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What Type of Education Will I Need to Become an Addiction Therapist in Illinois?

If you are an Illinois resident dreaming of a career as an addiction therapist, also commonly referred to as a substance abuse counselor, then it's time to stop dreaming and to start doing. A career in this field is a real possibility for anyone who is willing to put in the hard work and effort it requires to obtain the proper education in this area. Education is a definite necessity to working as an addiction therapist in Illinois, and it is also the first step to having a career in the field.

The minimum degree required to work as an addiction therapist is an associate's degree. It is important to note, however, that the positions that can be obtained with only an associate's degree are very few and far between and are usually not as prestigious as what most people dream of when they start considering a job in the field. Associate's degrees, which can be completed in as little as two years, can qualify you for entry-level positions in addiction therapy. However, in order to move up, most working professionals eventually transfer the credits they earn to pursue at least a bachelor's degree.

A bachelor's degree from an accredited four year college or university is the most common way in which people enter the addiction therapy field. Working professionals have a variety of backgrounds. The most common include psychology, physiology, and sociology, often with a focus in substance abuse and/or addiction. However, if you already possess a bachelor's degree but it is in an unrelated field, don't think that this means you will have to pursue an entirely different bachelor's degree. Many master's degree programs in Illinois accept students from a wide variety of educational backgrounds, even those who have degrees in completely unrelated fields. Often times, this is even regarded as a real plus, because it makes the students in the program diverse and better able to learn and grow from their interactions with one another.

The highest up positions in addiction therapy will require doctoral degrees, which can only be obtained after a master's degree has already been obtained. These programs can take several years to complete and are really only necessary if you plan on becoming a licensed psychiatrist, opening up your own substance abuse counseling practice, or doing something equally demanding. If you're not sure what level of education you need, you can talk to a career or college counselor for advice.

After completing a formal education, most students will go on to complete internships. Internships are experiential learning opportunities that allow recent graduates to gain real world experience in the field. These internships can be paid or unpaid and often lead to job offers if they are done well. Either way, they are an important way of making professional connections in the field. After completing an internship, you may need to seek certification and/or licensure depending upon the exact job you hope to do.