How to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor in Florida

Aspiring substance abuse counselors in Florida can pursue a unique path toward certification. While the state only licenses substance abuse treatment facilities, the Florida Certification Board (FCB) grants individual credentials to certified addiction counselors (CACs), certified addiction professionals (CAPs), and master's-level certified addiction professionals (MCAPs), among other specializations of behavioral and physical health and social services.

The designations require a high school diploma or equivalent, a bachelor's degree, and a master's degree, respectively, along with supervised work experience. A CAC candidate may earn a bachelor's degree in any field, while CAPs must hold a master's degree in a specialization of counseling, psychology, social work, or a related field. Additionally, students must pass the qualifying alcohol and drug counselor (ADC) exam through the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC).

With jobs in substance abuse counseling projected to grow by 23% through 2026, the time is right to learn more about how to become a substance abuse counselor in Florida.

Counseling License and Career Requirements in Florida

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Education and Experience Requirements

Academic Requirements

The academic requirements for substance abuse counselors in Florida vary depending on the level of certification. A student pursuing CAC certification needs to complete a high school diploma or equivalent to meet education requirements. The FCB requires each CAP candidate to hold a bachelor's degree in any field to qualify for professional-level certification. Master's degree holders can pursue next-level MCAP certification, provided their major falls within the FCB's certification guidelines.

The FCB website features a list of approved providers of substance abuse counseling programs, which includes both classroom and distance delivery options. An institution must meet and maintain high standards to become an FCB Approved Education and Training Provider program. 

Interested in pursuing an education in substance abuse counseling? See the following pages to learn about counseling academic programs by level:

Substance Abuse Counseling Coursework

Each CAC candidate must receive a high school diploma or GED from an accredited school and complete a minimum of 270 hours of training in nine content areas specific to addiction counseling. A candidate for CAP or MCAP certification must hold a bachelor's degree or master's degree, respectively, that encompasses 350 hours in the same nine core tenants of substance abuse counseling as the CAC curriculum.

Each certification classification requires students to complete coursework in subjects like understanding addiction, counseling, professional readiness, and ethical and professional responsibilities. A candidate must also provide an FBC training verification form and supporting documentation to prove that core coursework has been completed.

Practicum and Supervised Practice

All certification seekers in Florida require field experience, though the FCB prorates work experience requirements for aspiring substance abuse counselors in Florida depending on a student's academic training. To qualify, CAC candidates need 6,000 hours for a high school diploma/GED holder, 5,000 hours for an associate degree/unrelated bachelor's degree holder, 4,000 hours for a bachelor's degree holder in a related field, and 2,000 hours for a master's degree holder in a related field or higher.

All certification seekers in Florida require field experience, though the FCB prorates work experience requirements for aspiring substance abuse counselors in Florida depending on a student's academic training

CAC applicants must also complete on-the-job supervision hours. Specifically, 300 hours for a high school diploma/GED holder, 250 hours for an associate degree/unrelated bachelor's degree holder, 200 hours for a bachelor's degree holder in a related field, and 100 hours for a master's degree holder in a related field.

CAP candidates must complete 6,000 hours, or three years of full-time work experience to qualify for certification. Additionally, they need 300 hours of on-the-job supervision, including at least 20 in seven key content areas. An MCAP applicant needs 4,000 hours of full-time work experience, about two years, as an addiction-specific professional, and an MCAP must log 200 on-the-job supervision hours, with at least 20 hours in eight specific content categories.

The Exam and Application Process for Florida Substance Abuse Counselors

A student seeking certification as a substance abuse counselor in Florida must apply through the FCB and pass an exam administered by IC&RC. While each specialization requires a different path to certification, the FCB delineates several simple steps for students seeking CAC, CAP, or MCAP credentials.

Each applicant must create an online profile through the FCB customer portal site, submit an application, pay the application fee, provide forms and supporting documentation, and finally register for and pay the exam fee. A student must provide three letters of recommendation for certification as part of the application process. The IC&RC alcohol and drug counselor (ADC) exam consists of 150 multiple choice questions and takes three hours to complete.

Out-of-State Substance Abuse Counselor Candidates

The FCB may award out-of-state substance abuse counselors with reciprocal certification. Qualifying out-of-state applicants initially receive basic CAC certification if transferring to Florida, this is the entry-level certification for addiction counselors in the state.

Candidates who hold a license or certification in another state and seek advanced status as a CAP or MCAP must meet all certification requirements for these credentials set by the FCB. The board considers all candidates for upgraded certification on a case-by-case basis.

Substance Abuse Counselor License Maintenance and Renewal Requirements

Each Florida substance abuse counselor certification involves the same renewal process. A practitioner with a CAC, CAP, or MCAP credential must complete a minimum of 20 hours of continuing education each year and renew their certification annually on June 30th. Continuing education hours must occur in at least one of the performance domains pertaining to individual CAC, CAP, or MCAP certification. Counselors may only count a particular course once during the renewal period, and coursework must be non-repetitive.

A practitioner with a CAC, CAP, or MCAP credential must complete a minimum of 20 hours of continuing education each year and renew their certification annually

Resources and Organizations for Substance Abuse Counselors in Florida

While the FCB provides candidates with the latest information on becoming substance abuse counselors in Florida, the state also offers additional resources for research and education in the field. Through sources like the job sites and research links listed below, students can find career information, search for jobs in their area, and browse internship and mentorship opportunities.

  • The Academy for Addiction Professionals Offering courses in Ft. Lauderdale and online, the Academy for Addiction Professionals caters to students seeking an FCB-approved program to apply for CAP licensure in Florida. Students can also pursue continuing education through the Academy.
  • Addictions Training Institute Located in Sunrise, Florida, ATI offers several key programs for aspiring addictions professionals, including a drug and alcohol counselor certification. Students can also research potential careers and field requirements on the ATI website. 
  • Florida Certification Board As the state's credentialing agency for mental health providers and programs, the FCB certifies over 20,000 health and human services professionals, including CACs, CAPs, and MCAPs. This site contains certification, renewal, and verification instructions for practicing addictions counselors in Florida. 
  • HumanServicesEDU.org With information on a variety of human services professions, this site provides aspiring professionals with education and certification requirements for substance abuse counselors and other mental health professionals in each state. Students can also search for schools and programs in their area.
  • IHireMentalHealth A unique site benefiting the mental health field workforce, IHireMentalHealth.com serves an online membership of over 169,000 job seekers and more than 7,500 employers. Here, professionals can explore resources, including the field's top trending skills and cities, resume writing, and interview skills.

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