Best Online Addiction Counseling Degrees

An online addiction studies degree provides learners with the foundational knowledge and basic set of skills necessary for counseling-related careers. These roles are in high demand as people continue to seek treatment and counseling services. According to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projections, jobs in mental health and substance abuse counseling will increase by 23% in coming years, much faster than average for all occupations nationwide.

Earning an online substance abuse degree has never been easier or more advantageous. This page explores some of these benefits, including common requirements and curricula, attainable careers, overall job outlook, and salary potential. It will also answer some common questions, so a prospective learner will know what to expect from their course of study and how to select an appropriate program.

How Much Can You Make in an Addiction Counseling Career?

Below are several common careers often associated with an online addiction counseling degree. While no degree automatically guarantees work, pursuing formal education and training in the field often leads to higher employment rates and increased earning power. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that median earnings increase by 57% with a bachelor's degree, and unemployment rates drop 4%. Earning a substance abuse degree online helps prospective learners take advantage of these trends by offering knowledge and resources necessary for career advancement.

Each listed career stands to benefit from increased job growth over the next decade and relies upon the set of core skills promoted by a typical substance abuse course of study.

Substance Abuse Counselor

Counselors in this profession work with patients who suffer from substance-related addictions, like alcoholism and drug dependency. While some maintain private practices, many work full-time in mental and community health centers, prisons, and rehabilitation facilities. They assist patients, helping them develop treatment plans to modify addictive behaviors. Training for this profession requires a bachelor's degree at minimum. Some facilities may also entail further, graduate-level education.

Median Annual Salary: $44,630

Job Growth: 23%

Correctional Treatment Specialist

These specialists focus on rehabilitating offenders of the law in custody, or on parole or probation. They provide social assistance services and work with their clients to develop productive strategies for societal reintegration. This position requires a relevant bachelor's degree, drug testing, and a criminal background check. Most correctional treatment specialists work in prisons, nonprofit organizations, and other law enforcement entities.

Median Annual Salary: $53,020

Job Growth: 6%

Social Worker

Professionals in this field work with individuals to develop coping strategies for problems that emerge in daily life. At times, they also treat and diagnose various mental, emotional, and behavioral issues. They tend to work in schools, mental health clinics, hospitals, nonprofit organizations, human services agencies, and private practices. While some positions may only need an undergraduate degree in the field, others require a master's degree.

Median Annual Salary: $49,470

Job Growth: 16%

Rehabilitation Counselor

Counselors focusing on rehabilitation assist persons with physical, mental, or developmental disabilities as they strive to live more independently. They help their clients manage the effects of their disabilities as they pertain to employment and mobility. Most rehabilitation counselors work full-time in health facilities, youth-oriented organizations, and senior citizen centers. A professional in this field generally holds a master's degree in a specialized area of expertise.

Median Annual Salary: $35,630

Job Growth: 13%

Community Service Manager

Community service managers administer, oversee, and direct programming for nonprofit organizations and other service-based agencies. These programs focus on various outreach activities and community building endeavors. This position requires a relevant, accredited bachelor's degree. Most community service managers secure full-time employment in nonprofit entities, government agencies, and private companies.

Median Annual Salary: $65,320

Job Growth: 18%

The availability of jobs and salary prospects differ in every industry, depending on the state and geographic region. Cost of living and localized demand for occupational skills will often account for these differences. Substance abuse counselors find the highest concentration of employment in Vermont, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania, according to the BLS. The same data shows California, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts employ the highest number of substance counselors, while salaries are the highest in Utah, Alaska, and the District of Columbia.

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What Courses Can Be Taken for an Online Addiction Counseling Degree?

The courses below represent a typical addiction counseling curriculum. Most online substance abuse counselor degree programs follow common learning objectives to establish foundational knowledge and develop core skills. A prospective learner can expect to take similar classes, but specific curricular requirements and degree details will vary by school. Degree seekers should check in with potential programs to make a responsible decision that meets their needs.

Introduction to Substance Abuse Counseling This course surveys some of the key concepts, techniques, and strategies used in addiction and substance abuse treatment. Learners can approach these components from a variety of historical, theoretical, and clinical perspectives.
Basic Pharmacology Degree seekers in this course examine the central tenets of pharmacology with special emphasis on their import in addiction and substance abuse disorders. Topics include the human nervous system, common physiological reactions, clinical trials, and prescription medications.
Foundations of Addiction This course examines addictive behaviors, including causes and effects as they relate to individual, familial, and societal factors. Learners can approach these topics with an interest in identification, treatment, and prevention.
Crisis Management This class provides degree seekers with the skills and knowledge necessary to manage and defuse crises as they pertain addiction and substance abuse. Subjects covered include childhood trauma, domestic violence, suicide and self-harm, and sexual assault.
Lifespan Development Learners in this course can explore addiction and substance abuse through the lens of lifelong psychological development. Learners can gain a working understanding of major patterns in human behavior as they evolve throughout the life cycle.

