Addiction counselors offer assistance to clients who suffer from drug addiction, alcoholism, and other addictive behaviors, such as gambling. These trained mental health professionals may work in mental health centers, rehabilitation facilities, social services agencies, and private practices, evaluating clients’ needs and determining effective treatment strategies.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that substance abuse, behavior disorder, and mental health counselors earn an annual median salary of $46,240. The BLS projects jobs for these professionals to grow 25% between 2019-2029.
This guide ranks the best online addiction counseling degrees. It also covers other important information for those thinking about a bachelor’s degree in counseling, such as common courses and scholarship opportunities for addiction counseling students.
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Addiction Counseling Students FAQ's
Q. What degree do you need for addiction counseling?
Entry-level counseling positions may require only a bachelor’s degree, while more advanced positions typically require at least a master’s degree.
Q. Is addiction counseling a hard degree?
Addiction counseling degree programs are rigorous, but they position students for a rewarding career helping others.
Q. How long does it take to complete an addiction counseling degree?
Most bachelor’s degrees take four years of full-time study to complete. Most while most master’s degrees take 1-3 years to complete.
Q. Can I complete an addiction counseling degree online?
Many colleges offer online counseling degrees. However, online students must still complete clinical hours in person, which they can typically complete in their local area.
Part of the State University of New York (SUNY) system, JCC offers an 81% online, four-semester AS in addictions counseling for students interested in substance abuse counseling careers.
Learners complete general education courses in mathematics and composition, plus core courses in human services and psychology. Addiction courses cover topics like alcohol chemical dependency, abnormal behavior, and ethics and issues in addiction services. Students also complete a 135-hour supervised field experience that helps develop core skills in assessment, counseling, case management, and treatment planning.
Graduates can use their degree to qualify for New York State's credentialed alcoholism and substance abuse counselor (CASAC-TR) credential. The AS in addictions counseling program fulfills the 350-hour CASAC-TR education requirement.
JCC is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
A private, nonprofit Christian university in South Abington Township, Pennsylvania, CSU offers a 61-credit, 100% online AA in addictions counseling degree that emphasizes mentorship and community.
Addictions counseling students complete Bible and theology core courses, arts and sciences core courses, and addictions counseling electives. Addictions coursework includes abnormal psychology, crisis counseling, behavioral addictions, and substance addictions.
Graduates can seamlessly transfer to the school's bachelor's in addictions counseling program. Online learners, Christian workers, and military personnel receive tuition discounts. CSU offers several eight-week terms and six start dates annually.
CSU is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
A public university in Richmond, Virginia, VCU runs an International Program in Addiction Studies that emphasizes leadership and cross-cultural perspectives. Students can complete the 36-credit, fully online MS in addiction studies in one year. In collaboration with Australia's University of Adelaide and England's King's College London, the program explores international and national addictions research, prevention, treatment, and policy.
Addiction studies enrollees explore key issues in addiction science and learn how to create and analyze addiction science experiments. The eight-course curriculum covers the biological basis of addiction, pharmacotherapeutic treatments, and psychosocial interventions. Participants also complete a research course, an addiction policy course, a public health course, and a six-credit research project.
Eligible applicants need a minimum 3.0 GPA and a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution. They must also submit standardized test scores, three recommendation letters, official transcripts, and a statement of intent.
VCU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
A public college in Killeen, Texas, CTC offers a 60-credit chemical dependency AAS for working adults seeking substance abuse counseling jobs. The program offers blended and completely online formats. The interdisciplinary curriculum requires just five general education courses. The rest of the curriculum focuses on psychology, counseling, and addiction.
This online addiction counseling degree begins with courses on topics like addictive disorders, addiction pharmacology, and health psychology. During their second semester, enrollees complete a practicum and learn about crisis intervention, addictions assessment, and child and adolescent problems.
During their final year, learners study topics like family intervention, counseling, abnormal psychology, and behavior management and modification. Students also complete a second practicum during their last semester. The 300-hour practicum experience helps learners satisfy experience requirements for the Texas chemical dependency counseling certification.
CTC is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
A public university in Natchitoches, Louisiana, NSU provides a BS in addiction studies that prepares graduates for careers in communications, human resources, and counseling. Enrollees learn about addictive behavior and addiction counseling principles and practices. Learners also study research, issues, and advances in the addiction counseling field.
This online addiction counseling degree includes 36 general education credits, 33 addiction studies credits, 27 psychology credits, 18 free elective credits, and 12-15 concentration credits. Addiction studies course topics include co-occurring disorders, family dynamics, pharmacology, and special populations. Concentrations include substance abuse counselor, prevention specialist, and industrial organizational psychology.
Freshman applicants must submit standardized test scores and official transcripts. NSU seeks students with a minimum 2.35 GPA and at least a 940 on the SAT. NSU accepts equivalent ACT or Accuplacer scores. All fully online students receive in-state tuition rates, regardless of residency.
