In this article, we profile the top 20 master’s in addiction counseling online programs of 2020.
With the number of opioid addiction treatments increasing worldwide and legal changes to the handling of drug-related offenses, treatment and intervention is needed now more than ever. Today, many drug offenders receive treatment-oriented sentences rather than jail time. Due to the increased demand for treatment options, the hiring of addiction counselors is on the rise. However, you will need a degree in addiction counseling, such as an online master’s in addiction counseling, to qualify for these jobs. Online addiction counseling programs are available from accredited colleges and universities. Below are affordable and accredited options for earning a master’s in addiction counseling online.
Top 20 Master’s in Addiction Counseling Online Programs Methodology
We reviewed approximately 55 colleges and universities listed by the Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) College Navigator and reputable online sources that offered online master’s in addiction counseling and closely related disciplines. We narrowed our original pool of schools by applying the following criteria: accreditation (regional and/or national), institution rankings with U.S. News and World Report, and affordable graduate tuition and fees of approximately $36,000 or less per year. We ranked our chosen schools according to raw affordability.
Below are the resulting selections for our top 20 master’s in addiction counseling online programs.
#20 – Drexel University
Online Master’s in Addiction Counseling
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $36,021
The master’s in addiction counseling online program at Drexel University is designed to equip students with the ability to apply evidence-based practices to help individuals with addiction disorders. The program is organized into four ten-week quarters per year. Courses cover a wide range of counseling and addiction therapy topics. These courses include approaches to substance use disorders, ethical issues in addictions counseling, human development, motivational enhancement strategies, and treatment planning and relapse prevention. Admission to the program requires a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university and a 2.5 GPA. While specific clinical or volunteer work is not required, the admission board indicates that it could make your application more competitive. In addition to Drexel’s quality graduate programs and rigor, the school ranks with U.S. News and World Report as the 97th best national university.
#19 – Monmouth University
Online Master’s in Addiction Studies
West Long Branch, New Jersey
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $27,838
Monmouth University’s online master’s in addiction counseling program consists of 33 credits and prepares students to become Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselors (LCADC). Courses are offered in a flexible format with online or evening options and in-class or hybrid instruction. Courses cover clinical alcohol and drug counseling topics such as crisis intervention, group counseling, introduction to alcohol and drug abuse, mental health counseling, substance awareness in schools, and theories of counseling. This program is accredited by the International Coalition of Addiction Studies Educators (INCASE) and the National Addiction Studies Accreditation Commission (NASAC). In addition to the accreditation, Monmouth ranks with U.S. News and World Report as the 28th best regional university in the North.
#18 – Antioch University
Online Master’s in Clinical Mental Health – Substance Abuse and Addictions Counseling
Keene, New Hampshire
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $22,650
Antioch University’s master’s in addiction counseling online program consists of 60 credits and prepares graduates to make a difference on individuals, communities, and families affected by substance abuse. A mix of online and in-person classes prepare students for careers as addiction counselors. These courses cover topics like career and lifestyle, counseling theories, family counseling for addiction, human development, integrative approaches to addiction, and research and evaluation. Graduates of the program may apply for professional credentials, including licensure and certification for professional practice. U.S. News and World Report recognizes Antioch among the top regional universities in the Midwest.
#17 – Nova Southeastern University
Online Master’s in Counseling – Substance Abuse Counseling
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $21,206
Nova Southeastern University’s online addiction counseling programs include the master’s in counseling degree with a concentration in substance abuse counseling. This 48-credit hour program provides training to individuals who desire to work in a professional counselor role in the substance abuse and addiction field. The online format offers a flexible learning environment. Classes are taught exclusively online and cover topics like counseling theories and practice, human growth and development, research and evaluation for counselors, and substance abuse. Nova Southeastern ranks with major publications like U.S. News and World Report as the 248th best national university in the country.
