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Online master’s in substance abuse counseling programs train learners to provide client treatment and support. Many graduates work as substance abuse, behavioral disorder, or mental health counselors. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects jobs for these counselors to grow 23% from 2020-2030. This rate exceeds the average projected growth of 8% for all occupations.

Many schools offer online substance abuse counseling programs. An online format allows degree-seekers to enroll in top programs without relocating. Many online programs run asynchronously. Learners can listen to lectures and complete assignments around work and family responsibilities.

This page provides information on substance abuse counseling degrees. Read on to learn about costs, common classes, and potential jobs for graduates.

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Questions About Substance Abuse Counseling Degrees

true Q. Do you need a degree to be a substance abuse counselor?

Yes. These professionals need at least a bachelor’s degree. Private practice substance abuse counselors need a master’s degree.

true Q. How do I become a certified alcohol and drug counselor (CADC)?

Requirements vary by state. Most states require candidates to hold a master’s degree and to gain at least 6,000 hours of clinical counseling experience. They should also complete at least 300 education hours. Some of these hours may need to cover specific topics, such as substance abuse disorders.

true Q. How long does it take to get CADC certified?

Timing depends on how fast students move through coursework. Full-time learners can earn CADC certification in one year or less. Students first need a bachelor’s degree, which takes four years. Learners can earn a master’s degree in two years.

Why Get a Degree in Substance Abuse Counseling?

Earning a substance abuse counseling degree can prepare learners for rewarding careers in a variety of settings. Degree-holders may work in mental health centers, prisons, or juvenile detention facilities. Graduates with a master’s degree can earn licensure and start their own practice.

An online master’s in substance abuse counseling provides flexibility. Students can gain experience while earning their degree. All states require related work experience for certification.

How Much Does a Substance Abuse Counseling Degree Cost?

Tuition varies by school and learners’ residency status. Students attending in-state public schools usually pay the most affordable tuition. Master’s degrees cost an average of $66,340, according to EducationData.org. Learners pursuing a master’s at a public school spend an average of $54,500. Students attending private schools spend $81,100 on average.

Students earning an online master’s in substance abuse counseling can save money compared to their on-campus peers. Online learners do not need to pay for campus housing or meal plans. They can often continue earning an income while completing their degree.

Additional Online Student Fees

Just like on-campus students, online learners must buy supplies and books. They may also need to buy a new computer or upgrade their internet. Some schools charge technology fees to cover tech support and virtual classroom platforms.

Substance abuse counseling students may need to pay for extra software to practice entering client data. Degree-seekers should also budget for fees for background checks and certification exams.

How Much Do Substance Abuse Counselors Make?

Salary depends on many factors, including counselors’ education level and geographic location. Substance abuse counselors earn a median annual salary of $47,660, according to the BLS. Those who live in New York earn an average annual salary of $57,210. Substance abuse counselors in Florida earn $45,960. Counselors living in Nevada, Utah, and Alaska earn the highest salaries.

Earning a master’s degree can lead to higher pay. According to the BLS, professionals with a bachelor’s degree make median weekly earnings of $1,305. Master’s degree-holders make a median of $1,545 per week. This difference amounts to almost $12,500 more in earnings per year for those with a master’s degree.

Courses in a Substance Abuse Counseling Program

Most online master’s in substance abuse counseling programs require 60 credits. Learners can often choose a concentration or specialization. Options may include addiction recovery or alcohol misuse counseling. Most courses follow a lecture-based format. Students also gain supervised clinical experience.

See below for three common classes in online master’s in substance abuse counseling programs. Keep in mind that courses vary by program.

  • Pharmacology and Substance Abuse

    Learners examine prescription medications through a substance misuse lens. Students learn how to identify drugs that may trigger substance dependence. Coursework covers how addictive drugs impact the human nervous system. Enrollees study drug therapies like opioid replacement therapy.
  • Drugs and Behavior

    Most online substance abuse counseling programs include a class on drugs and behavior. Learners explore how societal factors and genetics play a role in addiction. Degree-seekers also study how chemical dependency impacts behaviors and psychological processes. Coursework helps students understand prevention models.
  • Ethics in the Counseling Profession

    This class helps students form ethical frameworks in the counseling field. Coursework covers informed consent, boundaries in patient-client relationships, and conflicts of interest. Learners examine case studies about hypothetical ethical dilemmas. They also study the code of ethics for organizations like the Association for Addiction Professionals.

How to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor

Aspiring substance abuse counselors need a bachelor’s degree. Earning a master’s degree can enhance job opportunities and earning potential. Degree-seekers can begin earning clinical hours while completing an accredited program.

All counselors need a master’s degree and a license to start a private practice. Aspiring addiction counselors should earn an online master’s in substance abuse counseling.

