Best Online Master’s in Substance Abuse Counseling

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Masters in Addiction Counseling

Addiction and substance abuse counselors use their expertise to help those in need. Certified substance abuse counselors typically hold a bachelor's degree in substance abuse counseling and work with people living with drug and alcohol abuse challenges. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the the field will grow 22% from 2018-2028.

If this seems like the right job for you, a master's in substance abuse 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 abuse counseling programs in the United States.

Featured Online Master's in Substance Abuse Counseling Programs

The Best Online Master’s in Substance Abuse Counseling Programs

  1. The University of Alabama

    Tuscaloosa, AL



    With a student body of almost 38,000 and a Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education research level status of Doctoral Universities – Very High Research Activity, UA ranks as one of the top public institutions in the country.

    The online master of arts in rehabilitation counseling program, offered through the College of Continuing Studies, requires 60 credits for completion. Admission requirements include official transcripts proving minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA, minimum 300 GRE or 50th percentile MAT scores (waived 2021 applicants), and virtual interview.

  2. University of North Texas

    Denton, TX



    UNT currently serves over 40,600 students across 109 bachelor programs, 94 master programs, and 36 doctoral programs.

    The College of Health and Public Service offers a completely online master of science in rehabilitation counseling degree requiring 60 credits for completion at a total cost of $27,800 for in state students. U.S. News ranked the program number 12 in the country for best graduate rehabilitation counseling programs and number one in Texas.

    Prospective students will submit official transcripts for proof of undergraduate degree with minimum 3.0 GPA and standardized test scores.

  3. East Carolina University

    Greenville, NC



    ECU currently offers 125 online programs to a student body of almost 28,000. Over 10,500 current students attend the institution fully online.

    The Department of Addictions and Rehabilitation Studies offers a completely online master of science in rehabilitation and career counseling degree which requires 62 credits for completion. The CACREP accredited program requires students to take and pass the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC) exam.

    Admission requirements include bachelor degree, official transcripts, minimum 30th percentile MATor GRE scores, and statement of intent.

  4. Utah State University

    Logan, UT



    Founded in 1888, USU currently hosts nearly 28,000 students across 114 undergraduate programs and 132 graduate programs.

    The Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services offers an online master of rehabilitation counseling degree requiring two one-week, on-campus seminars. Students can attend two consecutive weeks or attend one week over the course of two summer semesters.

    Students will complete a background check and submit official transcripts with minimum 3.0 GPA, one page letter, ethics exam results, and Praxis Test results as part of the admission process.

  5. Virginia Commonwealth University

    Richmond, VA



    The Rams of VCU currently host almost 30,000 students across more than 200 offered programs of study.

    A collaboration of VCU, King's College London and the University of Adelaide in Australia combine to offer a completely online master of science in addiction studies program requiring 36 credits to complete. Students must maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA with no courses below a "C" for graduation requirements.

    Admission requirements include official transcripts, statement of intent, three reference letters, official test scores, and resume.

  6. George Washington University

    Washington, DC

    Chartered by an act of Congress in 1821, GW has grown to support more than 26,000 undergraduate and graduate students.

    The Graduate School of Education and Human Development offers a completely online master of arts in rehabilitation counseling degree requiring 48 credits for completion. Coursework highlights include social and cultural dimensions of counseling, medical and psychosocial aspects of disabilities, and vocational assessment of individuals with disabilities.

    Students applying to the online program can apply for spring, summer, and fall terms by submitting a resume, statement of purpose, two letters of recommendation, GRE or GMAT scores, and transcripts.

  7. University of Wisconsin-Stout

    Menomonie, WI



    UW-Stout offers 45 undergraduate and 20 graduate programs of study to over 9,500 students.

    The online master of science in rehabilitation counseling program ranks fourth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Students can typically achieve coursework completion for the 60 credit program in two to three years at a cost of $600 per graduate credit.

    Applying students must have two years of related work experience and submit official transcripts through the UW system application.

  8. West Virginia University

    Morgantown, WV



    The Mountaineers of WVU currently support over 29,000 students across 14 colleges and schools. In total, students can choose from 359 programs of study.

    WVU's College of Education and Human Services offers an online master of science in clinical rehabilitation and mental health counseling degree requiring 62 credits for completion at a cost of $630 per credit. The low residency program requires two site visits to campus.

    Prospective students will complete an online application and submit official transcripts with proof of minimum 2.75 undergraduate GPA, standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, and statement of purpose.

  9. Winston-Salem State University

    Winston-Salem, NC



    Founded in 1892, WSSU currently supports over 5,100 students with a student-to-faculty ratio of 14-to-one.

