor’s degree as a junior rather than a freshman.

An AS degree in substance abuse counseling will provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary to work as an addiction counselor. Students will learn about the different types of addictions, the causes of addiction, and how to effectively treat addicted individuals. They will also learn about the different stages of recovery, and how to help clients through each stage. In addition, students will learn about the various resources available to help clients overcome their addiction.

Online Bachelors Degree in Addiction Counseling BS)

There are many reasons to consider an online bachelor's degree in substance abuse counseling. With this degree, you may be able to get an early start in gaining experience in counseling or at least in roles related to the field. You will not be able to work as a counselor and work directly with patients without more education, but you will be well on your way to gaining a position that will let you help others who are struggling with addiction and provide them with the tools they need to recover. Additionally, you will gain a deep understanding of substance abuse addiction and its causes throughout this portion of your education, and you can choose to focus on a demographic through electives in adulthood and aging, childhood development, and more.

A bachelor's degree in addiction counseling can be an excellent first step on your journey to becoming a counselor. This degree will give you the knowledge and skills you need to work with clients who are struggling with addiction. You will learn about different treatment methods and how to create individualized treatment plans for your clients. Additionally, you will gain an understanding of the unique challenges that come with addiction recovery.

If you are passionate about helping others overcome addiction, then a bachelor's degree in addiction counseling is a great choice for you.

Online Masters Degree in Addiction Counseling (MS or MC)

An online master’s degree in substance abuse counseling can provide you with the skills and knowledge necessary to work with individuals and families struggling with addiction. With this degree, you will be able to work in a variety of settings including hospitals, outpatient clinics, and private practices and it will allow you to gain full licensure in the state of Virginia.

Most programs at this level take two years to complete and will include coursework in assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of addiction. You will also learn about the psychological and social factors that contribute to addiction. In addition to coursework, you may also have the opportunity to complete an internship or practicum in an addiction counseling setting, which can help you earn the hands-on experience you need to earn full licensure.

If you are interested in pursuing a career in substance abuse counseling, a master’s degree is the minimum level of education required. With this degree, you will be prepared to work with clients struggling with addiction and help them build a foundation for lasting recovery.

Online PhD Degree in Entrepreneurship (PhD)

Addiction counseling is a field that is growing in popularity. Individuals who are interested in helping others overcome addiction may want to consider pursuing a PhD in addiction counseling. This type of degree can provide individuals with the knowledge and skills necessary to effectively counsel those struggling with addiction.

A PhD in this field provides individuals with an in-depth understanding of addiction and its causes. Additionally, students will learn about effective treatment methods and how to create individualized treatment plans. Students will also gain valuable experience working with clients through practicum and internship opportunities.

Graduates with a PhD in addiction counseling will be prepared for careers as addiction counselors, therapists, or researchers. With the proper credentials, graduates may also be able to teach at the collegiate level. Those interested in this field should be prepared for a demanding but rewarding career helping others overcome addiction.

Online Addiction Counseling Certifications

There are many different addiction counseling certifications available depending on what type of counselor you want to become. Some common certification titles include Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC), Certified Addiction Counselor (CAC), and Master Addiction Counselor (MAC). To become certified, you will need to complete an accredited addiction counseling program and pass a national exam.

The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) offers the National Certified Counselor (NCC) credential, which is the most widely recognized certification in the field of counseling. To earn the NCC, you must have a master’s degree in counseling from an accredited institution, complete 3,000 hours of post-graduate clinical experience, and pass a national exam.

Become an Addiction Counselor in Virginia


If you want to become an addiction counseling professional in Virginia, there are a few steps you need to take.

  • Step 1: Get a degree in addiction counseling or a related field:

    Addiction counseling is a field of study that can lead to a career helping people with addiction problems. There are many different types of addiction counselors, including those who work in residential treatment centers, outpatient clinics, and private practices. Most addiction counselors have at least a bachelor's degree in psychology, social work, or a related field, though in Virginia you must earn a master’s degree. All states require addiction counselors to be licensed or certified. If you're interested in becoming an addiction counselor, you'll need to be comfortable working with people who are struggling with difficult issues. You should be patient and understanding, but also able to set boundaries and stand firm when necessary.

  • Step 2: Complete an internship or residency program:

    An internship or residency program in addiction counseling can provide you with the necessary training and experience to fully prepare to become an addiction counselor. These programs typically last for one year and, during that time, you will receive instruction in counseling techniques, psychology, and addiction treatment. You will also have the opportunity to work with clients in a clinical setting, which will give you first-hand experience in dealing with addiction. Completing an internship or residency program in addiction counseling can be a great way to jumpstart your career in the field. These programs provide you with the skills and knowledge you need to be successful as an addiction counselor and they also give you the opportunity to work with clients and gain valuable experience. If you are interested in becoming an addiction counselor, consider completing an internship or residency program to get started on your career path.

  • Step 3: Pass the National Counselor Examination for Addiction Counselors

    The National Counselor Examination for Addiction Counselors (NCAC I) is a credentialing exam administered by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). The NCAC I is designed to measure entry-level counseling skills and knowledge in the addiction counseling field. To be eligible to take the NCAC I, candidates must have completed a master’s degree or higher in counseling from an accredited institution, as well as 300 hours of clinical experience in the field of addiction counseling. The NCAC I consists of 170 multiple-choice questions covering topics such as assessment, diagnosis, and treatment planning; professional orientation and Ethical Standards; group counseling; individual counseling; family counseling; crisis intervention; multicultural counseling; and research and program evaluation.

