The Best Online Doctorate in Addiction and Recovery Programs

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Earning a Ph.D. in addiction and recovery online can open up career pathways in counseling, research, academia, or public policy.

Amid the current opioid epidemic, it is essential to help individuals who struggle with addiction. The Bureau of Labor Services (BLS) projects employment for substance abuse counselor jobs to grow by 25% from 2019-2029. If you want to contribute to the fight against addiction as a counselor, researcher, or educator, consider earning a Ph.D. in addiction counseling online.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, experts on addiction treatment have become an important asset. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 13% of Americans admitted to starting or increasing use of addictive substances in the pandemic's early stages. Substance abuse counselors have taken to online platforms to help counsel people struggling with these issues during the COVID-19 crisis.

Read on for our alphabetically sorted rankings of counseling and psychology doctoral programs that fall under the umbrella of addiction and recovery doctoral degrees.

Best Online Programs

Online Doctoral Addiction and Recovery Program Ranking Guidelines

We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.

Our Methodology

Here at, we take the trust and welfare of our readers very seriously. When making our school and program rankings, our top priority is ensuring that our readers get accurate, unbiased information that can help them make informed decisions about online education. That's why we've developed a rigorous ranking methodology that keeps the needs of our readers front and center.

Our proprietary, multi-criteria ranking algorithm analyzes key data indicators — as collected by the federal government — for each school or program. What data we use depends on the focus of each specific ranking, but in all cases, our ranking methodology is impartial: Schools cannot buy better rankings at TBS.

While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.

  • Academics
  • Affordability
  • Online Enrollment

Data Sources

The data used in TBS rankings comes primarily from the federal government, and much of it is provided by the schools themselves. We aggregate and analyze this data to build our rankings.

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is our primary source. Its data comes from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Every college, university, or technical school with access to federal financial aid must participate in these surveys, which include questions about enrollment, graduation rates, finances, and faculty qualifications. This is publicly available data, which you can access yourself through the College Navigator.

Additionally, because we value a personal touch and the professional experience of our staff and Academic Advisory Board, we vet all results and adjust rankings as necessary based on our collected knowledge of schools and degree programs. Depending on the ranking, we may obtain additional input from, subject matter experts, prior TBS ranking lists, or other sources we deem relevant to a particular ranking.

Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology

About Our Ranking Factors

Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.

Each of these factors are further broken down into weighted subfactors. For example, retention rates are weighted more heavily than availability of program options because they are a better indicator of student success.

We chose the following factors for our rankings because of their influence on learning experiences and graduate outcomes. However, students should always balance our rankings against their personal priorities. For instance, a learner who needs a fully online program may prioritize online flexibility more than our rankings do. Our rankings are designed to help you make a decision — not to make a decision for you.

Academics - 75%
Affordability - 15%
Online Enrollment - 10%

In all our school rankings and recommendations, we work for objectivity and balance. We carefully research and compile each ranking list, and as stated in our advertising disclosure, we do NOT permit financial incentives to influence rankings. Our articles never promote or disregard a school for financial gain.

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Featured Addiction & Recovery Programs

The Best Online Doctoral Addiction and Recovery Programs

true Mississippi College Clinton, MS

Founded in 1826, MC is the oldest college in Mississippi. The Baptist college now offers several rigorous psychology programs online, including an online doctorate in professional counseling.

The 72-credit program follows a cohort model to prepare practitioners for advanced clinical leadership work. The learning experience culminates with a clinical case study capstone project instead of a dissertation.

Each applicant must possess a master's degree in marriage and family counseling, clinical mental health counseling, or a related major. MC is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

true Northcentral University San Diego, CA

This online school emphasizes flexible online programs, with weekly course starts and absolutely no synchronous course elements or weekly assignments. NCU's offerings include an online Ph.D. in psychology with a specialization in addictions.

The 60-credit program takes four years to complete and prepares established practitioners to develop their knowledge in addictions, substance abuse, and addictive behaviors. Course topics include co-occurring disorders, group therapy, and family systems approaches to addiction.