#16 – University of Mary
Online Master’s in Counseling, Addiction Counseling
Bismarck, North Dakota
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $17,694
University of Mary’s master’s in addiction counseling online degree program can be completed in as little as 20 months, making it one of the quickest online master’s in addiction counseling programs on our list. While most of the program adheres to an online format, the program is considered to be blended, as students meet in-person once per week at the downtown location. However, online video conferencing makes up most of the rest of the program. Courses cover topics like clinical supervision, prevention and intervention strategies, and substance abuse counseling. In addition to offering accredited graduate programs online, the school has received rankings from U.S. News and World Report. In fact, 2020 rankings for University of Mary include #293-#381 in best national universities.
#15 – Regent University
Online Master’s in Human Services – Addictions Counseling
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $16,952
Regent University’s online master’s in addiction counseling requires no GRE for admission and can be completed fully online. This non-licensure counseling degree program trains individuals with faith-based interventions and courses taught online. As a Christian university, the curriculum is delivered through principles and values that adhere to the Christian faith. Courses run eight weeks in length and are taught with a combination of real-time interaction with professors, podcast lectures, small group projects, and asynchronous chat room discussions. These courses cover topics like behavioral science foundations, foundations of human services, multicultural awareness and individual diversity, and professional ethics in the human services fields. As of 2020, Regent ranks with U.S. News and World Report as the 281st best national university and 49th top performer on social mobility.
#14 – Virginia Commonwealth University
Online Master’s in Addiction Studies
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $15,086
Virginia Commonwealth University’s online master’s in addiction counseling program offers a fully online degree with a unique collaboration. VCU is in an arrangement with King’s College London and the University of Adelaide in Australia to allow students to complete the distance-learning degree from across the globe. By taking online courses taught by esteemed professors, students earn their master’s in addiction studies using a convenient and flexible format. Courses include addiction policy, public health issues and approaches to addictions, the biological basis of addiction, and treatment of addiction. VCU also offers a strong reputation and rankings with major publications. In fact, VCU ranks #162 in best national universities by U.S. News and World Report.
#13 – Wright State University
Online Master’s in Addiction Counseling
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $14,298
The accredited master’s in addiction counseling online program at Wright State University is offered through the school’s College of Education and Human Services. Classes are delivered online and taught by university professors. These courses cover topics in addiction counseling like assessment and evaluation in counseling, counseling for lifespan development, diagnosis and clinical counseling practice, multicultural counseling, and techniques of counseling. Admission to the online master’s program requires a minimum GRE score and cumulative GPA of at least 2.7. Wright State ranks with U.S. News and World Report as the 293rd to 381st best national university and 348th top performer on social mobility.
#12 – Indiana Wesleyan University
Online Master’s in Clinical Addictions Counseling
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $13,440
At Indiana Wesleyan University, the online addiction counseling programs include an online master’s in clinical addictions counseling. This 48-credit hour program is designed to help students meet credential requirements. The program adheres to contemporary evidence-based practice and integrates a Christian worldview approach to behavioral and social sciences. Courses can be completed entirely online and cover topics like appraisal of individuals and families, counseling addicted families, issues in addiction recovery, and theory and techniques in group counseling. IWU ranks with U.S. News and World Report as the 25th best regional university in the Midwest. In addition to school rankings, IWU is fully accredited and offers affordable graduate tuition.
#11 – Mid-American Christian University
Online Master’s in Addiction & Substance Abuse Counseling
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $11,484
The master’s in addiction counseling online program at Mid-American Christian University provides training and skills students need to support individuals suffering from alcohol, drugs, and other substance abuse disorders. What sets apart MACU’s program is that instructors teach from a Christian perspective and prepare students to seek licensure as a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LADC) or mental health counselor in the state of Oklahoma. Classes are delivered entirely online and students admitted to the program need no background in counseling. MACU is an accredited private institution that has earned recognition from U.S. News and World Report among the top regional universities in the West.
