Best Online Master’s in Substance Abuse Counseling

by TBS Staff

Updated September 26, 2022

reviewed by TBS Rankings Team
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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

School Information
Location Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Admission Rate 83%
Graduation Rate 71%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 13% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Graduate students interested in a master's in substance abuse counseling can earn their master's degree from The University of Alabama, located in Tuscaloosa. The master of arts in rehabilitation counseling program emphasizes industry-relevant knowledge and skills, preparing graduates for decision-making responsibilities. Earning a master's degree helps candidates move into a new career path or advance in their current field.

The master's curriculum explores advanced methodologies and research in rehabilitation counseling. Learners prepare for the job market by choosing a specialty through electives. The master's program recommends a background in rehabilitation counseling or a related field for those applying.

Online enrollees meet any in-person requirements, such as internships, at approved sites in their local area. Graduate students also build professional connections by attending networking events.

The University of Alabama at a Glance:

Type of School: Public, four-year

Admission Rate: 83%

Total Online Master's Programs: 23

Program Name: Master of arts in rehabilitation counseling

Graduate Tuition In State: $10,780

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $30,250

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#2

University of North Texas

School Information
Location Denton, Texas
Admission Rate 74%
Graduation Rate 56%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 49% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Graduate students interested in a master's in rehabilitation counseling can earn their degree from the University of North Texas, located in Denton. The master's program strengthens specialized skills, preparing graduates for leadership roles with a higher earning potential. A master's degree can also prepare candidates for opportunities in new fields.

The master's curriculum blends theory and practice to provide an advanced understanding of rehabilitation counseling. Learners individualize the program to prepare for focused careers. The master's program recommends a background in rehabilitation counseling or a related field for applicants.

Online enrollees complete internship requirements at approved sites in their own community. Graduate students expand their professional network through internships and online events.

University of North Texas at a Glance:

Type of School: Public, four-year

Admission Rate: 74%

Total Online Master's Programs: 11

Program Name: Master of science in rehabilitation counseling

Graduate Tuition In State: $5,900

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $13,496

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#3

Utah State University

School Information
Location Logan, Utah
Admission Rate 91%
Graduation Rate 54%
Accreditation Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Percent Online Enrollment 50% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Based in Logan, Utah State University hosts a top-rated online master's in rehabilitation counseling. The program helps graduates move into leadership roles and increase their earning potential. A master's degree can also prepare candidates for opportunities in new fields.

The master's curriculum explores theoretical and practical perspectives in the rehabilitation counseling field. Learners individualize the program to prepare for focused careers. Applicants without a rehabilitation counseling background may need to complete prerequisite courses to enroll in the program.

Online enrollees complete internship programs in their local area to gain hands-on experience. Internships and other networking events help graduate students expand their professional network.

Utah State University at a Glance:

Type of School: Public, four-year

Admission Rate: 91%

Total Online Master's Programs: 14

Program Name: Rehabilitation counseling, MRC

Graduate Tuition In State: $5,996

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $20,327

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#4

Virginia Commonwealth University

School Information
Location Richmond, Virginia
Admission Rate 87%
Graduation Rate 67%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 31% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The master's in addiction studies program at Virginia Commonwealth University, located in Richmond, offers a flexible online format. The master of science in addiction studies program strengthens specialized skills, preparing graduates for leadership roles with a higher earning potential. Earning a master's degree can help candidates move into a new career path or advance in their current field.

The master's curriculum incorporates theoretical and applied approaches to addiction studies. Learners prepare for the job market by choosing a specialty through electives. The master's program recommends a background in addiction studies or a related field for applicants.

Online enrollees complete internships in their local community to gain real-world experience. The program encourages graduate students to attend networking events to expand their professional connections.

Virginia Commonwealth University at a Glance:

Type of School: Public, four-year

Admission Rate: 87%

Total Online Master's Programs: 16

Program Name: Master of science in addiction studies

Graduate Tuition In State: $12,701

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $26,039

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#5

George Washington University

School Information
Location Washington, District of Columbia
Admission Rate 41%
Graduation Rate 82%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 22% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Located in the District of Columbia, George Washington University offers an online master's in rehabilitation counseling. The program uses a rigorous curriculum to prepare graduates for advanced roles in the rehabilitation counseling field. Earning a master's degree helps candidates move into a new career path or advance in their current field.

The master's curriculum examines theoretical and practical perspectives on rehabilitation counseling. Learners focus the program with electives or a concentration. The master's program builds on prior experience gained during a bachelor's program.

Online enrollees complete internship requirements at approved sites in their own community. The program encourages professional development activities, including networking events, so graduate students can expand their professional connections.

