Best Online Master's in Addiction Counseling of 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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Updated February 15, 2024

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Masters in Substance Abuse 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 18% from 2022-2032.

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

Online Master's in Addiction Counseling Summary

Rank School In-State Tuition Out-of-State Tuition Acceptance Rate
#1 Virginia Commonwealth University
Richmond, VA
$12,618 $25,956 93%
#2 University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, ND
$11,503 $17,254 89%
#3 Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
Lubbock, TX
$6,360 $16,176 Not provided
#4 Union College
Barbourville, KY
$8,160 $8,160 56%
#5 University of South Dakota
Vermillion, SD
$6,123 $11,773 87%
#6 Governors State University
University Park, IL
$6,354 $12,708 52%
#7 Campbellsville University
Campbellsville, KY
$8,473 $8,473 Not provided
#8 Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies
Center City, MN
$35,156 $35,156 Not provided
#9 Drexel University
Philadelphia, PA
$36,234 $36,234 83%
#10 Ottawa University-Kansas City
Overland Park, KS
$10,328 $10,328 Not provided

The Best Online Master's in Addiction Counseling Programs

#1 Best Online Master’s in Addiction Counseling of 2024

Virginia Commonwealth University

  • Richmond, VA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Programmatic Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges 

Cost per Credit:

In-State | $750

Out-of-State | $750

Credits to Graduate: 36

Virginia Commonwealth University's online master of science in addiction studies offers a distinctive comparative perspective to addiction science administered in collaboration with King's College London and the University of Adelaide in Australia. 

This unique program provides students with a cross-cultural approach to prevention, treatment, research, and policy issues, preparing them for leadership and policy positions. In addition to coursework that covers the biological basis of addiction, treatment, and global public policy, the curriculum requires six credit hours dedicated to an addiction-related research project.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$12,094
Out-of-state
$32,742
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$12,618
Out-of-state
$25,956
Retention Rate
84%
Acceptance Rate
93%
Students Enrolled
28,594
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
80% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#2 Best Online Master’s in Addiction Counseling of 2024

University of North Dakota

  • Grand Forks, ND
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Programmatic Accreditation: Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council

Cost per Credit:

In-State | $800

Out-of-State | $800

Credits to Graduate: 60-65

For students who prefer the flexibility of an asynchronous online degree, the master of arts in counseling at the University of North Dakota could be the right fit. The specialized track in addiction counseling prepares graduates for careers as licensed counselors and provides the background for doctoral studies later on.

The curriculum's multicultural approach highlights equitable access to addiction counseling for historically underserved populations. Distance learners may complete the required internship placement at a location in or near their home communities. 

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$8,882
Out-of-state
$13,323
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$11,503
Out-of-state
$17,254
Retention Rate
77%
Acceptance Rate
89%
Students Enrolled
13,772
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
70% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#3 Best Online Master’s in Addiction Counseling of 2024

Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center

  • Lubbock, TX
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Programmatic Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

Cost per Credit:

In-State | $50

Out-of-State | $470

Credits to Graduate: 60

One of the nation's first counseling education programs to offer training in both clinical counseling and the use of telehealth services is the master of science in addiction counseling at TTUHSC. This program focuses on the application of telehealth addiction counseling services to meet the needs of underserved populations, particularly those in rural areas. 

This online master's program, which includes a telehealth certification, prepares graduates for state licensure as professional counselors. The online delivery format provides distance learners with the flexibility to complete their degrees while maintaining work and personal responsibilities.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$6,665
Out-of-state
$19,344
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$6,360
Out-of-state
$16,176
Retention Rate
Not provided
Acceptance Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
5,378
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
64% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#4 Best Online Master’s in Addiction Counseling of 2024

Union College

  • Barbourville, KY
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Programmatic Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges 

Cost per Credit:

In-State | $370

Out-of-State | $370

Credits to Graduate: 60

A good fit for busy students seeking a user-friendly online counseling program, the master of science in substance abuse at Union College features six starting dates throughout the year and eight-week course sessions. 

The online and hybrid format allows distance learners to take courses based on their schedule while exploring topics, such as chemical dependency and treatment; recovery and relapse; and multicultural and diversity issues. The required one-semester supervised field experience practicum and two-semester internship provide comprehensive work experience in professional counseling settings.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$27,119
Out-of-state
$27,119
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$8,160
Out-of-state
$8,160
Retention Rate
60%
Acceptance Rate
56%
Students Enrolled
1,024
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
72% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#5 Best Online Master’s in Addiction Counseling of 2024

University of South Dakota

  • Vermillion, SD
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Programmatic Accreditation: National Addiction Studies Accreditation Commission

Cost per Credit:

In-State | $470

Out-of-State | $470

Credits to Graduate: 33-45

The University of South Dakota's master of arts in addiction counseling and prevention explores contemporary and future addiction challenges, co-occurring disorders, and prevention. Designed for working professionals, the online degree requires between 33 and 45 hours, depending on previously earned credits and current certification.