#10 – Grand Canyon University
Online Master’s in Addiction Counseling
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $11,074
Substance abuse and addictive disorders impact children and adults. The online master’s in addiction counseling offered at Grand Canyon University prepares students to help families successfully overcome substance use. Through online courses taught by university professors, students earn a master’s in addiction counseling while continuing to work and balance their own family obligations. These courses cover substance abuse and addiction counseling topics like counseling theories, group counseling theory and practice, and psychopharmacology and addictions. GCU’s program consists of 36 credits and classes run eight weeks in length. GCU ranks with U.S. News and World Report as the 293rd to 381st best national university and 42nd top performer on social mobility.
#9 – West Virginia University
Online Master’s in Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling
Morgantown, West Virginia
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $10,134
West Virginia University’s online addiction counseling programs include the master’s in clinical rehabilitation and mental health counseling degree. To earn this online master’s degree, students must complete 18 required courses and a total of 63 credit hours. The program is fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and CACREP. Online courses, taught by WVU’s esteemed faculty, cover topics in rehabilitation and mental health counseling. These courses include special topics courses that may apply to individuals seeking credentials in mental health counseling and substance abuse counseling. Admission to the program requires an earned bachelor’s degree with a minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.8. In addition to accreditation and affordable tuition, WVU ranks with U.S. News and World Report as the 228th best national university in the country.
#8 – Union College
Online Master’s in Substance Abuse Counseling
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $9,650
Union College offers a graduate degree designed for those seeking an online master’s in addiction counseling. The master’s in substance abuse counseling program is a fully online, 60-credit hour program that was recently ranked for affordability and performance. In fact, as of 2020, U.S. News and World Report ranks Union College #45 in best national liberal arts colleges, #43 in most innovative schools, and #82 in best value institutions. To complete the online master’s in addiction counseling, students must take and pass required courses. These courses include a series of foundational classes, substance abuse core classes, and electives. Some of the courses include topics like multicultural and diversity issues, psychology and addiction, and recovery and relapse.
#7 – Washburn University
Online Master’s in Human Services & Addiction Counseling
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $9,416
One of the most affordable online addiction counseling programs on our list comes from Washburn University. The online master’s in human services and addiction counseling is a 36-credit-hour program that can be completed entirely online. Part-time and full-time enrollment options add to the program’s flexibility. Courses cover human services and addiction counseling topics, such as advanced methods of individual counseling, diagnosis of substance use disorders, and professional ethics and practice. The program is approved by NAADAC and the Kansas Behavioral Sciences Regulatory Board to provide the curriculum required to become a Licensed Masters Addiction Counselor (LMAC) and a Licensed Clinical Addictions Counselor (LCAC). This quality program also ranks with U.S. News and World Report as a top national university.
#6 – Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
Online Master’s in Addiction Counseling
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $9,401
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center offers an accredited online master’s in addiction counseling degree. The goal of the master’s degree program is to provide a practitioner training program that focuses on meeting the needs of diverse populations, especially in rural areas. The program consists of 60 credits. Classes cover topics like foundations of addiction counseling and ethical development, multicultural counseling, neurobiology of addiction, psychopathology and diagnosis, and treatment planning and case management. Texas Tech was recently recognized by U.S. News and World Report as a top health professional school and ranks on our list as a top most affordable school for master’s in addiction counseling online program.
#5 – Saint Cloud State University
Online Master’s in Rehabilitation and Addiction Counseling
Saint Cloud, Minnesota
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $8,572
The cheap online addiction counseling programs available at Saint Cloud State University include the online master’s in rehabilitation and addiction counseling. Traditionally an on-campus program, the master’s degree does offer some courses online. All new students, both part-time and full-time, must also attend a fall semester orientation meeting held early in the fall semester. Other on-campus requirements must also be met; thus, the program is considered to be hybrid in its format, rather than exclusively online. The program’s focus is on addiction studies, rehabilitation counseling, and treatment and psychological services. St. Cloud State ranks with U.S. News and World Report as the 105th best regional university in the Midwest.