George Washington University at a Glance:

Type of School: Private, nonprofit, four-year

Admission Rate: 41%

Total Online Master's Programs: 50

Program Name: Master of arts in rehabilitation counseling

Graduate Tuition In State: $31,770

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $31,770

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#6

University of Wisconsin Stout

School Information
Location Menomonie, Wisconsin
Admission Rate 91%
Graduation Rate 60%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 46% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The University of Wisconsin Stout, located in Menomonie, enrolls master's students in its online rehabilitation counseling program. The master's program helps graduates move into leadership roles and increase their earning potential. A master's degree can also train candidates for roles in new industries.

The master's curriculum explores rehabilitation counseling research and methodologies. Learners choose electives or a specialization to gain focused career training. The master's program recommends individuals have a background in rehabilitation counseling before applying to the program.

Online enrollees coordinate with the program to complete internships at approved sites in their local area. Internships and other practicum activities provide professional networking opportunities.

University of Wisconsin Stout at a Glance:

Type of School: Public, four-year

Admission Rate: 91%

Total Online Master's Programs: 10

Program Name: MS in rehabilitation counseling

Graduate Tuition In State: $7,155

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $15,465

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#7

West Virginia University

School Information
Location Morgantown, West Virginia
Admission Rate 84%
Graduation Rate 61%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 34% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The online master's in clinical rehabilitation and mental health counseling at West Virginia University, located in Morgantown, prioritizes flexibility. The counseling program strengthens industry-specific skills, preparing graduates for leadership responsibilities. Earning a master's degree can also help candidates pursue new career opportunities.

The master's curriculum blends theory and practice to provide an advanced understanding of rehabilitation counseling. Learners choose electives and concentrations to prepare for focused career paths. Applicants without a degree in rehabilitation counseling or a related field may need to meet prerequisite requirements to enroll in the program.

Online enrollees can often complete professional internships at approved locations in their own community. Graduate students expand their professional network through internships and online events.

West Virginia University at a Glance:

Type of School: Public, four-year

Admission Rate: 84%

Total Online Master's Programs: 18

Program Name: Clinical rehabilitation and mental health counseling MS

Graduate Tuition In State: $10,134

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $26,154

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#8

Winston-Salem State University

School Information
Location Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Admission Rate 68%
Graduation Rate 51%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 50% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Graduate students interested in a master's in rehabilitation counseling can earn their degree from Winston-Salem State University. The program strengthens industry-specific skills, preparing graduates for leadership responsibilities. With a master's degree, candidates often advance their current career or more into new career paths.

The master's curriculum emphasizes research methods and analytical skills. Learners choose electives or a specialization to gain focused career training. Applicants without a background in rehabilitation counseling may need to complete prerequisite courses to enroll in the program.

Online enrollees can often complete professional internships at approved locations in their own community. Graduate students grow their professional connections through internships and virtual networking events.

Winston-Salem State University at a Glance:

Type of School: Public, four-year

Admission Rate: 68%

Total Online Master's Programs: 4

Program Name: Master of science in rehabilitation counseling

Graduate Tuition In State: $3,872

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $13,987

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#9

University of South Dakota

School Information
Location Vermillion, South Dakota
Admission Rate 86%
Graduation Rate 59%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 50% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The online master's in addiction counseling and prevention program, offered by the University of South Dakota from its Vermillion campus, ranks as a top program. The master's in addiction counseling program builds specialized skills for leadership roles in the addiction recovery field and related industries. A master's degree helps candidates advance in their current field or pursue a new career path.

The master's curriculum explores theoretical and practical perspectives in the addiction counseling field. Learners individualize the program to prepare for focused careers. The master's program recommends that applicants bring a background in addiction counseling or a related field.

Online enrollees complete internship programs in their local area to gain hands-on experience. The program encourages graduate students to expand their professional connections through internships and networking events.

University of South Dakota at a Glance:

Type of School: Public, four-year

Admission Rate: 86%

Total Online Master's Programs: 10

Program Name: Addiction counseling and prevention (MA)

Graduate Tuition In State: $6,062

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $11,656

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#10

Liberty University

School Information
Location Lynchburg, Virginia
Admission Rate 51%
Graduation Rate 47%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 92% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Located in Lynchburg, Virginia, Liberty University enrolls master's students in its top-ranked online addiction counseling program. The master's in addiction counseling program encourages career training throughout its curriculum, preparing graduates for leadership positions. After completing a master's degree, candidates often advance in their current field or pursue new opportunities.

The master's curriculum incorporates theoretical and applied approaches. Learners take electives and other specialized courses to gain career-specific training. Applicants who majored in addiction counseling or a related field typically meet the admission requirements.

Online enrollees complete internship requirements at approved sites in their own community. The program encourages professional development activities, including networking events, so graduate students can expand their professional connections.

