Individuals with substance addictions may lose their ability to hold a job or care for their children. As a result, many will fall into financial trouble and develop physical diseases like cirrhosis, lung disease, or heart disease. Substance abuse may also negatively impact those who have mental disorder like depression.
A student in this field may choose to study the psychology of substance abuse, or expand their education to include other addictions like gambling, and sexual and social media addictions. Trained substance abuse psychologists can assist sufferers through various treatment methods including counseling and employment assistance. Psychology students who earn a master’s degree with a concentration in substance abuse will gain knowledge regarding how to provide suffering individuals to proper care. Additionally, they will acquire assessment, diagnostic, and treatment skills essential for assisting clients.
Why a Master’s Degree in Substance Abuse Psychology?
In 2010, 72% of mental health counselors who responded to a survey conducted by One*Net OnLine held a master’s degree in psychology or a related field. In some cases, an advanced degree does little to improve a student’s likelihood in securing her desired job. For instance, those who earn a bachelor’s degree in substance abuse psychology are qualified for work in addictions centers as long as their responsibilities do not include diagnostic assessment.
A psychology master’s degree with a substance abuse concentration is usually a prerequisite for admissions into a doctorate program in substance abuse psychology. However, many students who enroll in master’s degree psychology substance abuse programs come from related fields.
Getting Into a Substance Abuse Psychology Master’s Program
Most substance abuse psychology graduate programs are looking for students who exhibit a strong desire to care for those who suffer from substance abuse and other addictions. Through their applications, students must communicate their interest in the field, as well as competency for conducting research and expanding their knowledge.
- Completed application and fee (if applicable)
- Resume or curriculum vitae
- Statement of purpose
- Official university transcripts
- Letters of recommendation
- Undergraduate GPA of 3.0
Inside a Substance Abuse Psychology Master’s Degree Program
Applicants to master’s programs of any subject should be aware that the challenges of graduate-level studies are great and unlike those they encountered in their undergraduate education. They will receive guidance from the faculty, but are expected to take responsibility for their education by seeking knowledge beyond that which is offered in classes, as well as funding and presentation opportunities.
Rather than acquire general knowledge of the subject, graduate students will find that they must narrow their general interest in order to gain expertise as a specialist. They may choose to focus on addictions and social psychology, sexual addictions, hoarding, or the abuse of specific substances like alcohol, amphetamines, or barbiturates.
Furthermore, students will be exposed to literature on the historical and cultural development of substance abuse and addictions, current policy on legalization, and theories on how addictions arise in various cultures and populations. Courses one might see on their substance abuse psychology curriculum address an array of topics.
- Co-occurring Disorders
- Evaluation and Treatment of Addictions
- Pharmacology of Addiction
- Legal Developments in Addictions Disorders
- Intervention Strategies in Drug & Alcohol Problems
A master’s degree program takes about two years to complete. Most programs require students to complete a master’s thesis or corresponding research project, and an internship toward fulfilling the 2,000 to 4,000 hours of supervised clinical experience required for mental health counseling licensure. In addition, job-seekers need to pass The National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE) or National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination (NCMHCE), depending on the state. Some master’s programs are geared specifically toward preparing students for these assessments.
What’s Next for Master’s in Substance Abuse Psychology Holders?
O*Net OnLine indicates that in 2011, median wages for mental health counselors was $39,190 in 2011. The national projected job openings between 2010-2020 is 69,400. The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports that the projected employment growth rate between 2010-2020 for all occupations is 14%. The projected growth rate for the same 10-year timeframe for mental health counselors is 37%.
Master’s in substance abuse degree holders may continue their education to achieve a doctorate in substance abuse, clinical psychology, or educational psychology, or a master’s degree in social work.