An Overview of Routes for Becoming a Substance Abuse and/or Human Services/Helping Professional

NO DEGREE:

  • Level of practice: entry-level paraprofessional practice.
  • Limited opportunity for advancement without a degree.
  • Relevant work/ life experience usually required.
  • Entry-level certification as a substance abuse professional is possible after meeting the education/ supervision requirements of the professional practice board that regulates such practice in North Carolina; often specific course work taken at the college level (including community college) will count toward such certification’s education requirements.

ASSOCIATE'S DEGREE IN A HUMAN SERVICES/ HELPING DISCIPLINE:

  • E.g., Human Services Technology, Social Work Technology, etc.
  • Level of practice: entry-level paraprofessional practice.
  • Tends to offer greater opportunity for advancement in the field than having no degree.
  • Asheville-Buncombe Community Technical College (AB-Tech) offers such a degree in "Human Services Technology".
  • Some advantages of such an associate's degree:
  1.  
    1. Earning such an associate's degree is a less expensive way for a person to obtain entry-level status as a helping professional than is earning a bachelor's degree.
    2. Earning such an associate's degree takes less time to complete than does earning a bachelor's degree.
    3. Earning such an associate's degree provides a person with a less expensive way to test out his/ her ability to succeed in college than does earning a bachelor's degree.
    4. Earning such an associate's degree tends to increase a person's chance of securing entry-level employment over those who lack formalized academic training in a human services/ helping discipline.
    5. Earning such an associate's degree can provide a person with a means to support him/ herself while he/ she works as a helper and pursues a bachelor's degree.
    6. For a person whose college financial aid is limited to  a couple of years' worth of coverage, earning such an associate's degree offers an opportunity to earn a professional degree in a human services/ helping discipline without exceeding the limits of coverage.
    7. Several of the credits that a student can earn through such associate’s degree programs are applicable toward the education credentialing requirements needed for qualification as an entry-level substance abuse professional in North Carolina.
    8. In comparison to earning a bachelor’s degree in a human services/ helping profession, earning such an associate's degree often means that a student has received more classroom practice utilizing several skills that professional helpers rely on.
    9. Although such associate degrees are generally not designed specifically as transfer degrees into bachelor's degree programs in human services/ helping, transfer agreements for such associate-level course work often exist.
    10. Earning such an associate’s degree offers a level of professional recognition that earning a general associate of arts or science degree does not.

BACHELOR'S DEGREE IN A HUMAN SERVICES/ HELPING DISCIPLINE:

  • E.g., Human Services, Social Work, Psychology, Sociology, etc.
  • Level of practice: entry-level paraprofessional/ professional practice.
  • Tends to offer greater opportunity for advancement in the field than having an associate's degree.
  • It is not necessary to earn an associate’s degree before attempting to earn a bachelor's degree.
  • Transfer agreements often exist for the course work earned for an associate’s degree.
  • Entry-level certification as a substance abuse professional is possible after meeting the education/ supervision requirements of the professional practice board that regulates such practice in North Carolina; often specific course work taken at the college level (including community college) will count toward such certification’s education requirements.

MASTER'S DEGREE IN A HUMAN SERVICES/ HELPING DISCIPLINE:

  • E.g., Human Services, Social Work, Psychology, Counseling, etc.
  • Level of practice: professional practice.
  • Tends to offer greater opportunity for advancement in the field than having a bachelor's degree.
  • A bachelor's degree is needed before a person is eligible to enter a master's degree program.
  • Registration, certification, and/ or licensure is often required for practice.
  • This is the minimum degree necessary to qualify to practice advanced counseling/ psychotherapy.
  • Each human services/ helping discipline offers different practice privileges.
  • Common disciplines that allow for the practice of psychotherapy are Social work, Psychology, and Counseling.
  • Depending on the human services/ helping discipline selected, an individual with a master’s degree might be eligible for advanced licensure as a substance abuse professional in NC.
  • Often master’s degree programs desire applicants to have earned a bachelor’s degree in a specific type of human services discipline before the applicant will be eligible for admission into a program.

DOCTORATE DEGREE IN A HUMAN SERVICES/ HELPING DISCIPLINE:

  • E.g., Human Services, Social Work, Psychology, Counseling, etc.
  • Level of practice: professional practice.
  • Tends to offer greater opportunity for advancement in the field than having a master’s degree.
  • Is not necessary in order to qualify for professional practice performing advanced counseling/ psychotherapy—a master’s degree is.
  • Post-doctoral studies are often available.

 

*There are advantages and disadvantages for each degree path, for each specific helping degree discipline, and in electing to become a substance abuse professional.  Researching the degree, accreditation, and state registration/ certification/ licensure specifics of each option is critical, especially because choosing one path can affect the ability to pursue another path later on.   Please visit AB-Tech’s Human Services Technology program website for more information on becoming a Human Services Worker, a Social Worker, a Psychologist, a Psychotherapist/ Counselor, and a Substance Abuse Professional.  The website is located at http://www.abtech.edu/ah/ss/default.asp.

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