Online Master's Programs in Addiction Counseling

Take the first step toward a new and better career by earning a master's in addiction counseling online. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects jobs for professionals in the addictions and behavioral health industry to increase by 22% from 2018 through 2028. If you currently hold a bachelor's degree, a master's in addiction counseling might give you an edge to switch occupations or advance your current career. The distance-learning component allows students to maintain a full-time work schedule and earn their degree in less than two years with accelerated classes.

Read on to see what it takes to earn a master's in addiction counseling online and the salaries available after graduation.

What Can I Learn in an Online Master's in Addiction Counseling Program?

Students can move beyond entry-level counseling positions by earning master's degrees in addiction counseling online. Master's-level curricula focus on teaching students cognitive and behavioral therapy techniques used in clinical settings. They also learn to administer treatment, clinically assess clients, arrange ongoing treatment and care, and handle case management.

Most coursework runs fully online, but many addiction counseling master's programs provide students with clinical field experience through practicums or internships. Students can also specialize in subfields such as relapse prevention, eating disorders, and co-occurring disorders such as anxiety and depression. Programs may lead to certification or prepare students for licensure.

What Common Courses Are Offered in a Master's in Addiction Counseling Program?

Advanced Pharmacology

This course offers a broad overview of the effects of drug addiction, including dependency and withdraw. Students explore the sociological, psychological, and physiological effects of addiction. At the end of the course, they can identify the psychoactive drugs used in mental health treatment and create substance abuse prevention and treatment plans.

CBT Approaches to Stress Reduction

Professionals working in addiction counseling must understand cognitive-behavioral therapy methods to reduce stress for their self-care and to help clients. This course teaches students the therapeutic benefits of practicing acts of mindfulness. They also learn how thoughts cause behaviors and feelings and how to become self-aware and alter those thoughts.

Diagnosis Substance Use Disorders

Students deepen their understanding of the assessment and diagnosis process in this class, moving beyond the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. They develop diagnostic techniques and tools to evaluate and assess individuals for behavioral health and substance abuse disorders. This class includes lessons on how to document clinical evaluations and develop treatment interventions.

Integrative Approaches for Dual Disorders

The materials and lessons in this class teach students to identify in the clinical evaluation and assessment process co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorders. Students learn about how to avoid risks and the strategies to employ when integrating treatment for individuals with dual disorders such as addiction and depression.

Public Policy and Addiction

This course teaches students about the history of public policy and addiction. Students analyze social problems and determine the effectiveness of public policy. They also gather research on causes and potential solutions to pressing addiction and mental health issues. By the end of the course, they know how to impact public policy change.

What Exams or Projects Should I Expect?

When you earn a master's in addiction counseling online you can expect, in place of a final exam, to take a practicum or internship. In a supervised clinical setting, juniors and seniors perform the tasks expected of professionals. Internships require a set number of supervised hours and direct contact hours in which students counsel individuals one-on-one. Addiction counseling master's programs often prepare students to gain licensure or certification, but students typically take exams after graduation.

What Specializations Are Available in a Master's in Addiction Counseling Program?

Do not expect to find the same specializations or concentrations in all addiction counseling master's programs. Many do not offer specializations at all. Specialization offerings vary, but prospective students can gain a general understanding of specialized training in a master's of addiction counseling by reviewing the concentration options below.


A concentration in psychology suits students who currently work in counseling and want to deepen their knowledge of the psychological theories of addiction. Students enrolled in a psychology specialty study various commonly abused substances and the issues contributing to addiction.

Child and Adolescent Counseling

Future school counselors who want to work with adolescents and children can concentrate in school counseling. This specialty introduces students to the theories, methods, and legal regulations governing counseling children and adolescents.

Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Students pursuing a clinical mental health counseling concentration gain the research and evaluation tools to become mental health and school counselors. Materials cover advanced treatment interventions, diagnosis and treatment, and psychological testing for case evaluations.

What Can I Do with a Master's in Addiction Counseling Degree?

