California Substance Abuse Counseling Certification

Guide to Addiction Counseling, California

In the state of California, there are six different Certified Addiction Treatment Counselor certifications. These certifications are given by the Addiction Counselor Certification Board of California (ACCBC) who is also part of California Association for Alcohol/Drug Educators (CAADE). There are six different levels of certifications: CATC I, II, III, IV, V, N. Below you can find requirements for each level to further grow or advance your career as a substance abuse counselor in California.

Education Requirements


Each level of CATC designates your level of education. To become a CATC I, you must take the following steps:

  • (a) Obtain a certificate of completion from an approved Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD)/Addiction Studies or Alcohol and Drug Studies (ADS) Community College Program. No other degrees or education required. Or (b) At least 21 semester hours in addiction specific coursework. These courses include: Drugs and Society OR Physiological Effects of Drugs and Alcohol, Family & Addiction, Intervention, Treatment and Recovery (Treatment of Substance Abuse), Co-Occurring Disorders, Group Counseling (experiential), and Ethics. If the applicant takes the route of option (b), they must also have 255 hours of experience in an internship-like position.


Being a tier higher than level I, the second level is only slightly different than level I. If already CATC I, the applicant has the option to actually “upgrade” to the next level upon completing the required education. For those who want to upgrade, please refer to the lower section regarding upgrades. To apply for CATC II or for an upgrade, the applicant must:

  • Have an associates degree specializing in addiction studies or a behavioral health related field


To become a CATC III the applicant must:

  • Have at least a bachelor’s degree specializing in addiction studies or a behavioral health related field


To apply for CATC IV the applicant must:

  • Have a master’s degree specializing in addiction studies or a behavioral health related field


To apply for CATC IV the applicant must:

  • Have a doctoral degree specializing in addiction studies or a behavioral health related field


In this level the applicant must be educated as a nurse. To apply for CATC N the applicant must:

  • Have a nursing degree
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Steps For Initial Certification

The next steps beyond education are the same for all levels of CATC certification. One may apply for any level initially so long as they have met the required education and experience requirements.

    1. Complete the required education requirements as referenced above.
    2. Complete 2,240 hours of documented supervised field experience (internship hours do count towards this)
    3. Have three letters of recommendation, cannot be from family members
    4. Apply online for the CATC Exam
    5. Within 30 days, the applicant should receive notification by way of mail that will inform them if their application was approved. Upon approval, this will also contain the information for scheduling the exam.
    6. Pay $135 exam fee
    7. Take exam and make at least a 70%
    8. Receive certification upon passing exam

Upgrading Current Certification

To upgrade to the next level, the applicant must fill out the Upgrade Forms which can be found in the link below. Along with the application, the applicant must turn in transcripts and proof of the required education. There is a one time $50 upgrade fee for all levels of certification. Renewal is not included in the upgrade fees, they are separate.


All forms for initial application and upgrades can be found here: ACCBC Forms


All certifications must be renewed every two years. Upgrades do not affect the expiration of certifications. Each level has a different renewal fee.

  • CATC I- $165 Renewal Fee
  • CATC II- $170 Renewal Fee
  • CATC III- $180 Renewal Fee
  • CATC IV- $190 Renewal Fee
  • CATC V- $200 Renewal Fee
  • CATC N- $200 Renewal Fee


The ACCBC does not have any reciprocity recognition with any other organization or state. All registrants must take and pass the CATC Exam to become certified in California. For those transferring from out of state, the applicant will need to consider the education equivalency with the ACCBC. Without meeting the equivalent education requirements, one cannot apply for the exam. See here for more information on transferring from out of state:

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CATC Exam Study Material

The following links provide tutorials, practice exams, and study material suggestions.

CATC Candidate Handbook

The official handbook by the ACCBC can be downloaded for free here at the bottom of the Forms Page: Download CATC Candidate Handbook Here!