Best Online Masters in Substance Abuse Counseling Degrees for 2024

Master's Degree in Substance Abuse Counseling Career Options & Salary

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Why Earn a Master’s in Substance Abuse Counseling?

A master’s degree in addiction counseling program is a graduate degree that will stand as the pinnacle of your career. With a graduate degree, you will be able to earn more and achieve more than those with an associate or bachelor’s degree. A master's in addiction counseling degree program will also provide graduate students with the knowledge and skills necessary to help more people recover from their addicted state.

A master’s degree in substance abuse counseling is generally considered a professional degree that is intended to increase your efficacy in doing your job. During the course of the degree, you may be able to specialize in a particular concentration area, such as juvenile addiction issues, or the impact on certain ethnic populations. Such specialization will help you build a practice that reflects your specific passions.

A master’s degree in this field should take approximately two years. However, there are concurrent baccalaureate/graduate addiction counseling degree programs that can issue a diploma in approximately five years, provided that you remain full-time and complete the necessary courses in a timely fashion. Furthermore, you can complete your graduate schooling either online, on-campus, or via some mixture of the two. Keep in mind that if you still need to achieve a state license you will need to both pass your state’s required examination and complete an internship.

These programs may vary from school to school, but, generally, they will provide future mental health counselors, addiction counselors, and substance abuse counselors with core courses in their counseling degree that cover many of the following subjects.

  • Addiction Counseling and Prevention
  • Substance Use Disorders
  • Counseling Theory and Practice
  • Co-Occurring Disorders
  • Addiction Treatment
  • Mental Health Treatment
  • Counseling Theories in Rehabilitation Counseling
  • One-on-One, Group Counseling, and Other Types of Addictions Counseling
  • And More

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There are many positive aspects of achieving a master’s degree in addiction counseling or a substance abuse counseling program. First is the fact that, once you graduate, you will be a true master of your field. Your knowledge of addiction and recovery will be only matched by other graduate students, and your ability to implement that knowledge in a clinical setting through rehabilitation counseling and group counseling will likewise be beyond reproach.

A graduate addiction counseling degree will also open up opportunities for greater professional certifications for addiction and substance abuse counselors. Those with master's degrees, such as an MS in Addiction Counseling, usually find that many barriers are removed once they graduate with their higher degrees. If you are part of a professional association, you might find that leadership positions come easier than they did prior to the degree.

Once you have your graduate degree, you will find that your employment prospects improve greatly, whether you choose to work as an addiction counselor or another type of professional counselor. If you have a LinkedIn account, you may be deluged by recruiters who are attracted to your elevated credentials. After all, those with a graduate degree are eligible for higher pay, more promotions, and overall higher status in the counseling community within a variety of settings.


Though it may seem like there are nothing but positive attributes to completing a master's in addiction counseling program, there can be drawbacks. One drawback is that, if you decide that you are burned out on the profession, you will have a very specific degree that doesn’t apply in many other areas. There are also no guarantees that the degree will pay off in the ways you expect.

That is, you might not receive the pay raises and promotions you’d envisioned. Just because you earn the degree doesn’t mean that the area in which you’re employed has the funding or competitiveness to make it worth it. You’ll want to make certain you are in an area with good returns on investment before completing your master’s in addiction counseling program.

Finally, once you graduate with a master's degree, you are sure to have a load of debt to repay. Though there are federal student loan forgiveness programs that apply to those in non-profit or government jobs, that program has been under fire in the U.S. legislature. Your plan to work off the debt might not pan out as you planned.

What are the Best Online Master's in Addiction Counseling Programs?