Licensure for Substance Abuse Counselors

Before taking a licensing exam, prospective counselors need a degree from an accredited program. The National Addiction Studies Accreditation Commission is one of the field’s top accrediting agencies.

Students also need supervised practicum hours and on-the-job experience. Licensure and certification requirements vary by state.

Counselors may pursue the alcohol and drug counselor certification. Candidates can take up to three hours to complete a 150-question exam. The test covers topics like ethical responsibilities and treatment planning. The ​​advanced alcohol and drug counselor certification can help counselors show more expertise. This certification includes a rigorous test.

Aspiring substance abuse counselors should check with their state’s licensing board for more information.

Top Online Master’s in Substance Abuse Counseling

#10 – Liberty University

Online Master’s in Substance Abuse Counseling

Website

Liberty University’s Master’s in Addiction Counseling degree online provides you with the education and training required for certification or licensure as an addiction counselor or substance abuse counselor. Our addiction counseling degree is designed to fulfill or exceed the requirements for many national and state board organizations. You will be provided with counseling tools and skills to work with individuals as they move towards recovery organically.

Earning an Addiction Counseling degree provides students with the ability and knowledge to become an addiction counselor or start a career in other substance abuse related fields. Students pursuing our graduate program in substance abuse counseling will have access to knowledgeable professors who have years of experience in the areas of substance abuse and addiction counseling. Graduates will have a mastery of knowledge of critical concepts in the substance abuse and addiction counseling fields, such as counseling techniques, treatment, and the recovery process.

This program requires 48 credits and takes up to 2 years to complete.

Tuition Fee: $540 per credit hour


#9 – West Virginia University

Online Master’s in Substance Abuse Counseling

Website

The clinical rehabilitation and mental health counselor education online program in the College of Education and Human Services offers a curriculum at the master’s degree level. All students complete coursework related to disability, mental health, addiction, and rehabilitation issues as well as coursework in counseling and resource management.  The clinical rehabilitation and mental health counseling program is available for both full- and part-time students in an e-campus delivery modality. It is offered through WVU Online and starts in the fall of each year.

The objectives of the program are linked to the intent to provide: educational experiences for every student that facilitates the development of knowledge, skills, and beliefs necessary to practice as a qualified rehabilitation and mental health counselor; learning opportunities to support students’ ability to implement culturally responsive and ethically sound counseling practices, and clinical training environments that are focused on real-world expectations. Graduates work in vocational rehabilitation agencies and companies, and mental health and substance abuse service agencies.

Tuition Fee: In-state –  $406 per credit hour  |  Out-of-state – $1160 per credit hour


#8 – University of South Dakota

Online Master’s in Substance Abuse Counseling

Website

The university designed the online Master of Arts in Addiction Studies degree program for professionals already working in the field of addiction counseling, looking to advance their careers. Toward this goal, the program comes in two varieties: a standard track, and an advanced track, for professionals already Certified or Licensed as an Addiction Counselor, or who have successfully completed an addiction studies bachelor’s degree.

The online Master in Addiction Studies program enables students to advance their careers in the field of addiction and substance abuse counseling through advancing their education and qualifications. Students develop a strong foundation in ethical practices and contemporary clinical theories and approaches, enhancing their ability to serve their clients through private, group, and family counseling sessions, in a variety of treatment settings.

This Master’s degree in Addiction Counseling online degree program requires 45 credit hours for the Standard track, 33 credit hours for the advanced track.

Tuition Fee: $450.90 per credit hour


#7 – Indiana Wesleyan University

Online Master’s in Substance Abuse Counseling

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Indiana Wesleyan University considers helping to ease the burden of addiction to be a moral duty, and to this end, operates a master’s degree program in clinical addictions counseling. Under the supervision of PhD holders in multiple counseling-related fields, students learn about evidence-based clinical practice in addiction counseling as well as behavioral and social science theory. The Indiana Wesleyan program holds approval or accreditation from both the National Association for Addiction Professionals and the National Addiction Studies Accreditation Commission.

Indiana Wesleyan’s master’s degree program takes a multi-faceted approach to addiction, including both chemical addictions, such as drugs and alcohol, and behavioral addictions like gambling and sex addiction. Students learn about the Christian worldview regarding addiction as well, and are encouraged to integrate their faith into their practice.

All faculty members in the program hold both doctorates and professional licenses in their area of expertise. They continue to be active in the counseling world as well as the Christian faith.

Tuition Fee: $533 per credit hour


#6 – Emporia State University

Online Master’s in Substance Abuse Counseling

Website

Emporia State University offers an online Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling online degree program which cultivates professional knowledge, ethical principles, and social responsibility.

Students graduate prepared for careers in the field in a variety of settings and enhance their ability to effectively assess and meet the individual needs of their clients, to manage their cases, and offer other rehabilitation services to help the clients make a positive change in their lives.