NCU's psychology degree does not prepare individuals for counseling licensure. NCU is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

Oregon State University Corvallis, OR

Established in 1868, OSU now serves over 30,000 students, making it Oregon's largest university. Its online catalog features an online Ph.D. in counseling, one of few with accreditation by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).

The 150-credit program takes 3-5 years to complete and follows a cohort model in a blended online format. Learners attend face-to-face classes twice each quarter at OSU's downtown Portland campus.

The school requires each applicant to possess a master's in a counseling-related major. OSU is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

Regent University Virginia Beach, VA

Regent, a Christian institution founded in 1977, offers several online doctoral degrees, including an online Ph.D. in counseling and psychological studies with a concentration in addictions counseling.

Licensed counselors looking to deepen their knowledge and scholars who wish to make a difference in the field can pursue this 51-credit program. Courses cover interventions, psychotherapeutic techniques for treating addiction, and research methods in addiction studies.

Online courses at Regent are asynchronous. Each enrollee completes a capstone course on how Christianity affects faith and psychology. Regent is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

University of West Georgia Carrollton, GA

UWG offers respectable interdisciplinary and humanistic psychology programs. The school's online offerings include an online Ed.D. in professional counseling and supervision.

The 60-credit program takes 2-3 years to complete and uses a cohort model, which requires a brief initial orientation residency. UWG requires each applicant to have three years of counseling experience, a master's in counseling, a counseling license, and minimum scores of 151 and 142 on the verbal and quantitative portions of the GRE, respectively.

UWG is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

What Is an Online Ph.D. in Addiction and Recovery?

Schools typically offer online Ph.D. in addiction and recovery programs as specialized counseling degrees, focused on helping individuals with addiction and substance challenges. However, this degree often includes a non-clinical focus on addiction psychology.

A full-time student usually completes this program in 3-4 years. An online Ph.D. in addiction and recovery suits individuals looking to become addiction counselors. However, the degree also attracts psychiatrists and non-clinical psychologists who are looking to specialize. The degree prepares learners to enter the workforce as specialized addictions counselors or as psychologists dedicated to furthering our understanding of addiction.

Enrollees can expect to take coursework in addiction treatment, family studies, and pharmacology of addiction. Doctoral students also learn cultural sensitivity, empathy, personal ethics, and integrity.

Choosing an Online Doctoral Addiction and Recovery Program

When selecting an online doctorate in addiction and recovery, individuals should carefully consider cost, eligibility for in-state tuition, and program length.

Prospective students should also make sure that the program aligns with their professional goals. Check if the program culminates with a residency requirement, and research what kind of practicum or field experience accompanies the curriculum. Learners should also know if the program or concentration is tailored toward addiction counseling or non-clinical addiction psychology.

Accreditation for Online Addiction and Recovery Degree Programs

Candidates should always check the regional accreditation status of prospective schools and programs. Accreditation is a form of quality assurance that demonstrates academic rigor.

Prospective online addiction and recovery online doctoral programs should also have programmatic accreditation by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP) or the American Psychology Association (APA). CACREP accredits programs in addiction counseling, while APA accredits non-clinical addiction psychology degrees.

What Else Can I Expect From a Ph.D. in Addiction and Recovery Program?

Ph.D. in addiction and recovery online programs differ widely in their course offerings. Some focus on the traditional counseling path, while others emphasize research into addiction and substance abuse. However, most programs cover similar addiction treatment, counseling, and intervention strategies. They also typically investigate the pharmacology of addiction and the family dynamics and cultural issues that contribute to addiction.

Many doctoral programs in addiction and recovery prepare students for their dissertations by exploring quantitative and qualitative research methods. Other programs incorporate field study or residencies into the course of study.