Drexel University

  • Tuition
    • In-State$36,234
    • Out-of-State$36,234
  • Net Price:$26,076
  • Acceptance Rate:83%
  • Retention Rate:90%
  • Graduation Rate:78%
  • Total Enrollment:23,216
  • Undergrad Students:14,413
  • Graduate Students:8,803
  • Diplomas Awarded:9
  • Grads Salary:$80,000
  • Student-to-faculty:10:1
  • Drexel University

Texas Tech University

  • Tuition
    • In-State$6,956
    • Out-of-State$15,136
  • Net Price:$17,057
  • Acceptance Rate:68%
  • Retention Rate:85%
  • Graduation Rate:63%
  • Total Enrollment:40,542
  • Undergrad Students:33,132
  • Graduate Students:7,410
  • Diplomas Awarded:NA
  • Grads Salary:$72,000
  • Student-to-faculty:21:1
  • Texas Tech University

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Indiana Wesleyan University

  • Tuition
    • In-State$13,512
    • Out-of-State$13,512
  • Net Price:$22,098
  • Acceptance Rate:92%
  • Retention Rate:78%
  • Graduation Rate:71%
  • Total Enrollment:2,862
  • Undergrad Students:2,461
  • Graduate Students:401
  • Diplomas Awarded:8
  • Grads Salary:$72,000
  • Student-to-faculty:12:1
  • Indiana Wesleyan University

The University of Alabama

  • Tuition
    • In-State$10,780
    • Out-of-State$30,250
  • Net Price:$21,263
  • Acceptance Rate:79%
  • Retention Rate:89%
  • Graduation Rate:72%
  • Total Enrollment:38,316
  • Undergrad Students:31,685
  • Graduate Students:6,631
  • Diplomas Awarded:NA
  • Grads Salary:$68,000
  • Student-to-faculty:19:1
  • The University of Alabama

Utah State University

  • Tuition
    • In-State$6,534
    • Out-of-State$22,393
  • Net Price:$14,529
  • Acceptance Rate:93%
  • Retention Rate:74%/
  • Graduation Rate:56%
  • Total Enrollment:27,426
  • Undergrad Students:24,255
  • Graduate Students:3,171
  • Diplomas Awarded:NA
  • Grads Salary:$73,000
  • Student-to-faculty:21:1
  • Utah State University

Virginia Commonwealth University

  • Tuition
    • In-State$12,618
    • Out-of-State$25,956
  • Net Price:$19,656
  • Acceptance Rate:93%
  • Retention Rate:84%
  • Graduation Rate:68%
  • Total Enrollment:28,594
  • Undergrad Students:21,394
  • Graduate Students:7,200
  • Diplomas Awarded:6
  • Grads Salary:$68,000
  • Student-to-faculty:18:1
  • Virginia Commonwealth University

University of Louisiana at Monroe

  • Tuition
    • In-State$6,490
    • Out-of-State$18,590
  • Net Price:$10,408
  • Acceptance Rate:70%
  • Retention Rate:69%
  • Graduation Rate:54%
  • Total Enrollment:8,718
  • Undergrad Students:6,728
  • Graduate Students:1,990
  • Diplomas Awarded:NA
  • Grads Salary:$62,000
  • Student-to-faculty:18:1
  • University of Louisiana at Monroe

Regent University

  • Tuition
    • In-State$15,590
    • Out-of-State$15,590
  • Net Price:$16,579
  • Acceptance Rate:41%
  • Retention Rate:74%
  • Graduation Rate:62%
  • Total Enrollment:10,330
  • Undergrad Students:4,507
  • Graduate Students:5,823
  • Diplomas Awarded:NA
  • Grads Salary:$63,000
  • Student-to-faculty:21:1
  • Regent University

Minnesota State University Moorhead

  • Tuition
    • In-State$10,062
    • Out-of-State$10,062
  • Net Price:$17,254
  • Acceptance Rate:72%
  • Retention Rate:69%
  • Graduation Rate:57%
  • Total Enrollment:5,088
  • Undergrad Students:4,026
  • Graduate Students:1,062
  • Diplomas Awarded:NA
  • Grads Salary:$67,000
  • Student-to-faculty:18:1
  • Minnesota State University Moorhead

