The Addiction Counselor Exam (ACE)

A significant amount of work experience and advance preparation is required before you are even eligible to take the Addiction Counselor Exam (ACE) that will enable you to become a nationally certified addiction counselor.

Regardless of the state you live in, you will have to meet the following requirements before being allowed to sit for the examination:

  1. You must possess a current state license or certification as a substance abuse counselor.
  2. You must have completed two hundred and seventy hours of education and training in alcohol and other drug abuse (AODA) counseling subjects. Within these two hundred and seventy hours, the following subset of requirements must be met:
    • Six hours of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) training. This must have been completed no earlier than five years prior to taking the ACE exam.
    • Six hours of ethics training. Like the HIV/AIDS training, the ethics training must have been completed no earlier than five years prior to taking the ACE exam.
    • Twenty-one hours on addiction counseling skills.
    • Fourteen hours on client record management.
    • Twenty-one hours on the principles of addiction treatment.
    • Fourteen hours on ethical issues that can potentially be encountered specifically in the setting of drug and alcohol addiction treatment.
    • Fourteen hours on diversity in treatment populations.
  3. You must have completed three years (roughly six thousand hours) of full time supervised AODA counseling.
  4. You must provide written verification of competency in AODA counseling from a supervisor or colleagues who have personally observed your work.
  5. You must submit a signed statement indicating that you have read the Association for Addiction Professionals (NAADAC) and agree to abide by it.
  6. You must pay any applicable fees related to the exam, which are non-refundable.

Surprisingly, there is no degree requirement for the ACE exam. However, some states may require a bachelor’s degree prior to being certified or licensed as a substance abuse counselor. It is your responsibility to know your state’s requirements for certification or licensing and to make sure your licenses or certifications are kept current at all times.

The ACE is offered three times a year. An application needs to be submitted at least sixty days prior to the exam date.

Depending on which state or states you hold a license or certification in, you may be able to submit the scores from your state examination to apply for your national certification without retesting. Some state certifying boards even use the national ACE written exam as their own, due to the high standard professionals must acquire to take the national exam. If you hold a state license or certification in any of these states, your passing score within the last four years is applicable to national ACE certification credentials, and you do not need to take the written examination again. Be sure to check the requirements of your state before beginning the ACE exam application process. You can also check the NAADAC’s Web site, www.naadac.org, for the most up to date list of states that participate in this program.

Substance Abuse Counselor Certification Requirements By State

  • Age
  • Education
  • Work Experience
  • Exam
  • Other

Alabama (associate licensed counselor)

  • Must be 19 years of age or older
  • Master’s degree in counseling
  • Must be under the supervision of a licensed professional counselor at all times

Alabama (licensed professional counselor)

  • Must be 19 years of age or older
  • Master’s degree in counseling
  • Three thousand hours of supervised work experience. One thousand hours may be subtracted for 15 semester hours of counseling study beyond a master’s degree. No more than two thousand hours of work experience may be substituted for education.
  • Must pass exam applicable to applicant’s counseling specialty

Alaska

  • Must be 18 years of age or older
  • Doctoral degree in counseling or master’s degree with at least sixty hours earned towards a doctorate
  • Three thousand hours of supervised work experience is required
  • Must pass exam applicable to applicant’s counseling specialty
  • Two letters of recommendation from professional counselors are required

Arizona (licensed substance abuse technician)

  • Associate in applied science degree with a minimum of 30 semester hours in counseling related coursework OR a bachelor’s degree in a behavioral health science with a minimum of 30 semester hours in counseling related coursework
  • Approved licensure exam is required

Arizona (licensed associate substance abuse counselor)

  • Bachelor’s degree with a minimum of 30 semester hours in counseling related coursework OR a master’s degree with a minimum of 24 semester hours in counseling related coursework
  • Thirty-two hundred hours of supervised work experience within twenty-four months is required.
    An approved licensure exam is required

Arizona (licensed independent substance abuse counselor)

  • Master’s degree with a minimum of 24 semester hours in counseling related coursework
  • Thirty-two hundred hours of supervised work experience within twenty-four months is required
    An approved licensure exam is required

Arkansas

  • Sixty hours of graduate coursework must be completed prior to licensure.
  • Three years of supervised professional experience is required
  • An approved licensure exam and an oral exam are required
  • A statement of professional intent and three letters of recommendation are required

California

  • Master’s or doctoral degree related to counseling
  • Three thousand hours of supervised work experience over a period of at least two years is required
  • Board approved written examinations are required

Colorado

  • Must be18 years of age or older
  • Master’s or doctoral degree related to counseling
  • Three thousand hours of supervised work experience are required
  • An approved licensure exam is required

Connecticut

  • Master’s degree in counseling
  • Two years of supervised work experience are required
  • Oral and written exams are required

Delaware

  • Master’s degree in counseling
  • Thirty-two hundred hours of professional work experience are required (a minimum of sixteen hundred hours must be supervised)

