The stigma surrounding substance abuse disorders is slowly lifting as people begin to recognize that mental health plays a critical role in addiction and substance use. If you are passionate about eliminating the shame associated with addiction and helping people overcome this complex disease, you may want to consider an addiction studies degree. 

By specializing in addiction studies, you could develop an advanced understanding of the root causes of addiction while also learning about the most effective ways to help individuals impacted by it. 

You might be wondering, "How do I get my master's in addiction counseling?" In this guide, we’ll tell you what you need to know. 

The Master’s in Addiction Studies: An Overview 

More than 20 million people over the age of 12 have been diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder in the United States, according to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics. These numbers highlight the sheer toll addiction is taking on society. The need has never been clearer for dedicated, informed professionals capable of helping those suffering from addiction while supporting their loved ones. 

A master's degree in addiction studies could provide you with the advanced knowledge needed to take on this nuanced disease. The curriculum for this graduate degree is uniquely designed to prepare students for a career in addiction counseling. At University of the Cumberlands, our master’s in addiction studies is created in line with the International Committee of the Red Cross Standards, helping ensure our graduates are prepared to become Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselors. 

Importance of a Master's Degree in Addiction Studies 

A master's degree in addiction studies is a specialized graduate degree focused on the skills and knowledge needed in the field of addiction counseling. By earning your master's degree in addiction studies, you have a chance to develop: 

  • Advanced understanding of the root cause of addiction. 
  • Knowledge about the role of mental health in addiction. 
  • Treatment planning skills and techniques that can be personalized to meet the needs of your clients. 
  • Foundational understanding of the best therapy and counseling practices and when to rely on which methods. 

Essential Skills for an Addiction Counselor 

The most essential skills for an addiction counselor include:: 

  • Treatment planning 
  • Case management 
  • Detailed documentation 
  • Behavior analysis 
  • Crisis intervention 

In addition to the core competencies required in this field, you also should hone the following soft skills: 

  • Compassion 
  • Empathy 
  • Communication 
  • Understanding 
  • Collaboration 
  • Critical thinking 
  • Creativity 

Exploring the Coursework in Addiction Studies 

Given the specialized nature of this master's degree program, students should expect most coursework to focus on addiction, substance use and abuse, mental health disorders, and case management strategies. The addiction studies degree program has a foundation in psychology, helping students to understand the role that behavior and mental health play in addiction. Throughout the coursework, students should develop an advanced understanding of addiction and the most effective treatment options for patients. 

Core Courses in Addiction Studies 

The core courses of the addiction studies master's degree include: 

  • Legal & Ethical Issues in Counseling 
  • Psychological Assessment 
  • Theory and Practice of Multicultural Counseling 
  • Group Counseling 
  • Motivation, Change and Treatment in Addictions 
  • Clinical Management of Addictions 
  • Advanced Topics: Street Drugs 
  • Family Therapy in Addiction Treatment 
  • Co-occurring Disorders 
  • Psychopharmacology and Addictions 

Specialized Topics in Addiction Counseling 

Within your addiction counseling studies, you may have the opportunity to explore and specialize in niche topics in the industry with classes such as: 

  • Cultural Diversity and Addiction 
  • Gambling Addiction 
  • Childhood Addiction 
  • Addiction Prevention 
  • Community-Based Addiction Recovery 
  • Technology and Addiction Treatment 

The Flexibility of Online Learning for Addiction Studies 

Most students pursuing a master's degree in addiction studies are working professionals looking to advance their careers or pursue new opportunities in the field. As a result, the flexibility of online learning is highly appealing. 

When you enroll in an online degree program, you can take your courses at a pace that aligns with your existing schedule. Most online courses consist of both synchronous and asynchronous components, giving you a blended experience in which you can connect with your classmates and enjoy prompt feedback from your instructors while benefiting from the flexibility and versatility of online learning. 

Benefits of Online Study for Working Professionals 

There are many benefits to earning a degree online, especially for working professionals hoping to elevate their careers. These are some of the top benefits of online learning: 

  • Remote study allows you to complete your coursework from anywhere. You are no longer limited by your proximity to a campus. 
  • With online coursework, you can create a learning space that works for you, helping ensure fruitful study sessions. 
  • Due to the flexible nature of online courses, you can balance your existing personal and professional obligations with your studies. 
  • Online learning allows you to hone the technological skills needed in most industries and fields today. By learning how to effortlessly navigate the most advanced technology and utilize the most innovative resources, you could be uniquely prepared for many positions in the drug and addiction treatment counseling field. 