A master of addiction counseling degree provides the opportunity to earn licensure or certification in a variety of industries. Graduates work in schools, hospitals, clinics, and government agencies. The work setting a graduate picks depends on their interests. Look below to find at the common job openings available to graduates with master's of addiction counseling degrees.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

To provide psychological counseling, professionals must become licensed clinical social workers in the states in which they want to work. Candidates must hold master's degrees in addiction counseling or social work.


To teach in a community college or serve as an adjunct professor at a four-year school, candidates must hold at least a master's degree. Full-time professors at four-year colleges almost always need doctoral degrees.

School Counselor

Employers require schools counselors to hold master's degrees and state certification or licensure. Many counselors have teaching experience. Counselors work in elementary, junior high, and high schools, and for social assistance agencies.

Clinical Social Worker

Social workers only need a bachelor's degree, but clinical social workers must hold a master's degree and clinical work experience, which they can earn in school.

Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

Employers usually require a master's degree for mental health counselor positions. These counselors help people cope with stress, depression, or grief. Substance abuse counselors also help people suffering from drug and alcohol addiction.

How Much Can I Make with a Career in Addiction Counseling?

The information listed below offers a broad picture of the potential salaries you could secure after earning a master's in addiction counseling online. Below you can also find job growth data, which tells job seekers which industries and positions potentially have more job security. This degree does not guarantee you a job or paycheck.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

LCSWs work in clinics, hospitals, hospices, rehabilitation centers, and clients' homes. They evaluate and help people coping with mental health and substance abuse issues. LCSWs diagnose clients and work with doctors and clients' families to implement treatment plans.

Median Annual Salary: $49,470

Job Growth (2016-2026): 11%


With a master of addiction counseling degree, graduates can teach subjects in their expertise. Many professors have work experience in clinical addiction counseling settings. They teach courses in social work, addiction counseling, and human services. Their daily duties include teaching classes, grading papers, facilitating online discussion, and helping students one-on-one through email or during their office hours.

Median Annual Salary: $78,470

Job Growth (2016-2026): 11%

School Counselor

School counselors work in elementary, middle, and high schools. They help students find solutions to academic, social, and mental health issues. They also work in colleges and private agencies. Counselors meet with parents and teachers to ensure students meet educational and behavioral goals. Counselors must also report incidences of abuse or neglect to governmental agencies.

Median Annual Salary: $56,310

Job Growth (2016-2026): 8%

Social and Community Service Managers

Social and community service managers, also called community directors, oversee the everyday operations of social service programs and nonprofit organizations. Their duties include monitoring the effectiveness of programs, measuring outcomes, and speaking to the press to publicize their programs. Managers often write proposals to find grant funding for programs, as well.

Median Annual Salary: $65,320

Job Growth (2016-2026): 13%

Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

Counselors for substance abuse, behavioral disorders, and mental health assess and create appropriate treatment plans for clients. They also help individuals find the resources they need, including housing and job information. On a regular workday, they may also lead outreach programs to raise awareness about addiction and mental health issues.

Median Annual Salary: $44,630

Job Growth (2016-2026): 22%

Online Master's in Addiction Counseling Program Accreditation

As is the case with regional and national college accreditation, addiction counseling master's programs also receive accreditation. Accreditation provides quality assurance for graduate students who can trust that their program's curriculum meets certain academic standards.

The main accrediting bodies for addiction counseling master's programs include the Master's in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council, Substance Abuse and Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs, American Psychology Association, Council on Social Work and National Addiction Studies Accreditation Commission. Some programs hold accreditation from state accrediting bodies.

How to Pay for a Master's in Addiction Counseling Degree

Several methods exist to help students pay for addiction counseling masters programs. At the graduate level, students can take out loans and find work-study or research opportunities that provide them with money to go to school. Below you can find three possible methods to help you pay for your degree.

Techniques for Financing a Master's in Addiction Counseling


Students enrolled in master's in addiction counseling online degree programs can apply for fellowships to fund their education. Unlike scholarships, fellowships such as the NBCC Minority Fellowship Program for Addiction Counselors require work, internship, or research commitments.