How to Choose the Best Online Addiction Counseling Program

This section addresses a few important factors to consider when choosing a school that offers an online addiction counseling degree. It also answers several common questions that will help learners find the best fitting program.

Major factors for consideration include overall school reputation, tuition rates, accreditation, faculty expertise, potential concentrations, and program requirements. All programs follow the same general learning objectives and develop the same set of skills, but each school exhibits its own unique approach to the fundamentals.

Q. How long can I expect to be in school?

A. Completion time will vary, depending on the program. However, a majority of programs require around 120 credits, achievable in four years or less. This includes both general education and core major requirements. The four-year route is based on full-time study and enrollment. For example, part-time learners will generally take longer. Some programs also offer accelerated or intensive enrollment options. These paths can significantly reduce the average timeframe.

Q. How much will my degree cost?

A. This also varies by school and region. According to U.S. News & World Report, most programs cost $38,000-$57,000, based on four years of full-time study. Other factors that can impact costs include state of residence and enrollment status. Learners who enroll at a school within their state of residence generally receive reduced tuition rates. Accelerated enrollment options, while certainly faster, can also incur higher costs.

Q. Do these programs offer any internships or field placements? Are they required?

A. Most schools offering an online substance abuse counselor degree provide required internships. Learners typically receive a placement once their coursework is complete. Designed to advance practical application, internships promote a comprehensive, integrative experience with direct supervision from industry experts. Most programs accommodate an online degree seeker by arranging an internship within their local area.

Q. Will my degree translate into licensure or professional certification?

A. An online substance abuse counselor degree does not lead to direct licensure in the field. However, the best courses of study do prepare learners for professional credentials by developing basic knowledge and promoting core skills. Licensure requirements and testing procedures will vary by state of employment, so degree seekers should consult the appropriate outlets. Most states require a written or oral examination.

Q. What about accreditation? Is it important?

A. Accreditation is incredibly important, as it validates the quality and value of higher education. Most schools receive regional or national accreditation from an independent body approved by the U.S. Department of Education, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, or both. Schools focusing primarily on academic education and training obtain regional accreditation, a more popular and reputable credential. Beyond that, individual programs within a school sometimes garner specialized accreditation. Bodies like the National Addiction Studies Accreditation Commission often grant this credential.

Scholarships and Financial Aid for Addiction Counseling Programs

Financial aid opportunities can help offset the rising costs of higher education. These opportunities come in many forms, including grants, scholarships, student loans, and work-study placements. Grants and scholarships offer the most benefit here because they do not require repayment, incur interest, or place additional demands on your time, unlike loans and work-study awards. Scholarships like those listed below remain available to all learners, including online addiction counseling degree seekers.

American Addiction Centers Behavioral Health Scholarship

This scholarship supports prospective professionals in social work, psychology, and counseling by offering $2,500, $5,000, and $10,000 awards each year. An eligible applicant must submit evidence of full or part-time enrollment in an accredited program indicating a 3.2 minimum cumulative GPA. They must also provide a short, first-person essay.

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The Recovery Village Health Care Scholarship

Recovery Village, a rehabilitation services provider, offers a $1,000 award to a qualifying learner pursuing a related course of study. Each applicant must be accepted or enrolled in an accredited program at the time of application and submit a 500-word essay that outlines their reasons for entering the field.

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William White Scholarship

Sponsored by the Association for Addiction Professionals, this scholarship provides one $1,000 annual award to an undergraduate degree seeker in addiction-related fields. Award selection is based on strong student research. An eligible applicant must retain membership with the association and maintain a B average. They must provide transcripts, letters of recommendation, and an APA-formatted research paper.

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Lullellia W. Harrison Scholarship

Administered by the National Education Foundation, this scholarship supports full-time learners studying some form of counseling at the graduate or undergraduate level. The award amount, funded by the Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., varies from $500 to $1,000 each year. An interested applicant must provide proof of enrollment in an accredited program with good standing.

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Alcohol.org Behavioral Health Academic Scholarship

Designed to encourage and empower learners to make a difference in health-related fields, this scholarship offers $2,500 and $5,000 awards each year. An eligible degree seeker must submit evidence of a 2.5 minimum cumulative GPA in pertinent course of study, including addiction counseling and behavioral health. Each applicant must complete the online application form and submit a 500-word essay related to their professional goals in the field.

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