University of South Dakota

  • Tuition
    • In-State$6,123
    • Out-of-State$11,773
  • Net Price:$18,974
  • Acceptance Rate:87%
  • Retention Rate:77%
  • Graduation Rate:60%
  • Total Enrollment:9,464
  • Undergrad Students:6,987
  • Graduate Students:2,477
  • Diplomas Awarded:22
  • Grads Salary:$65,000
  • Student-to-faculty:14:1
  • University of South Dakota

Eastern Washington University

  • Tuition
    • In-State$12,353
    • Out-of-State$27,939
  • Net Price:$13,650
  • Acceptance Rate:97%
  • Retention Rate:67%
  • Graduation Rate:50%
  • Total Enrollment:10,892
  • Undergrad Students:8,217
  • Graduate Students:2,675
  • Diplomas Awarded:11
  • Grads Salary:$68,000
  • Student-to-faculty:20:1
  • Eastern Washington University

Nova Southeastern University

  • Tuition
    • In-State$21,153
    • Out-of-State$21,153
  • Net Price:$26,530
  • Acceptance Rate:93%
  • Retention Rate:78%
  • Graduation Rate:61%
  • Total Enrollment:20,898
  • Undergrad Students:6,637
  • Graduate Students:14,261
  • Diplomas Awarded:NA
  • Grads Salary:$76,000
  • Student-to-faculty:17:1
  • Nova Southeastern University

University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

  • Tuition
    • In-State$5,184
    • Out-of-State$11,760
  • Net Price:$11,053
  • Acceptance Rate:68%
  • Retention Rate:63%
  • Graduation Rate:41%
  • Total Enrollment:2,670
  • Undergrad Students:2,484
  • Graduate Students:186
  • Diplomas Awarded:5
  • Grads Salary:$63,000
  • Student-to-faculty:14:1
  • University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

University of the Cumberlands

  • Tuition
    • In-State$4,282
    • Out-of-State$4,282
  • Net Price:$13,631
  • Acceptance Rate:85%
  • Retention Rate:67%
  • Graduation Rate:48%
  • Total Enrollment:19,272
  • Undergrad Students:4,838
  • Graduate Students:14,434
  • Diplomas Awarded:NA
  • Grads Salary:$65,000
  • Student-to-faculty:20:1
  • University of the Cumberlands

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Washburn University

  • Tuition
    • In-State$9,526
    • Out-of-State$19,206
  • Net Price:$14,617
  • Acceptance Rate:100%
  • Retention Rate:66%
  • Graduation Rate:51%
  • Total Enrollment:5,657
  • Undergrad Students:4,828
  • Graduate Students:829
  • Diplomas Awarded:9
  • Grads Salary:$63,000
  • Student-to-faculty:13:1
  • Washburn University

Bay Path University

  • Tuition
    • In-State$19,235
    • Out-of-State$19,235
  • Net Price:$18,664
  • Acceptance Rate:75%
  • Retention Rate:63%
  • Graduation Rate:51%
  • Total Enrollment:2,745
  • Undergrad Students:1,530
  • Graduate Students:1,215
  • Diplomas Awarded:5
  • Grads Salary:$65,000
  • Student-to-faculty:12:1
  • Bay Path University

Capella University

  • Tuition
    • In-State: NA
    • Out-of-State: NA
  • Net Price:$14,935
  • Acceptance Rate:100%
  • Retention Rate:36%
  • Graduation Rate:50%
  • Total Enrollment:36,661
  • Undergrad Students:8,065
  • Graduate Students:28,596
  • Diplomas Awarded:29
  • Grads Salary:NA
  • Student-to-faculty:35:1
  • Capella University

Union College

  • Tuition
    • In-State$8,160
    • Out-of-State$8,160
  • Net Price:$15,690
  • Acceptance Rate:56%
  • Retention Rate:60%
  • Graduation Rate:37%
  • Total Enrollment:1,024
  • Undergrad Students:789
  • Graduate Students:235
  • Diplomas Awarded:1
  • Grads Salary:$65,000
  • Student-to-faculty:13:1
  • Union College