Liberty University at a Glance:

Type of School: Private, nonprofit, four-year

Admission Rate: 51%

Total Online Master's Programs: 67

Program Name: Master's in addiction counseling online

Graduate Tuition In State: $7,980

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $7,980

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#11

University of Kentucky

School Information
Location Lexington, Kentucky
Admission Rate 96%
Graduation Rate 66%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 27% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The online master's in counseling program, offered by the University of Kentucky from its Lexington campus, ranks as a top program in the field. The counseling program draws on a rigorous curriculum that prepares graduates for leadership responsibilities. Earning a master's degree can help candidates advance in their current career or pursue a new career path entirely.

The master's curriculum explores counseling research and methodologies. Learners often choose a specialized concentration, which can help them stand out in a competitive job market. The master's program recommends a background in counseling for those applying to the program.

Online enrollees work with the counseling program to identify internship opportunities at approved sites in their local community. Graduate students grow their professional connections through internships and virtual networking events.

University of Kentucky at a Glance:

Type of School: Public, four-year

Admission Rate: 96%

Total Online Master's Programs: 9

Program Name: Master of arts in counseling

Graduate Tuition In State: $12,055

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $31,215

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#12

Thomas University

School Information
Location Thomasville, Georgia
Admission Rate 38%
Graduation Rate 47%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 100% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Located in Thomasville, Georgia, Thomas University offers an online master's in counseling. Graduates prepare for advanced roles in the field during the rigorous program. A master's degree can also lead candidates to new career paths.

The master's curriculum covers theoretical and practical approaches to counseling. Learners choose electives and concentrations to prepare for focused career paths. The master's program recommends a background in counseling for applicants.

Online enrollees can often complete professional internships at approved locations in their own community. The program hosts networking events and other professional development activities to help graduate students expand their professional connections.

Thomas University at a Glance:

Type of School: Private, nonprofit, four-year

Admission Rate: 38%

Total Online Master's Programs: 8

Program Name: Master of science in counseling

Graduate Tuition In State: $11,790

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $11,790

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#13

Governors State University

School Information
Location University Park, Illinois
Admission Rate 46%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 31% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

From its campus in University Park, Illinois, Governors State University hosts a top-ranked master's in addictions studies program. The master of health science in addictions studies program emphasizes advanced practice skills, training graduates for leadership roles with increased earning potential. Earning a master's degree can help candidates advance in their current career or pursue a new professional path entirely.

The master's curriculum covers methodological and research perspectives on addictions studies. Learners focus their training by choosing electives based on their interests and career goals. Applicants without a degree in addictions studies or a related field may need to meet prerequisite requirements to enroll in the program.

Online enrollees work with the program to identify internship opportunities at approved sites in their local community. Graduate students expand their professional network through internships and online events.

Governors State University at a Glance:

Type of School: Public, four-year

Admission Rate: 46%

Total Online Master's Programs: 2

Program Name: Master of health science in addictions studies

Graduate Tuition In State: $6,354

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $12,708

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#14

Wright State University

School Information
Location Dayton, Ohio
Admission Rate 95%
Graduation Rate 45%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 37% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Based in Dayton, Ohio, Wright State University hosts a top-rated online master's in addiction counseling. The program draws on a rigorous curriculum that prepares graduates for leadership responsibilities. Earning a master's degree can help candidates move into a new career path or advance in their current field.

The master's curriculum explores research and methodologies. Learners prepare for focused career paths by choosing electives and concentrations. The master's program recommends a background in addiction counseling or a related field for those applying.

Online enrollees work with the program to find internship opportunities in their local area. Graduate students also build professional connections through virtual networking events and other activities.

Wright State University at a Glance:

Type of School: Public, four-year

Admission Rate: 95%

Total Online Master's Programs: 6

Program Name: Master of rehabilitation counseling in addiction counseling

Graduate Tuition In State: $14,298

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $24,286

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#15

Cornerstone University

School Information
Location Grand Rapids, Michigan
Admission Rate 78%
Graduation Rate 60%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 26% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Graduate students interested in a master's in counseling can earn their degree from Cornerstone University, located in Grand Rapids. Graduates prepare for advanced roles in the field during the rigorous MA in clinical mental health counseling program. A master's degree also helps candidates pursue new career paths.

The master's curriculum emphasizes research methods and analytical skills. Learners take specialized courses to stand out in a competitive job market. The admission requirements include a background in counseling or a related field.

Online enrollees meet any in-person requirements, such as internships, at approved sites in their local area. Graduate students expand their professional network through internships and online events.

Cornerstone University at a Glance:

Type of School: Private, nonprofit, four-year

Admission Rate: 78%

Total Online Master's Programs: 10

Program Name: MA in clinical mental health counseling

Graduate Tuition In State: $13,680

Graduate Tuition Out of State: $13,680

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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

Here at TheBestSchools.org, 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 AcademicInfluence.com, 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.

If you have questions about our ranking methodology, please feel free to connect with our staff through contact page.

We thank you for your readership and trust.

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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