The need for substance abuse counselors has increased rapidly in recent years, driven largely by requirements for substance abuse treatment in Affordable Care Act-compliant insurance policies. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects jobs in the substance abuse counseling field to grow 31 percent through 2022—much faster than the average rate for all occupations. However, the supply of certified professionals isn’t keeping pace, and traditional educational programs can last up to two years.

Flo Hilliard: 'Now that the required education for certification is online and attainable, working adults can advance their career even while juggling family and other commitments.'

Flo Hilliard: ‘Now that the required education for certification is online and attainable, working adults can advance their career even while juggling family and other commitments.’

The University of Wisconsin Flexible Option, in partnership with the Division of Continuing Studies at University of Wisconsin-Madison, has launched a program designed to move students through the certification process more quickly. It’s an online, competency-based, pre-certification education program called the UW Flexible Option Substance Use Disorders Counselor Certificate program.

This is the only state-approved substance abuse counselor pre-credential education program in Wisconsin offered completely online. Flexible and affordable, the program is designed to help human service professionals complete the required education for a Wisconsin Substance Abuse Counselor certification efficiently.

“This new program offers an exciting opportunity for busy human services professionals pursuing a fulfilling, successful career in substance abuse counseling,” says Flo Hilliard, the Substance Use Disorders program director at UW-Madison. “Now that the required education for certification is online and attainable, working adults can advance their career even while juggling family and other commitments.”

Draw on existing knowledge

The UW Flexible Option program fulfills the 360 educational hours required for Wisconsin state Substance Abuse Counselor and Clinical Substance Abuse Counselor certification by the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services. The curriculum is self-paced and was designed to be completed within one six-month subscription period.

After completing the Substance Use Disorders Counselor Certificate program coursework and receiving their University of Wisconsin certificate, students qualify to sit for the Wisconsin State Exam and the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium exams. This education, in combination with the exams and other certification requirements, dictates their eligibility for state substance abuse counselor certification.

Like all competency-based UW Flexible Option programs, the Substance Use Disorders Counselor Certificate program allows busy adult learners to start their studies any month and work at their own pace, online, when and where their schedules allow. Unlike in traditional substance use disorder programs, UW Flexible Option students don’t progress based on class time or credit hours. Instead, they display a mastery of subject matter by passing assessments that demonstrate required knowledge and skills. In addition, students may draw upon existing knowledge—acquired through prior coursework, training, and other learning experiences—to pass assessments more quickly.

Increase your marketability

The Substance Use Disorders Counselor Certificate program is ideal for professionals working in Wisconsin who already hold a bachelor’s degree in a health or behavioral health field; human services practitioners currently working in Wisconsin who wish to increase their skills and scope of practice; and those who are interested in advancing their careers and increasing their marketability.

Available for registration now, with coursework beginning on March 2, the Substance Use Disorders Counselor Certificate program joins seven other degree and certificate programs offered in the self-paced, competency-based UW Flexible Option format. The UW System is the first public university system to offer competency-based education options on a broad scale, opening up more opportunities for busy adults to earn a respected University of Wisconsin credential.

There is no application process for those interested in the Substance Use Disorders Counselor Certificate program; qualified individuals can register here. For more information about the program, see here, call 1-877-895-3276, or email flex@uwex.edu.