District of Columbia

  • Associate degree in health or human services (level I); bachelor’s degree in health or human services (level II)
  • Five hundred hours of supervised work experience (level I); one hundred and eighty hours of supervised work experience (level II)
  • A national written exam is required

Florida

  • Master’s degree in counseling
  • Two years of supervised work experience are required upon completion of a master’s degree
  • A national written exam is required

Georgia

  • Master’s degree in counseling
  • Three years of supervised work experience are required upon completion of a master’s degree
  • A national written exam is required

Hawaii

  • Master’s or doctoral degree related to counseling
  • Three thousand hours of supervised work experience are required to be obtained two to four years after receiving a degree

Idaho

  • Master’s degree in counseling
  • One thousand hours of supervised work experience are required

Illinois

  • Master’s or doctoral degree related to counseling
  • A written exam or certification is required

Indiana

  • Bachelor’s degree in addiction counseling or related area
  • Two years of supervised addiction counseling experience are required
  • A written licensure exam is required

Iowa

  • Doctoral degree in psychology
  • Fifteen hundred hours of supervised work experience is required
  • A national written exam is required

Kansas

  • Bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree in social services or a health related field
  • Twenty five hundred hours of supervised work experience is required
  • A national written exam is required

Kentucky

  • Must be 18 years of age or older
  • A bachelor’s degree is required
  • Six thousand hours working with alcohol or drug dependent persons is required. A minimum of three hundred of those hous must be supervised.
  • Written and oral exams are required.
  • Two letters of reference from certified alcohol and drug counselors are required.

Louisiana

  • Must be 21 years of age or older
  • A master’s degree in counseling is required.
  • Three thousand hours of supervised work experience is required upon completion of a master’s degree.

Maine

  • An associate degree in addiction counseling or a related field is required for certification. An associate degree or higher in addiction counseling or a related field is required for licensure.
  • One hour of supervision is required for every 20 hours of direct client contact.
    A written exam is required for certification and licensure. An oral exam is required for licensure.

Maryland

  • A master’s degree in a health and human services or counseling related field is required.
  • Three years of supervised clinical experience in alcohol and drug related counseling is required. Two years and two thousand hours must be completed after obtaining a master’s degree.
  • A written exam is required.

Massachusetts

  • A master’s degree in counseling is required.
  • Supervised work experience is required before and after completion of a master’s degree.
  • A passing score on the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor written exam is required.

Michigan

  • A master’s or doctoral degree in counseling is required.
  • Three thousand hours of supervised work experience is required upon completion of a master’s degree.
  • A written national counseling exam is required.

Minnesota

  • A bachelor’s degree with two hundred and seventy clock hours of alcohol and drug related counseling related course work is required.
  • An eight hundred and eighty hour drug and alcohol counseling practicum is required.
  • A written exam is required.
  • An oral exam OR two thousand hours of supervised work experience is required.

Missouri

  • A master’s degree in counseling is required.
  • Three thousand hours and twenty-four months of supervised work experience is required.
  • A passing score on the National Counselor Exam is required.

Montana

  • A master’s degree in counseling is required.
  • Three thousand hours of supervised work experience is required. At least fifteen hundred of those hours must be obtained after receiving a master’s degree.
  • A passing score on the National Counselor Exam or the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Exam is required.
  • A fingerprint background check is required.

Nebraska

  • A master’s or doctoral degree in mental health is required.
  • Three thousand hours of supervised work experience is required after receiving a master’s degree.
  • A passing score on the National Counselor Exam or the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Exam is required.

Nevada

  • Must be 21 years of age or older.
  • A master’s or doctoral degree in clinical mental health is required.
  • Two thousand hours of supervised work experience is required after receiving a master’s degree.
  • A passing score on the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Exam and a passing score on an oral exam are required.

New Hampshire

  • A master’s or doctoral degree in clinical mental health counseling is required.
  • Two years of supervised work experience is required upon completion of a master’s or doctoral degree.
  • A passing score on the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Exam is required.

New Jersey

  • Fifty-four clock hours of training each in the areas of assessment, counseling, case management, client education, and professional responsibility are required.
  • Three hundred hours of supervised practical training and three thousand hours of related work experience are required.
  • Passing scores on written and oral exams are required.

New Mexico

  • An associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree in counseling is required.
  • Supervised work experience is required upon completion of a degree.
  • A passing score on a written exam is required.

New York

  • Must be twenty-one years of age or older
  • A master’s or doctoral degree in counseling is required.
  • Three thousand hours of supervised work experience is required upon completion of a degree.
  • A passing score on the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Exam is required.

North Carolina

  • A master’s degree in counseling is required.
  • Three thousand hours of supervised work experience is required upon completion of the master’s degree program.
  • A passing score on the National Counselor Exam, the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Exam, or the Certified Rehabilitation
  • Counselor Exam is required.

North Dakota

  • A master’s degree in counseling or a closely related field is required.
  • One hundred hours of direct supervision and four hundred hours of client counseling contact are required.
  • A passing score on the National Counselor Exam is required.
  • Three letters of reference from master’s degree professors, advisors, and supervisors are required.