Financial Aid

Most students rely on some sort of federal financial aid through the U.S. Department of Education. To receive financial funds, students must first complete a FAFSA form. Graduate students qualify for unsubsidized Stafford or Graduate PLUS loans.

Scholarships for Master's in Addiction Counseling Students

American Addiction Centers Behavioral Health Academic Scholarship Program

Who Can Apply: This scholarship, offered by the American Addiction Centers, began in 2015 to help students pursue education in a major related to mental health and substance abuse disorders. To apply, students need a minimum 3.2 GPA and they must submit a 500-word essay.

Amount: $2,500-$5,000

See Scholarship
APF Violet and Cyril Franks Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Students pursuing graduate-level research that combats the stigma of mental illness can apply for this scholarship. Awardees receive $5,000. Graduate students at accredited colleges can apply. They must submit a description of their proposed project, budget details, a resume, and a letter of recommendation.

Amount: $5,000

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Melanie Foundation Scholarship

Who Can Apply: In memory of Dr. Melanie Merola O'Donnell, who counseled families following the 9/11 attacks, this scholarship awards $2,500 to graduate students pursuing careers in mental health. Applications must include a resume, two letters of reference, transcripts, and an essay. Candidates can reapply.

Amount: $2,500

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NBCC Minority Fellowship Program for Addictions Counselors

Who Can Apply: The National Board of Certified Counselors supports minorities in counseling through this scholarship, which awards minority students pursuing master's degrees in addiction counseling. Applicants must also hold U.S. citizenship and agree to become national certified counselors, among other commitments.

Amount: $15,000 for 40 master's degree students

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Recovery Village Healthcare Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Recovery Village, which operates alcohol and drug rehab facilities, remains committed to supporting students studying a medical-related degree with a focus on addiction counseling. To apply, students must be attending an accredited college and have U.S. citizenship. Applications must include a 500-word essay.

Amount: $1,000

See Scholarship

Professional Organizations and Resources

At any stage in your career, resources and professional organizations can provide you with career development information, networking opportunities, and job leads. Take a look at the 10 helpful resources listed below to assist you in advancing your career in addiction counseling.

American Academy of Healthcare Providers in the Addictive Disorders

  • Become a certified addiction specialist through this international credentialing body, which also offers continued education opportunities such as training, workshops, and conferences. Job seekers can also find job openings through the career center.

American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence

  • Created in 2019, the AATOD works to increase opioid treatment services and substance abuse support programs and services. The organization brings together healthcare professionals with conferences, webinars, and other training opportunities.

American College of Clinical Pharmacology

  • ACCP began more than 50 years ago to promote clinical pharmacology. Joining this association provides the opportunity to connect with other professionals at conferences or online. Members can also access job postings, a mentoring program, the Pharmacometrics web-based learning system for beginners.

American Mental Health Counselors Association

  • Created in 1976, AMHCA offers a community for mental health professionals to locate advocacy opportunities, find upcoming event information, and access continuing educational webinars and forums, where members share their research.

American Public Health Association

  • Founded in 1872 to improve public health, APHA continues to promote wellness. Students can find access to internships and fellowships on the website. They can also find career assistance, including resume writing help, career coaching, and job opportunities.

American Society of Addiction Medicine

  • ASAM, which began in 1954, boasts a membership of more than 6,000 healthcare professionals who work in addiction medicine. The association offers advanced credentials through its certification hub and accredited fellowship programs.

International Association of Addictions and Offender Counselors

  • Comprising professional substance abuse and addictions counselors, IAAOC offers its members access to webinars, podcasts, presentations, and other useful tools. Members can also receive awards and research grants.

NAADAC, The Association for Addiction Professionals

  • Representing more than 100,000 addiction professionals, the 1972-founded NAADAC offers free and discounted continuing education hours and a career center with job listings. Students can also find scholarship resources.

National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers

  • Since 1978, NAATP has provided a community for professionals in addiction services. Training opportunities exist through webinars, the national conference, and other events. The job center also offers access to career openings.

Addiction Action Center

  • Serving as a web guide since 2014 for people suffering from addiction, the Addiction Action Center offers free access to research and a search guide for rehabilitation centers and treatment options.