Pennsylvania Substance Abuse Counselor

Addiction Counseling Requirements, Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania 1 out of every 4 families experience substance abuse, which leads to a very large need for addiction counselors in the state. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania faces one of the worst opioid epidemics in all of the country. As recently as 2016, Pennsylvania had an opioid overdose death rate that surpassed the entire nation’s opioid overdose death rate by 40%. If you are wondering how you can help your Pennsylvania community fight addiction, read on about how to become a substance abuse counselor in your state.

The Pennsylvania Certification Board (PCB) offers 4 different levels of certification: Associate Addiction Counselor (AAC), Certified Associate Addiction Counselor (CAAC), Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC), and Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CAADC).

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Degree Requirements

The AAC and CAAC do not require a college level degree. They do, however, require a high school diploma or GED. The CADC requires a bachelor’s degree. The highest level of certification is the CAADC, and in order to qualify for this certification, the applicant must have a master’s degree.

Experience Requirements

All applicants must have the appropriate work experience in the addiction work field. Each level requires a different amount of work experience hours, but it is important to note that there are some positions that will not count for this work experience. Some of the positions that do not count towards the accepted work experience requirements are: case managers, technicians, peer and recovery counselors/specialists, intake, and admissions. All work experience must have been completed within the last 7 years prior to application. This work experience must be actually providing addiction counseling in a clinically supervised setting.

  • The AAC requires that the applicant work 2,000 hours (about 1 year of full time work) with 100 hours under direct clinical supervision
  • The CAAC requires that the applicant work 6,000 hours and have a total of 300 hours of direct supervision.
  • The CADC work experience requirement is dependent upon the applicant’s bachelor’s degree. If the degree is in a non-relevant field, the applicant must have 6,000 hours of work experience. If the degree IS in a relevant field, the applicant only needs 4,000 hours of work experience. 200 of these hours should be worked under direct clinical supervision.
  • The CAADC requires only 2,000 hours of work experience with at least 100 of these hours worked under direct clinical supervision
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    When applying, applicants can submit their applications and supporting documents by email or by mail. If the applicant should want to email the application in, they should send it to [email protected]. If the applicant wishes to mail it in, the application should be mailed directly to the Board at PCB, 298 S. Progress Avenue, Harrisburg, PA 17109. In order to verify the Board received the application, regardless of way of submission, the applicant should make an inquiry via email. There will be a processing time of 5-10 business days for a staff member to review the application. There is an application fee that varies depending on the certification level.

    • The AAC application fee is $125
    • The CAAC and CADC application fee is $375
    • The CAADC’s application fee is dependent on if the applicant already holds a CADC. If the applicant already is holding a CADC, the fee will be $275. If the applicant is not already holding a CADC, the fee will be $375.

    *If the applicant has been convicted of a felony, please include a letter of explanation with the application.

    The applications are available online here:

    Exam Requirements

    The applicants will all be contacted by the Board to schedule the exam upon application approval.

  • The AAC does not have a required exam since it is an entry level certification for those who want to work towards a higher level of certification
  • The CAAC and CADC requires that the applicant take and pass the Alcohol Drug Counselor (ADC) Exam administered by the IC&RC
  • The CAADC requires that the applicant take and pass the Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (AADC) Exam also administered by the IC&RC
  • *If for some reason the applicant must cancel or reschedule the exam there is a $175 cancellation fee and rescheduling fee.

    • Find exam study materials here: IC&RC Exam Prep
    • After taking and passing the required exam, expect the certificate to arrive in the mail in 5-10 business days.


    All certifications must be renewed after 2 years. The counselors must all take 40 hours of continuing education in the substance abuse field with 3 hours in Ethics. The AAC recertification fee is $100 while the rest of the certifications have a fee of $200. The renewal application can be printed and mailed in or filled out online and emailed in. Find the application here: Renewal Application.

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    Candidate Guides

    The IC&RC offers Candidate Guides online for all applicants who wish to achieve certification

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