Common Courses in Addiction and Recovery Programs

  • Addiction Intervention: This course examines intervention-based strategies for helping people with addiction. Students learn how counseling professionals guide family interventions for the benefit of patients and their loved ones.
  • Addictive Behaviors and Substance Abuse: Learners learn about the behaviors and thought patterns that can lead to substance abuse challenges.
  • Counseling Skills and Techniques: This course covers the practice theory and techniques used to counsel individuals with addiction and substance abuse challenges, such as the 12-step process, family systems, and addiction treatment.
  • Diversity and Social Justice: This course investigates how gender, race, and socioeconomic status influence addiction and substance abuse treatment. Learners learn to apply cultural sensitivity training to the counseling practice.
  • Group Counseling: Students explore group-centric strategies for counseling individuals with substance abuse and other challenges. Topics include support groups, cognitive-behavioral groups, and interpersonal processing groups.
  • Professional Growth and Wellbeing: This course covers how addiction and substance abuse counselors can develop healthy personal characteristics for effective practice. Coursework covers self-assessment and the importance of healthy counseling relationships.

How Long Does It Take to Complete an Online Doctorate in Addiction and Recovery Program?

Earning a Ph.D. in addiction counseling online usually takes 3-4 years. Program length depends on several factors, including course load, research topics, and ability to secure funding. A part-time enrollee may take up to seven years to earn their online doctorate.

Some programs feature residency requirements that can lengthen the process. Conversely, accelerated programs allow enrollees to earn their doctorates in 2-3 years. Taking online courses in an asynchronous format rather than synchronous can also shorten degree timelines.

Addiction and Recovery Jobs

Most graduates with doctoral degrees in addiction and recovery work as counselors or clinical psychologists specializing in addiction and substance abuse counseling. However, this degree provides a strong footing for other jobs in academia, research, and non-clinical psychology, some which require additional study or credentialing. For instance, psychiatrists need to complete medical school to become board certified.

Common career choices for addiction and recovery majors include:


Psychiatrists treat patients for mental health issues, such as addiction and substance abuse, by administering treatment and medication. They sometimes complete advanced degrees in other fields, such as addictions and recovery.

A psychiatrist must go to medical school, earn an MD, complete a psychiatry residency, and gain board certification from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. Psychiatrists need licensure to practice, which must be renewed every 1-3 years by completing continuing education credits.

Median Salary (2020): $217,100 Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 12%

Psychologists study how humans relate to themselves and others through various emotional and cognitive processes. Clinical psychologists provide counseling to help people overcome challenges like addiction, while non-clinical psychologists research human psychology.

A psychologist must possess a master's or doctoral degree in psychology. Most states require psychologists to earn state licensure and complete continuing education credits to maintain and renew their credentials.

Median Salary (2020): $82,180 Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 3%
Postsecondary Teacher

Postsecondary teachers instruct at the college level. These professionals usually need doctoral degrees to work at colleges or universities, though a master's will often suffice for two-year institutions. Postsecondary teachers can also conduct and publish their own research.

A graduate with an online doctorate in addiction and recovery can work as a postsecondary teacher on addiction and substance abuse issues.

Median Salary (2020): $78,180 Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 9%
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors help people overcome various mental and behavioral challenges, such as addiction and drug abuse.

These counselors usually hold master's degrees in counseling or related disciplines, such as addiction and recovery. A substance abuse counselor must typically possess a master's in addiction studies or substance abuse counseling, accrue 2,000-4,000 hours of clinical experience, and pass their state board exam.

Median Salary (2020): $47,660 Projected Job Growth (2019-2029): 25%

Paying for Your Online Doctorate in Addiction and Recovery

Prepare to use all available resources to pay for your online doctorate in addiction and recovery. Begin by filling out your FAFSA form to develop a sense of your financial need. Next, determine whether you'd like to pursue federal grants, school or private scholarships, or work-study programs.

You can also consider taking out a student loan, which may offer subsidies, debt relief, or flexible repayment plans.

Addiction & Recovery Degree Questions

true What Kind of Degree Do You Need to Be a Substance Abuse Counselor?

You typically need at least a master's degree to work as a licensed substance abuse counselor.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Degree in Addiction Counseling?

It can take 2-4 years to earn a degree in addiction counseling. If you still need to complete a bachelor's degree, add an additional 2-4 years to your expected timeline.

Do Counselors Need Ph.D. Degrees?

A counselor often needs a minimum of a master's degree to practice, but individuals looking to work in private practice commonly earn Ph.D. degrees.

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