#4 – Liberty University
Online Master’s in Addiction Counseling
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $8,333
Liberty University’s master’s in addiction counseling online program consists of 48 credit hours and takes two years to complete. Courses run eight weeks in length and are designed to educate students with the training needed for certification and licensure as an addiction or substance abuse counselor. Courses, delivered online, cover topics like assessment techniques in counseling, ethical and legal issues in counseling, group dynamics, techniques in addiction counseling, and theories of family systems. Optional credits may be earned to obtain certification as a Certified Substance Abuse Counselor (CSAC). In addition to being affordable, Liberty ranks with U.S. News and World Report among the top 381 best national universities in the country.
#3 – Governors State University
Online Master of Health Science in Addiction Studies
University Park, Illinois
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $8,282
At Governors State University, students may earn an online master’s in addiction counseling degree that can be completed in a variety of formats. Hybrid (fifty percent online studies), fully in-class, or entirely online classes are available. The program is comprehensive, according to the website. Curriculum emphasizes all aspects of health science and addiction studies. Course requirements include clinical models of addiction, group techniques, psychopharmacology, and substance abuse prevention. To be eligible for admission, applicants must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5 for all undergraduate courses. In recent publications of Best Colleges published by U.S. News and World Report, Governors State ranked #117-#153 in best regional universities Midwest.
#2 – University of South Dakota
Online Master’s in Addiction Studies
Vermillion, South Dakota
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $7,043
University of South Dakota’s online addiction counseling programs include the master’s in addiction studies. This 33-credit hour program can be completed following a standard track or advanced track. The standard track, which consists of 45 credits, takes a little longer to complete than the advanced track. Required courses for both tracks include addiction counseling, addiction studies research, case management and assessment of co-occurring disorders, history and culture of addiction, and public policy and addiction. USD ranks with U.S. News and World Report as the 263rd best national university and the 128th top public school in the country.
#1 – University of the Cumberlands
Online Master’s in Addiction Counseling
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $5,970
University of the Cumberlands offers the most affordable master’s in addiction counseling online program on our list. This fully online program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). Specialized courses cover topics like family therapy in addiction treatment, motivation and change, psychopharmacology and addictions, and spirituality and values in counseling. In addition to CACREP accreditation, the university ranks with major publications like U.S. News and World Report. In fact, 2020 rankings include #293-#381 in top national universities and #17 in top performers on social mobility. For the most affordable addiction counseling online programs, University of the Cumberlands offers quality graduate degrees.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the admission requirements for a master’s in addiction counseling online program?
To earn a master’s in addiction counseling online degree, you must first be admitted to a program. Affordable and accredited programs, like those listed above, have admission criteria that applicants must meet to be admitted to the program.
The most common admission requirement for a master’s in addiction counseling online degree is an earned bachelor’s degree. At minimum, students applying to graduate programs, such as the online master’s in addiction counseling, must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Some programs ask that the bachelor’s degree be regionally accredited, while other programs will accept nationally accredited degrees. Also, the bachelor’s degree does not usually have to be in any certain discipline. Most programs on our list accept accredited bachelor’s degrees in any discipline. However, some exceptions may apply.
Another common admission requirement is graduate test scores. Top-ranked programs require GRE scores. These programs may even ask for minimum test scores. However, this is not the case across the board. Many online master’s in addiction counseling programs on our list do not require GRE scores for admission.
Additional requirements include letters of recommendations, statement of purpose, and internship or work experience. Since each program is unique, it is important to review admission requirements before selecting your top choice schools. Knowing the admission requirements ahead of time will save you time and money.
What classes will I take for a master’s in addiction counseling online degree?
Required classes vary by program, but across the board, students enrolled in master’s in addiction counseling online programs generally cover similar topics. Curricula cover topics in addiction counseling, prevention, and relapse. Addiction counseling courses dig deep into studies on groups and individuals. Common course topics include addiction policy, psychopathology and psychopharmacology, relapse prevention, research and clinical practice, and research methodology in addictions.
