Best Online Master’s in Addiction Counseling

TBS Staff Writers
by
Updated April 12, 2024
Find the best online master's in addiction and substance abuse counseling with the skills learned from an accredited online degree.

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Masters in Substance Use Counseling

Addiction and substance use counselors use their expertise to help those in need. Certified substance use counselors typically hold a bachelor’s degree in substance use counseling and work with people living with drug and alcohol abuse challenges. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the the field will grow 18% from 2022-2032.

If this seems like the right job for you, a master’s in substance use counseling can help you take the next step in your career. For those interested in studying this subject online, there are plenty of online programs in the field. Read on for our list of the best online master’s in substance use counseling programs in the United States.

Featured Online Master’s in Substance Use Counseling Programs

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The Best Online Master’s in Addiction Counseling Programs

#1 Best Online Master’s in Addiction Counseling

Virginia Commonwealth University

  • Location-markerRichmond, VA
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$12,094
  • Out-of-state$32,742
  • Retention Rate84%
  • Acceptance Rate93%
  • Students Enrolled28,594
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment80%
  • AccreditationYes
#2 Best Online Master’s in Addiction Counseling

University of North Dakota

  • Location-markerGrand Forks, ND
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$8,882
  • Out-of-state$13,323
  • Retention Rate77%
  • Acceptance Rate89%
  • Students Enrolled13,772
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment70%
  • AccreditationYes
#3 Best Online Master’s in Addiction Counseling

Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center

  • Location-markerLubbock, TX
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$6,665
  • Out-of-state$19,344
  • Retention Rate0%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled5,378
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment64%
  • AccreditationYes
#4 Best Online Master’s in Addiction Counseling

Union College

  • Location-markerBarbourville, KY
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$27,119
  • Out-of-state$27,119
  • Retention Rate60%
  • Acceptance Rate56%
  • Students Enrolled1,024
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment72%
  • AccreditationYes
#5 Best Online Master’s in Addiction Counseling

University of South Dakota

  • Location-markerVermillion, SD
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$7,773
  • Out-of-state$11,283
  • Retention Rate77%
  • Acceptance Rate87%
  • Students Enrolled9,464
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment56%
  • AccreditationYes
#6 Best Online Master’s in Addiction Counseling

Governors State University

  • Location-markerUniversity Park, IL
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$7,512
  • Out-of-state$15,024
  • Retention Rate48%
  • Acceptance Rate52%
  • Students Enrolled4,395
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment66%
  • AccreditationYes
#7 Best Online Master’s in Addiction Counseling

Campbellsville University

  • Location-markerCampbellsville, KY
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$24,900
  • Out-of-state$24,900
  • Retention Rate61%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled10,238
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment70%
  • AccreditationYes
#8 Best Online Master’s in Addiction Counseling

Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies

  • Location-markerCenter City, MN
  • 4 year
  • Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$0
  • Out-of-state$0
  • Retention Rate0%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled172
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment91%
  • AccreditationYes
#9 Best Online Master’s in Addiction Counseling

Drexel University

  • Location-markerPhiladelphia, PA
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$54,766
  • Out-of-state$54,766
  • Retention Rate90%
  • Acceptance Rate83%
  • Students Enrolled23,216
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment50%
  • AccreditationYes
#10 Best Online Master’s in Addiction Counseling

Ottawa University-Kansas City

  • Location-markerOverland Park, KS
  • 4 year
  • Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$12,229
  • Out-of-state$12,229
  • Retention Rate0%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled551
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment100%
  • AccreditationYes
Rankings Methodology

What Is an Online Master’s in Substance Use Counseling Degree?

Online master’s in substance use counseling programs are tailored to counseling students interested in helping people who are living with drug and alcohol abuse challenges. To prepare for this area of counseling, learners develop skills in cultural sensitivity, critical thinking, and substance use counseling ethics. Aspiring counselors learn to design and conduct treatment plans to help patients overcome drug and alcohol use challenges.

Many substance use roles only require a bachelor’s degree, but students who earn a master’s can specialize and seek more advanced roles. This degree also attracts established counselors looking to bolster their credentials or switch specialties.

Choosing an Online Program

When shopping for a program that suits your unique goals and needs, consider enrollment options, curriculum requirements, and how each program aligns with relevant certifications. You can find tips about choosing an online master’s in substance use counseling at the link below.

What Else Can I Expect From a Master’s in Substance Use Counseling Program?

A master’s in substance use counseling prepares you for licensed counselor work and an addiction counselor’s specialized responsibilities. Coursework for this degree typically covers addiction in diverse populations, addictive family counseling, and legal and ethical issues. Some degree tracks may award you a certificate in substance use counseling upon graduation.

Substance Use Counseling Curriculum

  • Legal and Ethical Issues in Addiction Treatment: This course covers the laws and regulations that govern substance use counseling, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, especially as they relate to confidentiality, informed consent, and mandated protection. The course also covers ethics issues, such as responsibility to the client, value conflicts, and counselor-client relationships.
  • Substance Use and Addiction in Diverse Populations: This course explores how multicultural and socioeconomic issues influence treatment approaches for drug use among diverse populations. Students leave the course with cultural sensitivity skills they can use to create effective, individualized treatment plans in multicultural settings.
  • Addictive Family Systems: In this course, learners investigate traditional and contemporary theories of family counseling as they relate to the treatment of addictive families. Students receive a better understanding of the dynamic roles that family members play in the cycle of addiction and examine appropriate practices for intervention and treatment.

Certificates and Licenses

Becoming an independent counselor in most specializations begins with pursuing licensure. Once licensed, you can start the process of earning optional certifications in specialties like addictions or substance use counseling.

Private practice substance use counselors must be licensed, and the number of required clinical hours for licensure vary by state, ranging from 1,000-6,000 hours. Most states also require substance use counselors to pass a state exam for licensure — either the National Counselor Examination (NCE) or the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination, administered by the National Board of Certified Counselors.

After licensure, you can then earn optional certifications, such as a master addictions counselor (MAC) certification, or additional certifications from the National Certification Commission for Addiction Professionals, like nicotine dependence specialist.

State reciprocity generally guarantees that an established professional moving from another state can gain licensure by endorsement, though actual agreements vary by state, and less-established applicants may need to fill in gaps in clinical hours or education requirements.

Substance Use Counseling Careers

Earning a master’s in substance use counseling opens the door to careers helping people overcome addiction challenges and achieve independence. Some graduates transition directly into substance use counseling work, while others branch off into other mental health roles, like rehabilitation counseling or social work.

The following list touches on some career choices applicable to substance use counseling graduates, though there are many other career options also available.

Addiction Counseling FAQs

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