Masters in Substance Abuse Counseling Online Degree Programs of 2022

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 metal 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


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.

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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 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 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.

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.

Best Online Master of Science in Substance Abuse Counseling Programs

  • Cambridge College
    Cambridge, MA

    Cambridge College's Master of Education in Mental Health Counseling degree program offers a concentration in addictions counseling. The concentration is comprised of nine credits that will serve as a capstone to your training. Once you graduate and have completed the requisite fieldwork, you can achieve CADAC and/or LADC certification.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Education in Mental Health Counseling
    • Master of Education in Psychological Studies
  • The College of New Jersey
    Ewing, NJ

    TCNJ offers multiple counseling degrees at the master’s level. However, you can opt for their MA in Counseling that includes a concentration in either general practice or addiction counseling. The program will prepare you to attain state licensure and national credentials.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Arts in Counseling
    • Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
  • The College of William and Mary
    Williamsburg, VA

    William and Mary has a longstanding tradition of academic excellence and their CACREP-accredited Master of Education in Clinical Mental Health & Addictions is no exception. During the course of your degree program, you will complete 60 semester hours both in the classroom and in the field. The college has arrangements with clinics to help you complete your work.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Education in Clinical Mental Health & Addictions
    • Master of Education in School Counseling
  • Coppin State University
    Baltimore, MD

    Coppin State's MS in Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counseling will make you the counselor you've always wanted to be. To graduate, you must successfully complete 39 hours in the program. If you have completed Coppin State's undergraduate program, this continuation should feel familiar.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Science in Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counseling
    • Master of Education in Rehabilitation Counseling
  • University of Illinois Springfield
    Springfield, IL

    UIS offers an MA in Human Services with a concentration in substance abuse that will prepare you for the Certified Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Counselor (CADC) exam. UIS does not require you to fulfill the requirements of the full graduate degree in order to receive the certificate, but a master's degree often carries more weight in the job market.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Arts in Human Services – Certificate in Alcohol and Substance Abuse
    • Master of Arts in Human Services Clinical Mental Health Counseling Concentration

Traditional Schools Offering an MS in Substance Abuse Counseling

  • Drexel University

    Drexel's MS in Addictions Counseling provides a solid foundation in evidence-based approaches to the problem of addiction. Once you graduate, you should be able to satisfy your state's requirements to sit for the Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (AADC) or Master Addictions Counselor (MAC) certification exams. Make sure to affirm this with your state's regulatory agencies.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Science in Addictions Counseling
  • Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies

    Hazelden essentially set the standard for drug and alcohol rehabilitation, and now they offer a graduate degree to prepare future addiction counselors. That you can receive their time-tested wisdom from any Wi-Fi connection is truly a gift. It will take 24 months to complete their comprehensive program if you attend full-time, but part-time options are available.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Arts in Addiction Studies: Integrated Recovery for Co-Occurring Disorders
  • The College of William and Mary

    William and Mary have brought their top academic standards to online education. You can enter their MEd program for Clinical Mental Health Counseling and emerge to work with addicts and alcoholics who are struggling to achieve a better life. In fact, the program will prepare you to become a Licensed Substance Abuse Treatment Practitioner (LSATP).

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Education in Clinical Mental Health & Addictions
    • Master of Education in School Counseling
  • Boise State University

    Boise State University's online Master of Social Work program will prepare you to begin a counseling practice. You will need to consult your state's licensure requirements, but after you complete their requirements you can begin to see clients who suffer from addiction. Further, the degree might open up other opportunities that you have yet to discover.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Social Work
    • Master of Nursing
  • Purdue Global

    Purdue's excellence has followed it online, where they offer a Master of Science in Psychology. When you enroll you will need to choose from one of five concentrations, including addictions. This concentration will prepare you to work with addiction as it manifests in gambling, alcohol, drugs, and eating disorders. The Purdue program is nationally accredited through NASAC.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Science in Psychology – Addictions
    • Master of Sciences in Human Services

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