Ohio

  • A master’s degree in counseling is required.
  • An internship and a practicum are required.
  • A passing score on the National Counselor Exam is required. Satisfactory completion of an online Laws and Rules exam is also required.

Oklahoma

  • Must be twenty-one years of age or older.
  • A master’s degree in counseling is required.
  • Three years of supervised work experience is required.
  • A passing score on a written exam is required.

Oregon

  • A master’s degree in a mental health field is required.
  • Twenty-four hundred hours of supervised clinical experience needs to be completed over a minimum period of two years.
  • A passing score on a written exam is required.

Pennsylvania

  • A master’s or a doctoral degree in counseling is required.
  • Three years/thirty-six hundred hours of supervised clinical experience is required for applicants with a master’s degree. Two years/twenty-four hundred hours of supervised clinical experience is required for applicants with a doctoral degree.
  • A passing score on the National Counselor Exam, the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor Exam, the Advanced Alcohol and Other
  • Drug Abuse Counselor Exam, or the Examination for Masters Addiction Counselors is required.
  • Two recommendations from licensed professional counselors or other licensed health care professionals are needed.

Rhode Island

  • No specific degree requirements.
  • No specific work experience requirements.
  • No specific exam requirements.
  • Must be an advanced chemical dependency professional.
  • South Carolina
  • Must be 18 years of age or older
  • A master’s or doctoral degree in counseling or a related discipline is required.
  • Fifteen hundred hours of supervised clinical experience must be completed over a period of at least two years upon receipt of a master’s or doctoral degree.
  • A passing score on the National Counselor Exam or the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Exam is required.

South Dakota

  • Specialized education in alcohol and drug abuse is needed.
  • Three hundred hours of supervised practical training is required.
  • A passing score on a written exam is required.
  • A supervisor evaluation and three professional recommendations are required.

Tennessee

  • Two hundred and seventy hours of formal classroom training are required. They can be obtained by attending employer sponsored workshops, alcohol and drug abuse training classes, or any post secondary institution that provides instruction on alcohol and drug counseling related topics.
  • Six thousand hours of clinically supervised counseling experience are required.

Texas

  • Must be 18 years of age or older
  • An associate degree or higher in human behavior and development is required.
  • Four thousand hours of supervised work experience are required.
  • Written and oral chemical dependency counselor exams and a written case presentation are required.
  • Two letters of recommendation from licensed chemical dependency counselors are required.

Utah

  • Completion of a substance abuse education program is required.
  • Two thousand hours of supervised work experience is required if the applicant holds a bachelor’s degree in substance abuse or a behavioral science. Four thousand hours of supervised work experience is required if the applicant has a high school diploma, an associate degree, or a bachelor’s degree in any other field.
  • A passing score on the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors National Certification Exam is required.

Vermont

  • A master’s or doctoral degree in a human services field is required.
  • Completion of a supervised clinical practicum is required.
  • Applicant must have an approved Counselor credential from the Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs.

Virginia

  • A bachelor’s degree with four hundred clock hours of substance abuse education is required.
  • Two thousand hours of supervised experience in the delivery of clinical substance abuse services is required.
  • A passing score on a written exam is required.

Washington

  • An associate degree or higher in human services or a related field is required.
    For applicants with an associate degree, twenty five hundred hours of supervised work experience is required. For applicants with a bachelor’s degree, two thousand hours of supervised work experience is required. For applicants with a master’s degree or a doctoral degree, one thousand five hundred hours of supervised work experience is required. For applicants who are licensed advanced registered nurse practitioners, marriage and family therapists, mental health counselors, advanced social workers, independent clinical social workers, or psychologists, one thousand hours of supervised work experience is required.
  • A passing score on the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors Exam (level I or higher) or on the International Certification Reciprocity Consortium (level II or higher) is required.

West Virginia

  • A master’s degree or a doctoral degree in counseling is necessary.
  • Three thousand postgraduate hours of supervised work experience are required for applicants with a master’s degree. Fifteen hundred postgraduate hours of supervised work experience are required for applicants with a doctoral degree. No more than fifteen hundred hours will be credited in any one year.
  • A passing score on the National Counselor Exam is required.
  • Two professional references and three personal references are required.

Wisconsin

  • A high school diploma or GED is required. The applicant must complete three hundred and sixty hours of specialized education in substance use disorder counseling. These hours may or may not be part of a degree program.
  • Four thousand hours of supervised patient counseling experience is required. Experience in excess of 40 hours per week or two thousand hours per year will not be considered.
  • A passing score on the International Certification Reciprocity Consortium Exam and on an open book exam on the Wisconsin Statutes and Administrative Code are required.

Wyoming

  • Must be 18 years of age or older
  • A bachelor’s degree in a mental health discipline with a concentration in addictionology, chemical dependency, or substance abuse is required.
  • Supervisory work experience cannot begin until the applicant’s application for licensure has been approved.
  • A passing score on the Association for Addiction Professionals Level II exam or the International Certification and Reciprocity
  • Consortium Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Counselor Exam are required.
  • Three professional references are required.

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