    The fully online master of science in rehabilitation counseling program requires 63 credits for completion with a completion window of two and a half to three years. Students can choose from five concentrations: clinical mental health, rehabilitation counseling, deaf and hard of hearing, vocational evaluation, and transition.

    Admission requirements include official transcripts with minimum 2.7 GPA, GRE scores, interview, and three professional references.

  10. University of South Dakota

    Vermillion, SD



    The Coyotes of USD currently host nearly 10,000 students with a 16-to-one student-to-faculty ratio.

    Students can enroll in the fully online master of arts in addiction counseling and prevention program through two avenues, a standard track consisting of 45 credits and an advanced track consisting of 33 credits. Curriculum highlights include addiction studies research, advanced legal and ethical issues, and case management and assessment of co-occuring disorders.

    To apply, students will submit official transcripts with proof of minimum 3.0 GPA from an accredited institution, statement of purpose, three letters of recommendation, resume, and background check.

Online Master’s in Substance Abuse Counseling Programs Ranking Guidelines

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

Our Methodology

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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

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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.

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

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What Is an Online Master's in Substance Abuse Counseling Degree?

Online master's in substance abuse 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 abuse counseling ethics. Aspiring counselors learn to design and conduct treatment plans to help patients overcome drug and alcohol abuse challenges.

Many substance abuse 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.

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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 abuse counseling at the link below.

What Else Can I Expect From a Master's in Substance Abuse Counseling Program?

A master's in substance abuse 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 abuse counseling upon graduation.

Substance Abuse Counseling Curriculum

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 abuse counseling.

Private practice substance abuse 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 abuse 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 Abuse Counseling Careers

Earning a master's in substance abuse counseling opens the door to careers helping people overcome addiction challenges and achieve independence. Some graduates transition directly into substance abuse 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 abuse counseling graduates, though there are many other career options also available.

Substance Abuse Counselors
Median Annual Salary: $46,240 Projected Job Growth: 22%

Substance abuse counselors provide treatment for people facing alcohol and drug use challenges. These counselors must have at least bachelor's degrees and must obtain licensure to work in private practice as professional counselors. Many also earn specialized credentials relating to substance abuse counseling, such as MAC certification.

This career path usually appeals to people with strong listening skills, empathy, and willingness to work with underserved populations. Some substance abuse counselors gravitate toward the field because they have personally known people with addiction challenges or faced them personally.

Social Workers
Median Annual Salary: $50,470 Projected Job Growth: 11%

Social workers help people with everyday social issues, including facing the effects of drug and alcohol abuse. Some social work roles only require a bachelor's degree, but you usually need at least a master's degree to work in a clinical setting. Not all states explicitly require social workers to hold licensure, but many employers expect it.

Social workers need strong interpersonal skills and an interest in working with low-income populations. A master's in substance abuse counseling might lead you toward working as a clinical social worker who provides individual and group therapy to people with addiction challenges.

Rehabilitation Counselors
Median Annual Salary: $35,950 Projected Job Growth: 10%

Rehabilitation counselors help people with mental, developmental, and physical challenges to achieve independence. Like most counselors, a rehabilitation counselor needs a master's degree and must obtain professional counseling licensure to work independently. Certifications can also help counselors specialize in rehabilitation work.

Rehabilitation counselors work with people who have experienced personal setbacks, injuries, disabilities, or medical issues, which can sometimes be related to drug and alcohol abuse. This environment requires workers with patience, empathy, and strong interpersonal skills.

Popular Asked Questions

How Long Does It Take to Complete a Master's in Substance Abuse Counseling Program?

It typically takes two years to complete a master's in substance abuse counseling, depending on part- or full-time enrollment. Some colleges also offer accelerated degree tracks.

What Can I Do With a Master's in Substance Abuse Counseling?

A master's in substance abuse counseling prepares you for general and specialized counseling work and other careers dedicated to helping people who are facing addiction challenges.

How Much Do You Make as a Substance Abuse Counselor?

According to PayScale, the bottom 10th percentile of substance abuse counselors earn an annual salary of $30,000, while those in the 90th percentile take home about $52,000 annually. The median salary is $39,540.

What Is Substance Abuse Counseling?

Substance abuse counseling is a specialized area of counseling devoted to treating, advising, and rehabilitating people living with drug and alcohol abuse challenges. Note that substance abuse counseling is not the same as rehabilitation counseling, which focuses on helping people with injuries or disabilities.

What Is a Master's in Substance Abuse Counseling?

A master's in substance abuse counseling differs from a master's in counseling through its specialized curriculum, which prepares students for certification as addiction and substance abuse specialists.

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