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The Association for Addiction Professionals

NCAC I

National Certified Addiction Counselor, Level I (NCAC I)

A voluntary national certification intended for professionals working within substance use disorder/addiction-related disciplines who wish to demonstrate their skills gained through years of supervised work experience.

Why should you obtain the NCAC I Certification?

  • Position yourself for career advancement and increased salary potential. 
  • Distinguish yourself as a practitioner who has specialized in addiction assessment and treatment. 
  • Demonstrate to clients, employers, and 3rd pay payors you commitment to quality care by verifying through certification the skills and competencies you have developed through years of work experience. 
  • The NCAC I credential reflects a commitment of the highest ethical standards for Substance Use Disorder/Addiction professionals. 
  • The U.S. Department of Labor expects the demand for Substance Use Disorder/Addiction counselors to grow by 22% by 2024. 

Eligibility Requirements

  • GED, High School diploma, or higher.
  • Current credential or license as a Substance Use Disorder/Addiction counselor issued by a state or credentialing authority.
  • At least three years full-time or 6,000 hours of supervised experience as a Substance Use Disorder/Addiction counselor.
  • At least 270 contact hours of education and training in Substance Use Disorders/Addiction or related counseling subjects. Must include six hours of ethics training and six hours of HIV/AIDS-specific training within the last six years. At least 50% of training hours must be face-to-face.
  • Passing score on the NCAC I examination within four years of the application.

Application Requirements

  • Copy of GED, High School or higher diploma or transcript.
  • Evidence of current credential or license as a Substance Use Disorder/Addiction counselor issued by a state or credentialing authority.
  • Evidence of three years full-time or 6,000 hours of supervised experience as a Substance Use Disorders/Addiction counselor.
  • Written verification of competency in all skills groups by a supervisor or other health care professionals who have personally observed the candidate’s Substance Use Disorder/Addiction work.
  • Evidence of 270 contact hours of education and training in Substance Use Disorders/Addiction or related counseling subjects. Must include six hours of ethics training and six hours of HIV/AIDS-specific training within the last six years. At least 50% of training hours must be face-to-face.
  • Submission of a signed and dated statement that the candidate has read and adheres to the NAADAC/NCC AP Code of Ethics.
  • Payment of non-refundable application/certification review fee.

Certification Costs

NCAC I WRITTEN EXAMINATION

Any candidate taking the NCAC I examination specifically for a NCAC I national credential must be approved by the NCC AP prior to registering for the test. First, a candidate must submit a NCAC I application. Once approved, NCC AP will send you a code and link to take the NCAC I examination at a time and location of your choosing.

Any candidate taking the NCAC I examination as part of a state credentialing or licensing process must contact their state certification/licensing board to obtain the necessary code and online link to take the exam.

Test applications and fees are separate from NCC AP credential/endorsement applications and fees.

Examination Details

The written national credentialing examination is tailored to test the applicant on his or her projected knowledge based on experience, education and training.  The following skill groups are evaluated in the examination, and an applicant for national certification should be well versed in each of these topic areas:

  1. treatment admission (screening, intake and orientation)
  2. clinical assessment
  3. ongoing treatment planning
  4. counseling services (individual, group, family, crisis intervention and client education)
  5. documentation
  6. case management
  7. discharge and continuing care
  8. legal, ethical and professional growth issues

The National Certified Addiction Counselor, Level I (NCAC I) written examination consists of 200 multiple-choice, objective questions with a total testing time of three hours.  The examination tests candidates’ knowledge in the areas of counseling practice (40%), pharmacology of psychoactive substances (30%), the theoretical base of counseling (15%) and professional issues related to Substance Use Disorder treatment (15%).

If you have previously taken a certification exam at the state level, you may be able to use these scores towards national level certification. See States Using NCC AP Exams for more information.

Testing Schedule

All NCC AP examinations are now available throughout the month at a date and location convenient for you! You now have more flexibility and opportunity to get your national credential than ever before. Locate a Testing Center in Your Area


Suggested Test Preparation Materials

Re-Credentialing Requirements

  • Evidence of a current state-issued credential/license.
  • 40 hours of continuing education every two years.
  • Submission of a signed statement that the candidate has read and subscribes to the NAADAC/NCC AP Code of Ethics.
  • Provide work history for the two years prior to renewal.
  • Payment of non-refundable application/certification fee of $225.00 ($125.00 for NAADAC members). See full list of costs and fees