The curriculum covers foundational addiction courses in theories and research, treatment, case management and assessment, and elective opportunities in topics like Native Americans and substance use and addiction and gambling and process addiction. The optional specialization in co-occurring conditions includes coursework in psychopathology and relapse prevention.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$7,773
Out-of-state
$11,283
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$6,123
Out-of-state
$11,773
Retention Rate
77%
Acceptance Rate
87%
Students Enrolled
9,464
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
56% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#6 Best Online Master’s in Addiction Counseling of 2024

Governors State University

  • University Park, IL
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Programmatic Accreditations: National Addiction Studies Accreditation Commission; Illinois Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Professional Certification Association

Cost per Credit:

In-State | $368

Out-of-State | $736

Credits to Graduate: 32

Emphasizing evidence-based and multicultural perspectives, the online master of health science in addictions studies at Governors State University provides a broad foundation in etiology and epidemiology; educational and community health approaches to prevention; clinical reasoning in treatment; and historical, legal, and political considerations. 

The curriculum focuses on equipping future substance use counselors with the cultural understanding and sensitivity skills needed to appreciate and respond to diverse cultures and communities. Graduates of the program meet the educational eligibility requirements for addiction counselor certification.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$7,512
Out-of-state
$15,024
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$6,354
Out-of-state
$12,708
Retention Rate
48%
Acceptance Rate
52%
Students Enrolled
4,395
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
66% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#7 Best Online Master’s in Addiction Counseling of 2024

Campbellsville University

  • Campbellsville, KY
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Programmatic Accreditation: Council on Social Work Education

Cost per Credit:

In-State | $603

Out-of-State | $603

Credits to Graduate: 60

Grounded in a Christian perspective, Campbellsville University's master of social work degree features an optional area of focus in addictions. Completion of the addictions track prepares graduates for licensure as clinical drug and alcohol counselors. 

Designed for students with an undergraduate degree in non-social work fields, the online MSW degree requires a foundational core in social work. After completion of the foundations, distance learners may choose the specialized clinical and addictions focus that covers topics, such as clinical diagnosis, psychopharmacology, and trauma-informed practice. 

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$24,900
Out-of-state
$24,900
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$8,473
Out-of-state
$8,473
Retention Rate
61%
Acceptance Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
10,238
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
70% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#8 Best Online Master’s in Addiction Counseling of 2024

Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies

  • Center City, MN
  • 4 years
  • Online

Programmatic Accreditation: Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

Cost per Credit:

In-State | $829

Out-of-State | $829

Credits to Graduate: 60

An affiliate of one of the leading nonprofit treatment providers, the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies offers a master's in addiction counseling emphasizing integrated recovery for co-occurring disorders. The dual focus on substance use and mental health disorders covers topics, such as differential diagnosis, trauma-informed treatment, and recovery management.

The mostly online program requires two on-campus residencies at the Center City, Minnesota, campus. Distance learners may complete their internships at one of the Hazelden Betty Ford treatment centers or other approved facilities that support their professional goals.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
Not provided
Out-of-state
Not provided
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$35,156
Out-of-state
$35,156
Retention Rate
Not provided
Acceptance Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
172
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
91% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

#9 Best Online Master’s in Addiction Counseling of 2024

Drexel University

  • Philadelphia, PA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Programmatic Accreditation: Middle State Commission on Higher Education

Cost per Credit:

In-State | $631

Out-of-State | $631

Credits to Graduate: 73.5

Drexel University's online master's degree in addiction counseling appeals to working professionals and those interested in learning the best ways to address clinical problems associated with substance use disorders. The degree also provides a pathway to eligibility for certification as an advanced alcohol and drug counselor.

The online format delivers classes in four 10-week quarters each academic year. The evidence-based practice curriculum features coursework in areas of psychopharmacology and addictions, treatment planning and relapse prevention, psychopathology and co-occurring disorders, and substance use counseling with special populations.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$54,766
Out-of-state
$54,766
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$36,234
Out-of-state
$36,234
Retention Rate
90%
Acceptance Rate
83%
Students Enrolled
23,216
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
50% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

#10 Best Online Master’s in Addiction Counseling of 2024

Ottawa University-Kansas City

  • Overland Park, KS
  • 4 years
  • Online

Programmatic Accreditation: National Addiction Studies Accreditation Commission

Cost per Credit:

In-State | $635

Out-of-State | $635

Credits to Graduate: 36

Aspiring substance use counselors looking for an accelerated graduate program should consider the online master of science in addiction counseling at Ottawa University-Kansas City. The fully online format delivers courses in eight-week terms, reducing the time needed to complete all degree requirements.

The curriculum integrates evidence-based counseling theory, research, and practice, providing students with a strong foundation for doctoral studies or professional practice in addiction counseling, human services, and other related fields. Graduates of the program fulfill the educational eligibility requirements for licensure or certification in many states.

Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$12,229
Out-of-state
$12,229
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$10,328
Out-of-state
$10,328
Retention Rate
Not provided
Acceptance Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
551
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
100% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission

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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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Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology

About Our Ranking Factors

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Academics - 75%

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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.

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: $49,710 Projected Job Growth: 18%

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: $55,350 Projected Job Growth: 7%

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: $39,990 Projected Job Growth: 2%

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does It Take to Complete a Master's in Addiction 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 Addiction 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 an Addiction Counselor?

According to PayScale, the bottom 10th percentile of substance abuse counselors earn an annual salary of $30,320, while those in the 90th percentile take home about $54,205 annually. The median salary is $41,226.

What Is Substance Abuse and Addiction 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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