NSU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Iowa Lakes offers a two-year, 68-credit AAS in substance abuse counseling that helps qualify graduates for Iowa's certified alcohol and drug counselor professional certification. This addiction counseling degree online focuses on mentorship and on-the-job training. Graduates often pursue careers as counselors, social workers, and human services professionals.
This mostly online addiction counseling degree comprises four terms of coursework and one term of practicum work. Students take courses on topics like case management, counseling techniques, substance abuse and treatment planning, and social problems. AAS learners also complete general education courses in composition, nutrition, and communications.
Iowa Lakes is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Integrating theory and practice, KCKCC's addiction counselor AAS program prepares enrollees for behavioral health careers. Many graduates use their degree to transfer to bachelor's programs and pursue licensed counselor careers in Kansas.
The National Association of Addiction Professionals recognizes KCKCC's addiction counseling program as an approved education provider. All distance learners pay in-state tuition rates regardless of where they live. Seniors, military personnel, and veterans also enjoy tuition discounts.
The online addiction counseling degree includes general education courses in composition, biology, algebra, and public speaking. Major courses cover topics such as problem gambling, group dynamics and addictions, abnormal psychology, and counseling and services coordination. Students also complete two, three-credit addiction counseling practicum experiences at approved sites.
KCKCC is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
UC's online substance abuse prevention certificate program serves aspiring criminal justice, human services, mental health, and education professionals. This one-year, 18-credit program aligns with both national and Ohio certification requirements for substance abuse prevention specialists.
Students take online courses taught by substance abuse prevention adjunct and full-time faculty through UC's School of Human Services. The curriculum includes
courses on topics like substance abuse prevention, drugs and behavior, and personal health. Enrollees also learn how to plan, implement, and evaluate health-education programs. Some certificate credits count toward master's degrees in public health.
UC offers open admissions, but enrollees must maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA to advance to upper-level courses.
UC is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Based in Wausau, Wisconsin, NTC offers a fully online, 62-credit associate degree in substance use disorder counseling. Graduates can pursue Wisconsin licensure as substance abuse counselors-in-training.
The four-semester program includes general education coursework in composition, mathematics, and communication. However, most of the curriculum focuses on courses from human services, counseling, and psychology disciplines. Participants learn about boundaries and ethics, behavior assessment, group counseling, and casework methods. They can also study human sexuality, crisis intervention and stress management, and psychology of human relations.
NTC maintains articulation agreements with dozens of other colleges and universities to facilitate seamless transfers.
NTC is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
A public university in Silver City, WNMU boasts New Mexico's only chemical dependency counseling bachelor's degrees. Students can choose from a BA or BS in chemical dependency counseling. Both degrees meet the internship and education requirements for New Mexico's alcohol and drug counselor license. Offering seven core courses at the graduate level, this addiction counseling degree online prepares graduates to earn advanced degrees in related fields.
The core curriculum includes 43 chemical dependency counseling credits, 16 psychology credits, 12 sociology credits, and three statistics credits. Enrollees take courses on topics like dual diagnosis, trauma and addiction, substance abuse and crime, and the addictive process. Students also learn about codependency, special populations, and group dynamics.
WNMU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
A private, nonprofit college in Barbourville, Kentucky, Union offers a completely online MS in substance abuse counseling that meets educational requirements for Kentucky substance abuse counselor licensure.
This 60-credit master's program comprises 25 foundational course credits, 26 substance abuse core courses, and nine elective credits. Foundational courses include counseling theory, counseling techniques, research methods, and social and community psychology. Substance abuse core coursework covers chemical dependency treatment, recovery and relapse, and biological systems of chemical dependency. Elective options include mental health statistics, health psychology, family systems theory, and professional ethics.
This program also includes a six-credit internship that helps enrollees practice key counseling skills. Applicants must hold a minimum 2.5 GPA. Learners with a chemical dependency counselor certificate may receive credit toward their master's degree.
Union is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
A Christian university in Marion, Indiana, IWU offers an accelerated, part-time online BS in addiction counseling. Serving working students returning to school to complete a bachelor's degree, the degree-completion program seeks learners with at least 60 prior college credits.
Enrollees complete 13 addiction-related courses, taking a single five-week course at a time. Courses cover topics like addictions theory, abnormal psychology, personality theories, and dysfunctional family systems. Learners also study group counseling, psychopharmacology, developmental psychology, and addictions counseling principles. The program also includes a 350-hour practicum experience.
IWU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
A private, nonprofit university in Great Falls, Montana, UP offers an AA in addiction counseling with a focus on compulsive gambling and chemical dependency intervention and treatment. When combined with a 1,000-hour supervised chemical dependency counseling experience, this degree qualifies graduates for professional licensure in Montana, Oregon, Washington, California, and Texas.
Addiction counseling students complete 37 credits of addiction-related courses on topics like abnormal psychology, pharmacology, gambling, and co-occurring disorders. Enrollees also study counseling ethics and build skills for supporting diverse clients. Enrollees can complete this completely online program within two years.
UP is regionally accredited by The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
USD offers an online BS in addiction counseling and prevention (ACP) that emphasizes science-based addiction studies and real-world counseling and prevention skills. This program satisfies education requirements for South Dakota licensing. The National Addiction Studies Accreditation Commission accredits USD's Department of Addiction Counseling and Prevention and its ACP programs.
This BS program comprises 120 credits, including 30 core credits in addiction studies, individual and group addiction counseling, family counseling, and evidence-based decision-making. Participants also complete six specialization credits in addiction treatment or addiction prevention. Elective credits cover topics such as gambling and process addiction, adolescence and addiction, rural telehealth, and Native Americans and addiction.
To enter the ACP major, candidates must hold a minimum 2.5 GPA, pass a background check, and complete prerequisite courses.
USD is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Based in Glendive, Montana, DCC offers online AA and AS transfer concentrations in chemical dependency counseling that satisfy Montana's licensed addiction counselor education requirements.
Learners take general education courses in writing, MS Office, public speaking, and statistics. Participants also take foundational courses in psychology, sociology, and biology. Major courses include addictions counseling theory, addiction assessment and documentation, co-occurring disorders, and gambling and gaming addiction.
Graduates who complete 1,000 hours of supervised professional experience at a state-licensed substance abuse program qualify to take the Montana licensed addiction counselor professional examination.
DCC is regionally accredited by The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
Addiction counseling degrees build broad knowledge in psychology and counseling, along with specialized skills in addiction counseling. These programs also emphasize counseling ethics and best professional practices for counselors.
Addiction counseling programs typically require a significant clinical component that trains students through hands-on experience in settings like rehabilitation facilities, hospitals, private counseling practices, and other healthcare environments.
While courses vary among programs, this list represents courses commonly found in online addiction counseling degree programs.
Ethical and Legal Issues in the Addiction Profession
Addiction counselors encounter a variety of legal and ethical issues in the scope of their professional duties. This course identifies key concepts for ethical counseling practice. Students review the addiction counseling code of ethics and common legal and ethical issues in the field.
Addictive Family Systems
This course examines issues of intergenerational addiction and recovery within families. Common course topics include addictive behavior models, treatment for addictive systems, recovery strategies for families, and the addiction counselor’s role in psychoeducational counseling.
This course examines cultural and ethnic variables in client populations, building cultural competence and awareness in counselors. Students learn how to identify culturally appropriate intervention strategies for different clients.
Counseling Licensing and Certification Requirements
Addiction counselors can pursue a variety of specialized licenses and certifications to bolster their career. The National Certification Commission for Addiction Professionals offers several credentials for addiction counselors, including national certified addiction counselor and master addiction counselor.
Addiction counselors may need specific credentials to practice in different states. Certification requirements vary from state to state, so students should consult their individual state board to determine specific licensing requirements.
Scholarships for Addiction Counseling Students
Students pursuing addiction counseling degrees can pursue financial aid to help them pay for their degree. Unlike loans, scholarships do not require repayment, making them ideal forms of financial aid. The following list outlines several scholarship opportunities for addiction counseling students.
Lullellia W. Harrison Counseling Scholarship
Who Can Apply: The Zeta Phi Beta Sorority offers this scholarship to undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in any type of counseling program.
Who Can Apply: Students pursuing health-related degrees can apply for this scholarship opportunity. Applicants must hold a minimum 3.0 GPA and demonstrate financial need. They must also submit recommendation letters, essays, extracurricular-activity records, and transcripts.
Professional Organizations for Addiction Counseling Students
Addiction counseling students and professionals can use professional organizations to share knowledge and research, find jobs, and network with other counselors. This list highlights three popular professional organizations for addiction counselors, all of which offer resources for addiction counseling students.
American Counseling Association
The ACA offers continuing education opportunities, career resources, policy advisory and advocacy, and professional publications for counselors. Student members must be enrolled in an accredited college or university. Students gain access to internship, scholarship, and learning opportunities.
American Society of Addiction Medicine
Serving medical and mental health professionals, the ASAM provides advocacy, education, events, and professional publications. The organization offers discounted memberships to students. Members gain access to board exam preparation, clinical education, career development resources, and scholarship opportunities.
Reese Lopez is a freelance writer with over a decade of experience in the education field. After earning his BA in English from Evergreen State College, he worked as an English language instructor and tutor before joining Affordable Colleges Online. Reese lives in Portland, Oregon, where he also writes fiction and performs in the local music scene.