Grand Canyon University

  • Tuition
    • In-State$10,621
    • Out-of-State$10,621
  • Net Price:$21,644
  • Acceptance Rate:83%
  • Retention Rate:71%
  • Graduation Rate:45%
  • Total Enrollment:103,072
  • Undergrad Students:65,870
  • Graduate Students:37,202
  • Diplomas Awarded:197
  • Grads Salary:$68,000
  • Student-to-faculty:20:1
  • Grand Canyon University

Governors State University

  • Tuition
    • In-State$6,354
    • Out-of-State$12,708
  • Net Price:$9,943
  • Acceptance Rate:52%
  • Retention Rate:48%
  • Graduation Rate:16%
  • Total Enrollment:4,395
  • Undergrad Students:2,709
  • Graduate Students:1,686
  • Diplomas Awarded:14
  • Grads Salary:$66,000
  • Student-to-faculty:10:1
  • Governors State University

Western New Mexico University

  • Tuition
    • In-State$3,558
    • Out-of-State$8,730
  • Net Price:$13,483
  • Acceptance Rate:100%
  • Retention Rate:71%
  • Graduation Rate:29%
  • Total Enrollment:3,013
  • Undergrad Students:1,982
  • Graduate Students:1,031
  • Diplomas Awarded:NA
  • Grads Salary:$63,000
  • Student-to-faculty:12:1
  • Western New Mexico University

Crown College

  • Tuition
    • In-State$10,350
    • Out-of-State$10,350
  • Net Price:$25,513
  • Acceptance Rate:65%
  • Retention Rate:73%
  • Graduation Rate:61%
  • Total Enrollment:1,476
  • Undergrad Students:1,139
  • Graduate Students:337
  • Diplomas Awarded:NA
  • Grads Salary:$56,000
  • Student-to-faculty:17:1
  • Crown College

Liberty University

  • Tuition
    • In-State$7,847
    • Out-of-State$7,847
  • Net Price:$27,891
  • Acceptance Rate:99%
  • Retention Rate:79%
  • Graduation Rate:62%
  • Total Enrollment:94,709
  • Undergrad Students:47,696
  • Graduate Students:47,013
  • Diplomas Awarded:47
  • Grads Salary:$60,000
  • Student-to-faculty:17:1
  • Liberty University

Walden University

  • Tuition
    • In-State$12,483
    • Out-of-State$12,483
  • Net Price:$20,510
  • Acceptance Rate:100%
  • Retention Rate:31%
  • Graduation Rate:32%
  • Total Enrollment:42,312
  • Undergrad Students:6,298
  • Graduate Students:36,014
  • Diplomas Awarded:NA
  • Grads Salary:$79,000
  • Student-to-faculty:21:1
  • Walden University

Thomas University

  • Tuition
    • In-State$13,050
    • Out-of-State$13,050
  • Net Price:$22,972
  • Acceptance Rate:29%
  • Retention Rate:64%
  • Graduation Rate:48%
  • Total Enrollment:1,388
  • Undergrad Students:763
  • Graduate Students:625
  • Diplomas Awarded:NA
  • Grads Salary:$50,000
  • Student-to-faculty:12:1
  • Thomas University

Overview of an Online Master's in Substance Abuse Counseling

What Substance Abuse Counseling Master’s Degrees are Available Online?

  • Online Master of Science in Substance Abuse Counseling:
    A Master of Science degree is generally one that focuses on statistical analysis of the field. In some ways, the curriculum might seem like a sociology degree with counseling courses added in. Nevertheless, if your state licensing board requires certain qualitative subjects, your program is sure to offer them.
  • Online Master of Arts in Substance Abuse Counseling:
    An MA is a degree that typically focuses more on qualitative subject matter than hard STEM-like topics. Your focus will likely be on counseling and psychological theories rather than hard data.
  • Online Master of Human Services – Substance Abuse Concentration:
    This is a more broad-based approach that will focus on issues related to human services and then provide a few courses that will help you attain licensure as a substance abuse counselor. This approach might help if you are seeking a supervisory position or otherwise desire a broader scope of knowledge.
  • Online Master of Social Work:
    An MSW degree will allow you to work as a psychotherapist for a variety of populations. You can have a practice that focuses on substance abuse, but also work with the families and spouses of addicts. On top of this, those with MSW degrees are able to take jobs with governmental or other agencies.