The online MS in Rehabilitation Counseling program requires 48 credit hours and includes the following core courses:

  • Psychosocial Development and Disability
  • Foundations of Rehabilitation Counseling
  • Counseling Theories
  • Employment Issues in Rehabilitation

Tuition Fee: $480.82 per credit hour


#5 – Aspen University

Online Master’s in Substance Abuse Counseling

Website

The Master of Arts in Psychology and Addiction Counseling online is a degree designed to prepare students to advance in the field of addiction counseling. This program is structured around courses that address primary theories of individual and family counseling as well as addiction-specific topics related to the treatment and prevention of substance abuse.

Aspen University’s online Master of Arts in Psychology and Addiction Counseling degree will increase the students’ understanding of addiction, including its psychological and neurological aspects and appropriate treatments, as well as theories of substance abuse prevention and approaches to counseling both individuals and families.

The program has 16 courses and 48 credits. The sample courses include Substance Abuse Prevention, Neurobiology of Addiction, Advanced Counselling Skills, Drug Enforcement, Clinical Supervision, etc.

Tuition Fee: $325 per credit hour


#4 – University of Massachusetts – Boston

Online Master’s in Substance Abuse Counseling

Website

The University of Massachusetts, Boston offers an online Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling degree program which emphasizes adaptation as a tool of progress and accomplishment and respect for the culturally diverse backgrounds of all people.

Students enhance their ability to serve clients and meet their individual needs by advancing educational access, and economic and social participation.

The program prepares students to work in a variety of settings, serving people of many different backgrounds.

The online Master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling requires 60 credit hours and includes the following core courses: Research and Evaluation, Abnormal Psychology, and Principles of Vocational, Educational, and Psychological Assessment and Group Counseling and Group Dynamics. Students must also complete a practicum and internship.

Tuition Fee: In-state – $760.60 per credit hour  |  Out-of-state: $1470 per credit hour


#3 – University of Buffalo

Online Master’s in Substance Abuse Counseling

Website

The University at Buffalo offers an online Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling degree program designed to prepare students for a variety of careers in rehabilitation counseling, including addiction and substance abuse counseling at all levels. The program provides a rehabilitation counseling curriculum with a commitment to respecting and incorporating diversity and promoting personal integrity and professional ethics.

Students in the program enhance their ability to assess and treat the individual needs of their clients, break down physical and attitudinal barriers which affect them and help their clients establish control and positive change in their lives.

Students in the online MS in Rehabilitation Counseling program must also complete a practicum, an internship, and comprehensive exam or research project. Students may focus their studies directly on substance abuse and addiction counseling through elective coursework, and through pursuing their practicum and internship at relevant facilities.

Tuition Fee: $555 per credit hour


#2 – University of Oklahoma

Online Master’s in Substance Abuse Counseling

Website

The University of Oklahoma (OU) Extended Campus seeks to address modern issues of addiction worldwide through its Master of Prevention Science program. It seeks to address the strain substance abuse places on society at the mental health level, before it reaches healthcare organizations and healthcare facilities.

Each course in the program lasts 16 weeks, with most students taking two courses during the spring and fall terms and one course during summer term. Program advisors help students find an appropriate amount of coursework for their schedule, creating an individualized graduation plan that can be adjusted as circumstances dictate. Students complete a total of 33 credit hours of coursework, graduating in about two years.

18 credit hours of this non-thesis program are specific, mandatory courses, introducing students to graduate-level interdisciplinary work, the basics of prevention science, program development, and research methods. The remaining 15 credit hours are electives, which look at culture, ethics, and strategy issues, and can also include an internship.

Tuition Fee: In-state – $408.14 per credit hour   |  Out-of-state – $1018.94 per credit hour

#1 – Capella University


Online Master’s in Substance Abuse Counselling

Website

Capella University offers an online master’s degree in addiction studies that meets state standards for the Advanced Alcohol & Drug Counselor credential, allowing students to work as treatment professionals after graduation. This program requires the completion of 48 quarter credits, with each course lasting 10 weeks rather than the 16 typical of college terms. These shorter courses and rolling admissions provide greater flexibility during the degree program.

While coursework can be completed online, this program also has residency and internship requirements. The residency consists of a six-week hybrid course, one week of which is spent on campus participating in presentations, discussions, and group work. The internship requirement, meanwhile, sees students working in the field for 300 hours, under the supervision of both professionals and faculty.

By graduation, students develop a comprehensive understanding of mental health treatment. Courses in the program cover addiction assessment, integrated mental health treatment, ethical issues, and specific treatment methods and frameworks.

Tuition Fee: $545 per credit hour

This concludes our ranking of the Top Online Master’s in Substance Abuse Counseling. Thanks for checking us out!

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