Earning a substance abuse counselor degree online puts you on a path to help individuals overcome the challenges of addiction. Your expertise will not only assist those personally dealing with addiction, but also their friends and family experiencing the impact of the disease. Your studies prepare you for a range of professions to help guide and counsel people toward recovery. Career options include parole officer, shelter director, and, of course, substance abuse counselor. In fact, the need for substance abuse counselors will likely grow 20% by 2026, nearly three times the average projected growth for all occupations.
Online Bachelor’s in Addiction Recovery Degree Program Ranking Guidelines
We selected the degree programs based on the quality of program and range of courses provided, as well as school awards, rankings, and reputation.
The Best Online Bachelor’s in Addiction Recovery Programs
1. Indiana Wesleyan University
Based in Marion, IN, Indiana Wesleyan University is both a liberal arts school rooted in the Wesleyan Church and the largest private college in the state. The school offers an online BS in addictions counseling with a uniquely Christian perspective on treating addicts and their families.
Students in the online bachelor’s in substance abuse counseling complete 30 credits of liberal arts courses in biblical studies, philosophy, English, mathematics, arts and humanities, and the sciences. Core coursework focuses on traditional psychology and psychopharmacology theories and practices and includes 45 credits in topics such as developmental psychology, abnormal behavior, addictions theory, and principles of addiction counseling. Students complete the degree with four addiction recovery practicums that blend psychological theory with real–world application. Practicums take place near a student’s home and under the direct supervision of a licensed professional.
To gain admission, prospective students need at least 60 transfer credits from an accredited institution and may be subject to background checks and drug testing. IWU features several online start dates throughout the year, and students complete the program in approximately 22 months. Students work in cohort groups to provide support to one another throughout the program.
Indiana Wesleyan University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
2. University of Cincinnati
As one of the premier research universities in the country, the University of Cincinnati has developed a robust online presence. The school offers 95 online degree and certificate options taught by many of the same faculty as on–campus programs. UC’s BS in substance abuse counseling prepares graduates to combat substance abuse and addiction, and to confront the growing number of overdose deaths.
The 120–credit curriculum of UC’s bachelor’s in substance abuse counseling features core coursework in crisis management, long–term abuse recovery, and substance abuse counseling for families and other relationships. Students usually complete the program in two–to–four years, though students may take up to five courses at a time — including in the summer — to accelerate program completion. Graduates fulfill the requirements for licensure in the state of Ohio, and those living elsewhere can contact their state’s licensing board to determine their specific licensing requirements. Additionally, while this BS degree leads to careers in mental health and addiction, the degree also prepares students for further studies.
Prospective students must submit an application, high school transcripts, ACT or SAT scores, and letters of recommendation. Transfer students must have at least 24 semester credits from a previous institution and a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or better to qualify for admission.
University of Cincinnati is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
3. Northwestern State University of Louisiana
Located in Natchitoches, LA, Northwestern State University of Louisiana offers over 40 online degrees and certificates at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. The fully online BS in addiction studies — housed in the department of psychology and addiction studies — offers training in both the psychological and physiological makeup of addiction.
The 120–credit bachelor’s degree includes 42 credits in english, mathematics, science, and the humanities, and 18 credits of electives. Major coursework features 30 credits in addiction studies and covers topics like intro to addiction disorders, screening and assessment, case management, and addiction counseling skills. Students may earn additional credit in developmental psychology, physiological psychology, statistics, and abnormal psychology.
To gain admission into NSULA’s substance abuse counselor online degree program, students must submit an application, high school transcripts, and ACT/SAT test scores. Transfer students must include transcripts from all previous colleges attended. Online students pay in–state tuition rates. Coursework is delivered via Moodle, and includes a mixture of online lectures, readings, and online meetings. NSULA also features fast–track coursework in the fall and spring; the program offers classes in eight–week sessions to allow working and busy adult learners to focus on one or two courses at a time.
Northwestern State University of Louisiana is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
4. Southern New Hampshire University
Manchester, New Hampshire
Established in 1932, SNHU is one of the largest and fastest–growing online universities. The school offers a BA in psychology – addiction studies that explores the acts and behaviors that lead to addiction. The program prepares graduates for careers in psychiatry, law enforcement, and research, among others.
SNHU’s online substance abuse counseling degree is available 24/7, and students take coursework fully online during eight–week terms that occur six times per year. The 120–credit curriculum includes 45 credits of general education courses in english, mathematics, science, history, and the humanities. Coursework in the major includes intro to psychology, foundations of addictions, abnormal psychology, and counseling process and techniques. The program culminates with a senior capstone project that combines previous coursework with a current issue in psychology. An optional internship is also available, providing 150 hours of supervised, career–related work experience.
Students enter SNHU on a rolling basis and can begin their program during any one of the school’s six terms throughout the year. Once admitted, online students receive support services including access to 24–hour tech support, the writing center, academic advising, tutoring, and career services. Tuition rates at SNHU are some of the lowest in the nation. U.S. service members receive additional discounts.
Southern New Hampshire University is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Higher Education (NEASC-CIHE).
5. Ohio Christian University
Founded in 1948, Ohio Christian University boasts a student body of nearly 4,000, with most students enrolled in an online undergraduate, graduate, or certificate program. The BA in substance abuse counseling provides a uniquely Christian approach to the field by integrating principles of faith into a counselors’ critical thinking and decision making.