  • Step 4: Become licensed in your state as an addiction counselor

    Most addiction counselors are required to be licensed in the state in which they practice. The requirements for licensure vary from state to state, but all states require addiction counselors to complete a certain amount of education and training, pass an exam, and complete a set number of hours of clinical work. To become licensed as an addiction counselor in your state, you will first need to complete a master’s degree program in addiction counseling from an accredited college or university. Once you have completed your education, you will need to pass an exam administered by your state's licensing board. After passing the exam, you will be required to complete a set number of hours of clinical work under the supervision of a licensed addiction counselor.

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


A bachelor's degree in addiction counseling can lead to many different career opportunities, though you will not be able to work as an addiction counselor in Virginia without more education. Even so, a bachelor's degree in addiction counseling can help you get your foot in the door at a mental health clinic or hospital, working with the professionals who will be your colleagues in a couple of years after you complete your master’s degree. If you choose not to continue your education right away, you could work as a psychiatric technician or move completely out of psychology and move into business, human resources, or marketing. Those in these fields are well served by a knowledge of human behavior, which you will earn in your bachelor’s psychology courses. Then you can move back into psychology and counseling at a later time or continue in your new field.

Potential Career Options and Salaries for Addiction Counseling Graduates


  • School Counselor:

    A school counselor is responsible for providing guidance and support to students in order to help them overcome academic, social, and emotional challenges. The counselor also works with parents and teachers to develop effective support plans for students.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • Master's degree in counseling or related field
    • State certification as a school counselor
    • Experience working with children and families

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors in the US in 2021 was $60,510
    • The mean annual wage for educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors in Virginia is $69,990
  • Health Psychologist:

    A health psychologist job description includes conducting research, counseling patients, and teaching about psychological factors affecting physical health. They work with patients to help them cope with chronic illnesses, pain management, stress, and other psychological issues that can impact overall health and wellness.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • A doctorate in psychology
    • State licensure as a psychologist

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for psychologists in the US in 2021 was $81,040
    • The mean annual wage for psychologists, all other in Virginia is $104,670
  • Organizational Counselor:

    An organizational counselor will provide support and guidance to employees within the organization. They will help individuals identify and overcome obstacles that are preventing them from achieving success. This counselor will also work with teams to resolve conflict and improve communication among employees.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • Bachelor's degree in psychology, counseling, or a related field
    • 2-3 years of experience working in an organizational setting
    • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills

    Estimated Salary

    • The mean annual wage for industrial-organizational psychologists in the US in 2021 was $113,320
    • The mean annual wage for industrial-organizational psychologists in Virginia is $108,700
  • Military Counselor:

    A military counselor will provide confidential counseling and support services to service members and their families. They will work with individuals to address a variety of issues including anxiety, depression, relationship problems, and substance abuse. A military counselor can also provide crisis intervention services as needed.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • Master's degree in counseling or a related field
    • Experience working with military populations
    • Ability to obtain a security clearance

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for rehabilitation counselors in the US in 2021 was $38,560 and substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors earned $48,520
    • The mean annual wage for rehabilitation counselors in Virginia is $44,920 and substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors earn $53,210
  • Mental Health Counselor:

    A mental health counselor will provide counseling and guidance to individuals suffering from mental health issues. They will help patients manage their symptoms, develop coping mechanisms, and improve their overall well-being.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • Master’s degree in counseling, psychology, or social work
    • Licensed as a mental health counselor
    • 2+ years of experience working as a mental health counselor

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors in the US in 2021 was $48,520
    • The mean annual wage for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors in Virginia is $53,210
  • Grief Counselor:

    A grief counselor will provide support and guidance to individuals who are experiencing grief and loss. They will help clients to understand and cope with their emotions, and to develop healthy coping mechanisms. This counselor will also provide support to clients' families and loved ones.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • Master's degree in counseling, social work, or a related field
    • Licensed counselor in the state of practice
    • 3 years of experience working with grieving individuals

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors in the US in 2021 was $48,520 and counselors (all other) earn $45,160
    • The mean annual wage for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors in Virginia is $53,210 and counselors (all other) earn $43,320
  • Career Counselor:

    A career counselor is responsible for providing guidance and counseling to individuals seeking employment. They will work with clients to assess their skills, interests, and values in order to identify potential career paths. This counselor will also provide support and resources throughout the job search process including resume writing, interviewing, and networking.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • Master’s degree in counseling, psychology, or related field
    • 2+ years of experience in career counseling or coaching
    • Knowledge of career development theories

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for school and career counselors and advisors in the US in 2021 was $60,510
    • The mean annual wage for educational, guidance, and career counselors and advisors in Virginia is $69,990
  • Clinical Social Worker:

    A clinical social worker is responsible for providing direct social work services to patients and families in a hospital setting. They will collaborate with the interdisciplinary team to provide comprehensive care. A clinical social worker will also provide support and education to patients and families.

    Necessary Requirements:

    • Master’s degree in social work
    • Clinical licensure
    • Experience in a hospital setting

    Estimated Salary

    • The median annual wage for social workers in the US in 2021 was $50,390; healthcare social workers earned $60,840; and mental health and substance abuse social workers earned $49,130
    • The mean annual wage for social workers, all other in Virginia is $72,070; healthcare social workers earn $57,420; and mental health and substance abuse social workers earn $54,160

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