Since online addiction counseling programs often cover more than just mental health and substance abuse topics, it is not uncommon to take classes in public health, public policy, and psychology. Also, some programs offer addiction policy classes. These courses explore the nature and development of addiction-related public policy and cover law and policy topics related to addiction and substance abuse.
In addition to these common courses, online master’s in addiction counseling programs offer research and methodology training. The research courses instruct students on contemporary practices and methods for analyzing data and researching addiction. Other classes common in addiction counseling graduate programs: clinical practice. These courses address client assessment, treatment options for patients, and substance screening.
While courses vary among programs, many have similarities. To better understand which courses will be required during your time earning an online master’s in addiction counseling, be sure to visit the program’s website for details.
What professional organizations can I join while earning a master’s in addiction counseling online degree?
Even as a graduate school student, joining a professional organization can benefit your career aspirations. Several organizations offer access for individuals enrolled in a master’s addiction counseling online programs. We’ve detailed these professional organizations below.
American Society of Addiction Medicine:
The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) offers membership and services to individuals who treat, teach, or research substance abuse. This means that graduate students conducting research in the field of substance abuse are eligible for membership. With membership, students gain access to advocacy, conference, and education opportunities. Also, ASAM leads the Coalition to Stop Opioid Overdose and aims at changing legislative policies and improving provider education.
NAADAC – Association for Addiction Professionals:
NAADAC offers a wide variety of membership opportunities, including channels for advocacy in Congress, education, and national and state conferences. With 10,000 members, networking events are plentiful. Members also gain access to online courses and discounted reference materials.
National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers:
The NAATP offers its members clinical resources and political and legal advocacy. While this organization is primarily for those already in practice, students may utilize the resources offered to navigate career goals. Members gain access to annual conferences, a membership directory, and newsletter. Also, the NAATP provides free access to salary surveys and career listings directories.
What is the job outlook for individuals with a master’s in addiction counseling online degree?
According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of addiction, behavioral disorder, mental health, and substance abuse counselors is expected to grow 22 percent between 2018 and 2028. As the average growth rate for all other occupations is five percent, the growth rate for substance abuse counselors is much faster.
So, why the anticipated employment growth rate? The growth is expected as a growing population seeks addiction and mental health counseling. Over the last decade, mental health awareness has become the norm. More people consider mental health as important as physical health. This was not the norm decades ago, but through mental health awareness and advocacy, mental health has become an important part of our lives.
For individuals requiring substance abuse counseling or addiction efforts, the demand for assistance is also on the rise. States seek treatment for addiction and counseling services for substance abuse offenders rather than jail time. With this shift comes a need for addiction and substance abuse counselors. This is especially true due to the ongoing research efforts that show counseling is more cost effective than incarceration. As a result, drug offenders will receive sentences that include counseling and treatment services rather than extended jail time.
How much money can I make with an online master’s in addiction counseling?
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the median annual wage for substance abuse and addictions counselors is $44,630, as of May 2018. The highest ten percent of earners made more than $72,990 while the lowest ten percent earned $28,240.
Substance abuse counselors generally work full time, though occasionally nights and weekends. In some settings, such as hospitals or inpatient facilities, work schedules for addictions counselors vary. Those in private practice keep routine hours, Monday through Friday.
BLS reports five top industries where substance abuse and addiction counselors earn the best pay. According to data collected in May 2018, government was the top industry. Substance abuse and addiction counselors working in government agencies earned a median annual wage of $51,690.
Other industries included hospitals (state, local, and private). Addiction counselors working in hospitals earned a median annual wage of $48,310. This is slightly higher than the overall average wage for this industry. Individual and family services agencies paid their counselors an average of $44,120 and outpatient mental health and substance abuse center counselors earned $43,120. The lowest paying industry on the list, residential mental health and substance abuse facilities, paid counselors $38,190 on average.
However, most people who pursue a career in addiction counseling do not do so for the money. It is a lifetime dedication to helping individuals who need help on this difficult journey.
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