Managing Time and Commitments as an Online Student 

As an online student, you will have more control over your time, but it's important to remain dedicated and focused on your studies. Many online students find that it benefits them to schedule specific blocks of time to take care of their coursework and complete their assignments, as this gives them the structure they need to stay on track. While it can be helpful to carve out time to study and complete coursework, most online students appreciate that they can choose blocks of time that work best for their current schedule. 

Accreditation and Its Influence on Your Degree 

In the United States, accrediting agencies are private associations that verify the legitimacy of an educational program and confirm that it provides students with the information and skills needed to succeed in their chosen field. All accrediting agencies are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. 

By enrolling in an accredited degree program, you can feel confident that you are making a sound investment in your education. Most industries want students to earn a degree from an accredited program, as it helps to verify that the graduate is truly qualified for their position. 

The accrediting agency will vary based on the degree program you choose. For example, if you are interested in becoming a drug and alcohol addiction counselor, you should select a degree program that is accredited by the National Addiction Studies Accreditation Commission. 

The Role of NASAC Accreditation 

The National Addiction Studies Accreditation Commission, or NASAC, is the agency that verifies that addiction studies degree programs adhere to the strict standards and guidelines required in this industry. 

NASAC works to verify that each program: 

  • Upholds both NASAC and national standards for the addiction studies field. 
  • Engages in self-assessment regularly to improve offerings for students and bolster academic results. 
  • Engages in peer evaluation to receive feedback from other similar degree-granting institutions. 

The goal of accreditation is to help standardize the industry and ensure students are receiving a comparable education in the field, regardless of where they choose to earn their degree. 

Choosing an Accredited School for Your Studies 

As you begin to explore the different degree program options available to you, it's important to select an accredited school for your studies. By enrolling in an accredited degree program, you can feel confident knowing that your education is in line with identified industry standards. In addition, accreditation provides reassurance that you are enrolled at a university that adheres to strict ethical standards and that will provide you with a valuable education. Verifying that a program is accredited is one of the most important steps you can take before enrolling in a master's degree program in addiction studies. 

Career Prospects After a Master's in Addiction Studies 

The field of addiction is highly specialized, so by pursuing a graduate degree in addiction studies, you will have an opportunity to elevate your career and pursue high-level positions in the field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the career outlook for substance abuse treatment counselors is positive, with 18 percent growth projected through 2032. This anticipated growth is much faster than average when compared to all occupations (3 percent), with the BLS predicting more than 71,000 jobs will become available each year. 

Job Opportunities in the Field of Addiction Counseling 

Most students who pursue a master's in addiction studies intend to become licensed to practice as a substance abuse counselor. Within this field, there are many specialized job opportunities to pursue. According to Indeed some positions you may consider include: 

  • Care Coordinator 
  • Recovery Coach 
  • Case Manager 
  • Substance Abuse Counselor 
  • Research Assistant 
  • Recovery Professor 

The various opportunities in the field of substance abuse counseling allow you to pursue a position that best aligns with your interests, professional passions and individual skill set. While the nature of substance abuse counseling can make it a challenging career, many professionals find it incredibly rewarding to help their clients and their families retake control of their lives as they overcome addiction. 

Expected Salary for Addiction Counselors 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for substance abuse counselors and behavioral disorder counselors is $49,000, and most graduates can enter the field with a bachelor's degree. However, when you earn a master's degree, you may find that you can pursue higher-level, specialized positions, potentially increasing your earning potential over the course of your career. 

What Can You Do With a Master’s in Addiction Studies? Find Out at University of the Cumberlands 

A master's in addiction studies allows you to focus your career on an area you are passionate about and truly make a difference in the lives of others. As a specialist in your field with a unique and advanced understanding of addiction, you could be qualified to pursue a number of career opportunities in addiction counseling and substance abuse treatment services. 

Request more information about the master’s in addiction studies program at University of the Cumberlands today.