OCU’s 120–credit substance abuse degree curriculum features required courses such as introduction to substance abuse, psychopharmacology, prevention strategies, abnormal psychology, and chemical dependency counseling. Students complete nine credits of coursework that explore Christian ethics, worldviews, and theology, and a culminating course that prepares graduates to sit for the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professional Board’s state licensure examination.
Eligible students who reside in Ohio apply for Certified Chemical Dependency Assistant status upon completing their degree. Those residing outside Ohio should consult with their home state to learn more about licensure requirements.
Online students complete the program in a cohort format, taking one class at a time and moving through the degree with the same group of students. Instructors deliver coursework asynchronously, and students complete assignments on a weekly basis. To apply, prospective students need at least 50 credits from a previous accredited institution, a cumulative GPA of a 2.0 or better, and copies of official transcripts. Military members receive additional tuition discounts.
Ohio Christian University is regionally accredited by Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
6. University of South Dakota
Vermillion, South Dakota
Founded in 1862 in Vermillion, SD, the University of South Dakota features an enrollment of over 10,000 students, making it the largest institution of higher education in the state. USD also offers 40 online programs to accommodate students who work full–time. Students take the BS in addiction studies fully online and focus on science–based addiction education with real–world experience. Taught by on–campus faculty, this 120–credit bachelor’s degree makes students eligible for addiction/prevention credentialing through the South Dakota Board of Addiction and Prevention Professionals. Degree–seekers living outside of South Dakota should check with their state’s licensing board for licensing requirements.
After fulfilling 33 credits of general education requirements, students complete 30 credits of major coursework in the study of alcohol and drug use and abuse, ethical and legal issues in the substance abuse profession, working with families on alcohol/drug issues, psychopharmacology, and trauma and addiction. Students earn the remaining credits by completing electives and a minor. Learners complete the program by participating in a supervised field experience on site at a facility near their home.
Students must pass a criminal background check and formally apply to the major upon completion of their general education requirements. The program provides online students with access to computer/tech support, academic services, dedicated library resources, and a writing center. Degree–seekers living outside of South Dakota should check with their state’s licensing board for licensing requirements.
University of South Dakota is regionally accredited by Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
7. City Vision University
Kansas City, Missouri
Founded in 1998, City Vision University offers eight undergraduate and graduate degrees fully online. The B.A. in addiction studies counseling is an affordable program that prepares graduates for effective, faith–based counseling that emphasizes the spiritual aspects of recovery in addition to the physical aspects.
The 120–credit bachelor’s degree curriculum meets eight areas of competency and 12 core functions defined by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Required courses include case management, mental illness and addiction, drugs of abuse, family issues and recovery, and counseling foundations. Students complete their degree with a year–long, 300–hour addiction studies practicum at a site near their home and under the supervision of a licensed or certified counselor.
To apply, prospective students must submit an application and a copy of their high school diploma or GED; transfer students must also include transcripts from all previous institutions. CVU accepts up to 90 credits from any accredited college for incoming students.
Once enrolled, CVU provides online students access to an online library, bookstore, academic counseling, and disability services. Many students receive financial aid via the Pell Grant, and military service members receive additional tuition discounts.
City Vision University is regionally accredited by the Distance Education Accreditation Commission.
Choosing an Online Addiction Recovery Bachelor’s Program
The curriculum for your online substance abuse counseling degree leverages current research against best practices to ensure its rigor and relevance. Classes explore topics like pharmacology, substance abuse prevention and counseling, spirituality, and domestic violence. The knowledge you gain equips you for successful career entry and the licensure exam to become a Certified Chemical Dependency Assistant in your state. Moreover, some programs allow you to select a concentration. An example of a specialty might be alcohol/substance abuse rehabilitation, which especially attracts those interested in outpatient and inpatient rehab treatment. Programs that offer minors in another discipline often find that students choose either psychology or sociology.
The program you select will determine how long it takes to complete your degree, as some continue year–round and others begin at specific times of the year. In addition, determine if your program takes place exclusively online or requires an on–campus commitment. Different programs may also require internships and capstone projects before completion.
Online Bachelor’s in Addiction Recovery Careers
Schools that offer a substance abuse counselor degree online make certain graduates can confidently enter the profession of their choice. Professions like social worker, parole officer, and substance abuse counselor are just some of the options available. Each of these choices requires patience, organizational skills, and the ability to effectively communicate.
- Substance Abuse Counselor
- These counselors advise people who suffer addictions like dependency on alcohol and drugs. This role requires assessing patients' challenges and devising a plan to help address them. Practicing in a private facility requires both licensure and earning a master's degree.
- Median Annual Salary: $42,150
- Projected Growth Rate: 20%
- Probation Officer and Correctional Treatment Specialist
- This professional works closely with law offenders who are on either probation or parole. It requires assessing their progress as evidenced by family and friends, ensuring probationers remain clean and sober, and maintaining files on their status over time. Career advancement may require a master's degree.
- Median Annual Salary: $50,160
- Projected Growth Rate: 6%
- Social Worker
- Social workers assess a community's needs and help people gain access to the resources needed to improve their quality of life. In addition to working closely with those suffering addiction, this professional also aids the family and friends of each patient by organizing individual recovery plans.
- Median Annual Salary: $62,460
- Projected Growth Rate: 10%
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics