According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 21.5 million American adults aged 12 years or older struggled with a substance use disorder in 2014. Addiction can ruin lives – it hurts relationships, prevents people from maintaining a stable job, and hurts one physically and emotionally. However, thanks to constant research from dedicated healthcare professionals, there is hope for people who struggle with addiction.
A Master’s in Addictions & Recovery is an advanced degree that primarily trains future counselors and therapists. Students will learn about psychology, counseling theories, biology, and multiculturalism in providing treatment. Graduates of these programs will be on their way to earning state licensure for an addictions counselor and be confident in their ability to perform different treatment options for a wide variety of patients.
What type of Master’s in Addictions & Recovery should you get?
As most students who are pursuing this degree are already working professionals, an online degree may be more accommodating for those with a busy schedule. Online degrees can be finished in as little as a year to two years, depending on whether the student chooses part or full-time. Online courses can also usually be completed on one’s own schedule, with minimum to no scheduled group sessions.
Students who do choose to pursue an online degree should not worry about whether they will be excluded from gaining state licensure. In fact, most online programs follow state licensure prerequisites. When students graduate, they will receive the same diploma as someone who earned a traditional on-campus degree. Students should check with their program about these requirements before starting.
Click here to see more of College Choice’s Best Online Master’s degree program rankings.
How much money do people make with an online Master’s in Addictions & Recovery?
According to PayScale, the average salary of substance abuse counselors is $38,352. Over time, salaries do rise – counselors with 20 years of experience earn an average salary of $44,000. The highest-earning counselors make about $65,080, while the lowest-earning made only $26,210. Those who hold a master’s degree will make significantly more in this field than those with only a bachelor’s, with the average salary for a master’s degree being $57,000.
The highest-paying cities for this field are Provo, Utah; Naples, Fla.; Madison, Wis.; and San Francisco, Calif. Those who have established themselves with a wide range of clientele typically make the most. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects that jobs for substance abuse counselors are expected to grow 20 percent until the year 2026.
What can you do with an online Master’s in Addictions & Recovery?
Most programs for this major feed into state licensure or state certification programs. The most common job upon graduation is a substance abuse counselor. In order to gain a license, graduates must also complete the required clinical work experience. These counselors can work in a variety of public and private institutions, such as hospitals, homeless shelters, jails, high schools, and social welfare agencies.
Of course, there are other career paths besides being a counselor or therapist. Graduates can also be a program coordinator, educator in schools, or a director. Other than just working with patients who are already struggling with addiction, the field needs people who can go out into the public and educate people about substance abuse. Educators and advocates can also work with the government and policymakers to develop better strategies and devote more resources to those who struggle in this area.
What are the requirements for an online Master’s in Addictions & Recovery?
Although a related Bachelor’s degree is not required for admission, it may be very helpful throughout the learning process. Applicants should submit their transcripts, letters of recommendation, and any graduate test scores (if required). In addition, most programs will want applicants with a GPA of 3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale.
Throughout the online degree, students will take a variety of courses such as ones that are more biology-based, counseling theories, and classes on multiculturalism and diversity. Most degrees also have a residency or internship component where they will be required to work a certain number of hours in a clinical setting.
What are the best online Master’s in Addictions & Recovery?
College Choice has ranked the 15 Best Online Master’s degrees in Addictions & Recovery. These schools were are chosen based on institutional excellence and student success.
Overall institutional excellence was calculated based on a variety of factors, such as entering students’ test scores, graduation rate, and student-to-faculty ratio. Student success was based on average financial aid given, expected salary, and average student indebtedness after graduation. Our data comes from the National Center for Education Statistics’ IPEDS database, PayScale, individual college websites, and the U.S. News & World Report.
See our rankings methodology page.
Indiana Wesleyan University
College Choice Score: 94.10
Average Net Price: $19,519
Indiana Wesleyan University is a private Christian university that was founded in 1920. With its liberal arts education, students get to study a variety of courses that intertwine their Christian faith. Students are encouraged to live out their faith through their various internships, discussions with other peers and faculty, and in the classroom. Since 1985, Indiana Wesleyan began to offer its adult education program, which includes offering completely online degrees. These degrees are affordable, with over $146 million worth of aid given out from 2013 to 2014.
Through Indiana Wesleyan’s online MA in Clinical Addictions Counseling, students will be certified to work with patients who are battling with drug and alcohol abuse.
- 48-credit hours
- Integrates Christian principles and theories of counseling
- Accredited with the National Addiction Studies Accreditation Commission
Through the NAADAC Minority Fellowship Program for Addiction Counselors, students will get the opportunity to serve underprivileged groups and receive a stipend of up to $20,000.
College Choice Score: 88.51
Average Net Price: $17,098
Union College is a private college located in Barbourville, Ky. that was established in 1879. As a small liberal arts school, Union has been serving the educational needs of the Appalachian Mountains for over 120 years. Its rich history dates back to its longstanding partnership with the city, which allowed the institution to grow over time. Today students, even distance learning ones, can gain a rich education through one of many Union’s programs.
Union College offers a fully online MS in Substance Abuse Counseling degree that is run through its Department of Psychology.
- 60 credit-hours
- Ability to apply for the Chemical Dependency Certification
- Sample Courses: Recovery and Relapse, Techniques of Counseling & Psychotherapy, Statistics for Mental Health Professionals
The curriculum for this program follows the Kentucky State Board Certification/Licensure requirements. Students should also contact a mentor to plan out the other necessary requirements.
College Choice Score: 88.32
Average Net Price: $29,622
Monmouth University is a private university that is located along the state of New Jersey’s northern coastline. Its three core principles are to provide a challenging liberal arts curriculum to all students, to teach knowledge that will go beyond the classroom, and to prepare students for life after college. With a student-to-teacher ratio of only 13:1, students are sure to get the attention and one-on-one instruction they need. In 2018, the U.S. News & World Report ranked Monmouth among the best Regional Universities in the North.
Monmouth’s MA in Addiction Studies is the ideal program for those who wish to become licensed counselors.
- 33-credit hours
- Prepares students to be a Licensed Clinical Alcohol & Drug Counselor
- Ability to be a full or part-time student
This is a fully flexible program, with the ability to take summer courses or hybrid courses where students can alternate between online and in-person instruction.
Virginia Commonwealth University
College Choice Score: 88.12
Average Net Price: $20,544
Virginia Commonwealth University is the state’s premier public research university, with over 175 years of history. VCU was founded in 1838 originally as the Medical College of Hampden-Sydney, which later became the Medical College of Virginia. Over time the school expanded to offer other disciplines. Today VCU is known for its amazing innovation, diversity and inclusion, and groundbreaking “firsts” in the state. It is also the third top research university within the state.
VCU’s online MS in Addiction Studies degree provides students with a cross-cultural understanding of prevention, treatment, and research strategies for the issue of addiction.
- Can be completed in 12 months (full-time) or 24 months (part-time)
- Collaboration with King’s College London and the University of Adelaide in Australia
- Sample Courses: Public Health Issues and Approaches to Addictions, The Biological Basis of Addiction
This university is part of the International Programme in Addiction Studies where students learn via advanced technology about international addiction policies.
Governors State University
College Choice Score: 87.75
Average Net Price: $16,143
Located in Chicago’s Southland, Governors State University was founded in 1969. Currently over 5,500 students are enrolled in GSU’s 64 degree and 24 certificate programs. Due to its prime location only 40 miles south of Chicago, students have all the perks of living close to a big city with opportunities to connect with local businesses. One of GSU’s core values is to provide opportunities and access to education to the state’s citizens. Through its many online degrees, students are able to get the experience they need in a flexible manner.
Through its multicultural perspective, students can become leaders in producing change by enrolling in GSU’s online Master of Health Science degree in Addictions.
- Hybrid version available
- Pharmacology-based courses
- Internship program
Students have the option of concentrating in Addictions Studies Counseling. This 60-hour concentration teaches students the newest forms of therapies for patients with addictions.
College Choice Score: 86.70
Average Net Price: $24,794
Liberty University is a private Christian university whose main campus is located in Virginia. It was founded in the 70s originally as the Liberty Baptist College. Since its founding, Liberty has held on to its strong Christian roots and encourages students to grow in their faith as they study their passion. Liberty is dedicated to creating strong new leaders for the next generation. Through its many online programs, students can earn their advanced degrees at a fraction of the cost and in a time frame that works with their schedule.
Students can be prepared to earn their certification or licensure as an addiction and/or substance abuse counselor through Liberty’s online MA in Addiction Counseling.
- 48 credit-hours
- 2-year completion
- Up to 50% of credits can be transferred
Through the internship program, students can get credit that counts towards their graduation. These programs focus on gaining addiction-related counseling competencies.
College Choice Score: 86.54
Average Net Price: $19,044
Established in 1890, Post University has been providing students with flexible degrees for more than 125 years. Students come first here, with individualized attention and supportive faculty throughout each student’s college career. This excellent teaching does not just apply to its on-campus programs, but also to its many online distance learning degrees. Using the latest technologies, students are able to get their degree on their own time and with excellent staff.
An online MS in Counseling and Human Services degree with a concentration in Alcohol and Drug Counseling at Post University will teach you how to assess, diagnose, and treat those with addictions.
- Use credits towards professional counseling licensure
- Sample Courses: Psychopathology of Addiction, Group and Family Treatment in Addictions, Human Services Policy
- Field practicum, internship, and capstone research project
Because the primary goal of this program is to achieve state licensure, students are able to take courses and requirements for the state they want to be licensed in, not just the state of Connecticut.
College Choice Score: 86.19
Average Net Price: $16,538
Capella University is an online university that was curated for the adult learner. With various learning formats, students can choose which method and time-frame is right for them. The main formats Capella offers is Flex Path and Guided Path. While Flex Path is a self-paced pay-per-session format, Guided Path is a more directed pay-per credit format. Capella’s Master’s in Addiction Studies degree program is fully online with supportive staff.
If you are interested in helping those who struggle with a substance use disorder, an online MS in Addiction Studies at Capella may be right for you.
- Residency and internship program
- Aligned with the Advanced Alcohol & Drug Counselor certification
- Numerous ways to save on tuition money
The residency program for this major is embedded within a six-week online course that also requires an in-person component. The internship program requires 300 hours of professional work in an addiction treatment institution.
University of South Dakota
College Choice Score: 85.88
Average Net Price: $16,502
The University of South Dakota is the state’s flagship university with over 10,000 students. Although the campus is huge, students can experience a small-campus feel with its 17:1 student-to-faculty ratio. USD is known for its excellence as a whole, having been continuously ranked among the Best National Universities in the country by the U.S. News & World Report for over a decade. It is also known for its flexible and affordable online degrees.
USD’s online MA in Addiction Studies prepares graduates for the highest level of licensure within the state of South Dakota.
- 33-credit hours (advanced track) or 45-credit hours (standard track)
- Competitive tuition rates
- Sample Courses: Alcohol & Drug Counseling Theories, Relapse Prevention, Trauma and Addiction
The advanced track is for professionals who already have a Level II or Level III Chemical Dependency Certification and are licensed addiction counselors who have completed a related bachelor’s degree. The standard track is for those who may have the certification, but may not have any related academic background.
West Virginia University
College Choice Score: 85.26
Average Net Price: $10,814
West Virginia University is a well-known research institution in the city of Morgantown. Academic excellence is a major thing that makes WVU stand out among other schools. It has been ranked nationally for various prestigious scholarships. Although its main campus is located in the “No. 1 Small City in America,” WVU also has other campuses throughout the state and online courses. There are currently more than 600 online courses and 30 online degrees offered.
Through WVU’s online program, students can get their MS in Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling and learn how to work with a diverse set of communities.
- $594 per-credit hour
- Accredited by the Council on Rehabilitation Education
- Comprehensive System for Personnel Development scholarship available funded by the U.S. Rehabilitation Services Administration
This program qualifies for professional licensure in many states. Students should check which state they wish to be licensed in before starting the program.
Nova Southeastern University
College Choice Score: 83.74
Average Net Price: $25,344
Nova Southeastern University is a private university located in Florida. NSU is comprised of 18 colleges, including distance learning programs meant for working professionals. All of its courses are small in nature with direct one-on-one support from professors and faculty. NSU is also concerned with students being financially able to afford school, offering several different scholarships even at the graduate level.
For those who wish to offer high-service in the counseling field, an online MS in Counseling with a concentration in Substance Abuse Counseling will teach you the necessary skills.
- 48 credit-hours
- Fall, Winter, and Summer sessions
- Sample Courses: Group Therapy and Practice, Career and Lifestyle Assessment, Treatment of Co-occurring Disorders
Students who are eligible may participate in a practicum where they will spend a minimum of 160 work hours in a community agency setting.
College Choice Score: 83.40
Average Net Price: $17,837
With the motto, “Christian leadership to change the world,” Regent University combines strong Christian faith with excellent teaching. The university was founded in 1977 by Dr. Pat Robertson and is located in Virginia Beach, Va. Regent encourages all people to serve their communities using their talents and to develop strong leadership. Its liberal arts program currently has an “A” ranking.
An online MA in Human Services – Addictions Counseling degree applies faith-based principles to the field of counseling.
- 30 credit-hours
- 8-week courses
- Sample Courses: Helping Skills & Techniques, Addiction Intervention, Multicultural Awareness & Individual Diversity
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in the social and human services are projected to grow 16 percent from 2016 to 2026.
College Choice Score: 82.64
Average Net Price: $11,604
Located in the heart of Topeka, Washburn University is a beautiful 160-acre campus that was founded in 1865. Students at Washburn get the experience of living in a small school with an average student -to-faculty ratio of 12:1, while getting all the perks of being in a big city. Tuition here is affordable, and students who live in Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, or Texas will pay the same rate as Kansas residents. The U.S. News & World Report has ranked Washburn as having one of the lowest student debt upon graduation.
Washburn’s MA in Human Services/Addiction Counseling degree is a 100 percent online program that prepares students for state licensure within the state of Kansas and other states.
- Graduates will be able to become a Licensed Masters Addiction Counselor and a Licensed Clinical Addictions Counselor
- Sample Courses: Advanced Pharmacology and Substance Use Disorders, Integrative Human Services
Students will take two practicum seminars in related substance-abuse treatment institutions. Students will be placed based on skills and availability.
Montana State University
College Choice Score: 80.55
Average Net Price: $14,953
Established in 1893, Montana State University has accomplished a lot throughout its 125 years of history. MSU currently has over 16,700, making it the largest university within the state. Students come from all over the country and from 56 countries. Other than its diverse population, MSU is also known for its academic excellence in teaching and research. Presently the university is among the top 3 percent in the nation for research expenditures.
MSU’s online graduate certificate in Addiction Counseling prepares students for the Montana Licensed Addiction Counselor Credential.
- 12-credit hours
- Tuition payment plan available
- Sample Courses: Chemical Dependency Counseling, Gambling & Gaming Disorders: Assessment & Treatment
Although online, this program offered through the Department of Health & Human Development is face-to-face, meaning students can interact virtually with their professors and peers.
Grand Canyon University
College Choice Score: 80.00
Average Net Price: $21,168
Grand Canyon University is a private Christian university that is located in Prescott, Ariz. GCU is a non-profit institution that aims to give back the students, faculty, and neighboring communities. Through its strong commitment to Christian principles, GCU aims to create the next generation of leaders who will live out their faith in whatever field they choose to pursue. The university offers several online programs that maintain its strong faith component just as its traditional on-campus degrees.
GCU’s online MS in Addiction Counseling degree will help develop a variety of skills needed to be a successful counselor in a variety of settings.
- 8-week courses
- Ability to transfer up to a 1/3 of the program’s credits
- Preparation to meet the Arizona’s Licensed Associate Substance Abuse Counselor or Licensed Independent Substance Abuse Counselor certification
At the end of this program, a pre-practicum or supervised field work experience will allow students to practice the skills they’ve acquired in a related internship.