Posted in Career Insights
how to become an addiction specialist

It is unfortunate that addiction is an ongoing crisis, one that we constantly hear about in our news feeds or on TV.

As individuals suffering from addiction continue to have access to drugs and alcohol, it seems there is an indefinite need for individuals trained as addiction specialists to help those suffering with drug abuse.

If you have an interest in this career field or want to learn more about how to help a family member or friend, the good news is that there are educational opportunities for you to learn more about how to become a drug and alcohol treatment specialist.

Becoming An Addiction Specialist

Many addiction specialists simply need to undergo some sort of coursework to meet minimal requirements. In some parts of North America, licensure may also be required.

Some colleges offer two or four-year courses of study in addiction services, though these can be expensive and take quite some time to attain.

Distance learning schools such as Stratford Career Institute offer a comprehensive look at the fundamentals of this career field. While this type of course cannot provide licensing, it can provide the basis for entry level work in this field.

Key Skills and Characteristics of an Addiction Specialist

There are definitely certain skills and characteristics that employers look for. Since you will likely be dealing with at-risk populations in difficult situations, you will need to have great conflict management ability. 

In addition, becoming an addictions counselor requires you to:

  • Be a good listener,
  • Have confidence,
  • Inspire others,
  • Respect privacy,
  • Exercise empathy, and
  • Communicate clearly.

The individuals that you help on a daily basis are facing incredible challenges. This means that you need to develop a relationship with them, sometimes going above and beyond to help them with their addiction issues. However, you also need to know how to set boundaries so that you don’t enable their disordered behaviors.


No matter what, some amount of coursework in addiction is necessary for someone who hopes to find a career as an Addiction Specialist.

In general, this coursework can include some basic understanding of society, social issues and how they impact the individual (and the perception of addictions in a society), and understanding basic psychology involved in the process of becoming addicted.

Of course, the education required to become an Addiction Specialist can also require understanding the narcotics, stimulants, hallucinogens, inhalants, alcohol, and other things that people are addicted to. This also means understanding the actual impact of these substances upon people who take them, both physical and mental.

Finally, a prospective Addiction Specialist may have to learn about how to lead people to make the choice to break the cycle of addiction that they are stuck in. This can require working with families, working in groups, and working in teams to change behaviors and avoid self-identified triggers for the undesirable behavior.

Required Education

When learning how to become an Addiction Specialist, there are a few different educational requirements you’ll need to meet. 

Depending on the nature of your job, you will likely need some combination of:

  • An accredited college degree,
  • Supervised clinical experience, and
  • Certifications.

Some settings may require only an associate’s degree, while others may look for something higher. Ultimately, it depends on your state and the specific duties of your job.

Keep in mind that individual states may have their own credentialing requirements. For example, Colorado requires mental health professionals to receive an additional license from the state.

The good news is that, even in a state like Colorado, there are options for those who don’t have college experience. In fact, individuals with high school diplomas or GED can receive a license as a Certified Addiction Technician in Colorado as long as they pass the NCAC exam and have 1,000 hours of supervised work experience. To check the requirements in your state, click here.

Finding An Addiction Specialist Job

Once you’ve completed an appropriate course of study to become a drug and alcohol specialist (such as the one offered by Stratford Career Institute), you may still need to get some sort of license to be able to offer those services. That may include additional education or other certifications as required by law.

In general, an Addiction Specialist may work for a private or public agency, a non-profit group, medical centers, counseling centers and more.

How Long Does it Take to Become an Addiction Specialist?

The amount of time it takes to learn how to become an Addiction Specialist depends heavily on state licensing requirements and your desired job. For example, if you want to become a fully licensed addiction counselor, you will likely need a master’s or doctorate degree. This means you’d have to complete a minimum of five years of college if you don’t have a bachelor’s degree already.

However, if you want to assist counselors with their patients, the educational requirements are lower. In the case of Addiction Specialists, it is likely that you will need an associate or bachelor’s degree depending on your state. You will also need some supervised work experience. 

That being said, there are plenty of ways to enter the profession without having to go to school first. Since many states allow addiction technicians to work without a degree, it usually just takes a few months to get a certification and find a center where you can do supervised work.

Considering a Career as an Addiction Specialist?

With the right education, and a bit of effort, you could make a difference in someone’s life, and help them get off a self-destructive path.

Start learning more about this career with Stratford Career Institute’s Drug and Alcohol Treatment Specialist course home study course today.


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Become an Addiction Specialist

Become an Addiction Specialist

Are you interested in becoming an addiction specialist? Learn more about addiction specialists and what they do in our distance learning course.