Admission Requirements

To gain admission to graduate school, you are sure to need top grades from your undergraduate addiction program. As a general rule of thumb, the lower end of GPA requirements tends to be around 2.25. You may also need to submit GRE scores that meet your dream program’s minimum requirements.

Since you are applying to become a master of your field, you may also need to submit an essay that reflects your experience in the field, and your hopes and plans for the rest of your career. The program may also wish to see a resume and/or letters of recommendation from your supervisors.

How long does it take to earn a Substance Abuse Counseling Master’s Online?

Though each online addiction studies program is slightly different, you should count on an online master’s degree in substance abuse counseling taking two years of full-time work. Many online programs also have a fast-track option that might result in graduation in a year and a half, or you could protract your studies for up to four years. However, many online programs have a time limit for graduation.

It is to your advantage to prioritize your graduate studies and finish in a timely fashion. You will not only feel better once you expedite your graduation, but you will be able to start reaping the rewards of your hard work as soon as possible.

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Potential Careers in Substance Abuse Counseling with an Online Master’s

  • Social Worker
    This profession is very broad-based. For instance, some social workers help houseless individuals find resources for improving health and well-being while others work with mentally disabled people who need a day program.
    The average salary for social workers is $49,500.
  • Marriage and Family Counselor
    This counseling specialty focuses on helping couples navigate the difficulties associated with marriage and raising a family. Professionals in this field frequently find that substance abuse issues are causing discord in the family structure.
    The average salary for this profession is $46,100.
  • Substance Abuse Counselor
    This profession is chiefly concerned with helping addicts recover from the cunning disease of addiction. When you complete your online master’s degree, you can easily focus on specific age groups, genders, or other populations for your practice.
    The average yearly salary for this position is $38,800 which includes practitioners at all educational levels.
  • School Counselor
    Even children need someone to help navigate the difficulties of life. You will help them and their families find services. You may also help them deal with drug or alcohol dependency issues when they find they have nowhere else to turn.
    The average income for this occupation is $56,300.
  • Probation Officer
    Substance abuse problems are rampant in the correctional system. If you work as a juvenile probation officer, you will have a chance to function as a counselor and with a social work function as you’ll need to coordinate with a child’s support network to help them get out and stay out of the corrections system.
    The average salary for this position is $53,000.

Salary by Occupation

Occupations Entry-Level Mid-Career Late-Career
Substance Abuse Counselor $35,800 $41,500 $48,800
Program Manager $44,400 $54,900 $60,200
Rehabilitation Director $79,600 $89,600 $96,600
Certified Addiction Drug and Alcohol Counselor $37,200 $40,700 $42,700
Clinical Psychologist $62,300 $63,800 $76,700
Licensed Clinical Social Worker $48,100 $59,400 $65,000

Options to Advance

Once you have an online master's degree in substance abuse counseling, you will have many options to advance. Your focused, specialized degree will help you command higher salary and achieve the promotions you have always wanted. Further, if you decide to start your own online rehabilitation program, your credentials will be a great boon.

Furthermore, your advanced skills will inform your ability to help addicts and alcoholics on a higher level than before. Your graduate degree will not only facilitate professional kudos, but you will have the personal satisfaction of seeing your abilities manifest in the long-term sobriety and health of cherished clients.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need a master’s to work as a substance abuse counselor?

This is a tricky question, and the answer most often depends on where you live. Because every state decides what the qualifications are for their in-state counseling licensures, you might need a master’s in Ohio but only require an associate degree across the state line into Indiana. No matter what state you’re in, you are likely going to need licensure, but educational requirements vary from 30 credit hours in pertinent subjects to a master’s degree and hundreds to thousands of hours of experience. Because of this, it’s important that you do your research and find out exactly the education you need in the state in which you plan to practice.

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