Best Online Master’s in Addiction Counseling Programs
Updated July 11, 2022
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A master's in addiction counseling provides students with the skills to support, advise, and treat people with substance misuse challenges. They also learn about the effects of trauma on mental health and behavioral disorders. With this training, graduates can pursue many community and social service careers.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 23% growth for addiction counselor occupations between 2020 and 2030. These professionals earned a median annual salary of $47,660 in May 2020. In both projected growth and median annual wages, this field exceeds the national rates for all occupations.
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When considering graduate school, prospective students often think about program cost and length. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the average graduate tuition and fees were $19,792 in 2019-2020. Learners usually finish their master's programs in less than two years, though the top online schools may provide accelerated program options.
Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Addiction Counseling Programs
Is a master's in addiction counseling worth it?
Yes. A master's in addiction counseling provides many benefits to graduates. They can access several counseling professions, along with general community and social service occupations. The degree also acts as a foundation for a doctoral degree in similar fields.
Online learners often enjoy the added value of an online degree as well. The flexible and accessible training allows learners to better balance their study, work, and home lives. They can also access more programs without being limited by travel requirements.
What can I do with a master's in addiction counseling?
With a master's in addiction counseling, graduates typically pursue substance misuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselor careers. They can also access other community and social service positions, including social work and school and career counseling.
Master's degree graduates may qualify for state licensure, which permits them to work in clinical positions in many fields. For graduates looking to continue their training, several doctoral degree paths are available. For example, they can access family, mental health, or behavioral disorder counseling degrees.
Are addiction counseling graduates in demand?
Yes. The increase in addiction and mental health services has created a lot of demand for professionals in this field. The BLS projects 23% growth for addiction counselors between 2020 and 2030. This is nearly three times faster than the projected growth rate of 8% for all U.S. occupations.
The BLS also projects 12% growth for all community and social service occupations between 2020 and 2030. That works out to nearly 350,000 new positions over that period. As local, state, and federal governments invest in more health services, the demand may continue to grow.
How much money can I make with a master's in addiction counseling?
The amount of money available to graduates with a master's in addiction counseling depends on the field, location, and employer. According to the BLS, the median annual wage for addiction counselors was $47,660 in May 2020.
The top industries employing these counselors varied in the median annual salaries they provided. For example, government positions paid $54,070, hospitals paid $50,460, and individual and family services paid $47,580 in May 2020. In the same year, outpatient mental health and substance misuse centers paid $45,960, and residential mental health and substance misuse facilities paid $40,560.
What are the highest-paying jobs with a master's in addiction counseling?
The highest-paying job for graduates with a master's in addiction counseling was in social and community service management as of May 2020. According to the BLS, these professionals earned a median annual wage of $69,600. The highest 10% of earners in the field made more than $115,800.
The top employment industries for this career included local government agencies, religious organizations, and individual and family services. These industries paid median annual wages of $87,720, $72,860, and $64,330 in May 2020, respectively.
What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Addiction Counseling Program?
The structure and content of a master's in addiction counseling depends on the specific school and program. Typically, students complete these programs in less than two years by completing 30-45 credits. The training usually combines classroom instruction, research, and hands-on learning experiences.
The programs equip learners with a set of professional ethics and practices, covering prevention, intervention, and care. Degree-seekers learn about the diverse addiction, traumatic, and mental health conditions people face and their many causes. The programs typically include supervised clinical experiences to satisfy state licensure requirements.
An online master's in addiction counseling may award an MA or MS degree. While these degree types may lead to similar outcomes in many cases, they can differ as well. For example, MA programs often focus on theoretical research and interdisciplinary applications. An MS program focuses more on analytical studies and clinical applications.
Depending on the school, addiction counseling may be a specialization within a counseling program. Students may also get to choose a concentration from within their master's in addiction counseling. Examples include gambling and process addictions, sex addiction, alcohol and other drug misuse, and eating disorders. When preparing for graduate school, students should understand their state's counseling licensure requirements before settling on a program.
Still Looking for the Right Fit? Discover Similar Degree Programs.
What Courses Will I Take in an Online Master's in Addiction Counseling Program?
Law and Ethics in Addiction Counseling
In this course, students examine the state and federal laws regarding addiction counseling. They also explore the professional standards for counselors and the ethical issues they face in their jobs.
Assessment and Treatment Planning
This course teaches students the skills and processes needed for patient assessment, including how to identify issues and causes. They also learn how to diagnose and develop specialized treatment plans that address these challenges.
Students in this course learn about legal and illegal drugs and their effects on the human body. They examine how and why addiction and substance misuse occurs and how treatment can help these issues.
Diversity Issues in Counseling
In this course, students learn how to navigate diversity in counseling. They examine how culture, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, and gender identity affect substance misuse and the perception of and reception to counseling.
Science of Addiction
Students in this course look at the scientific explanations for dependence disorders. Studies may include examining neurobehavior, genetics, and family and society influences.
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What Are the Admission Requirements for an Online Master's in Addiction Counseling Program?
For admission into a master's program, prospective students need a bachelor's degree, as per our graduate admissions guide. A competitive master's in addiction counseling may require a minimum GPA or a related undergraduate degree for entry, such as psychology or counseling.
In some cases, schools may require science prerequisites. For admission into an online master's in addiction counseling, prospective students usually must satisfy the program's technological requirements.
Prospective students must provide their personal information on the standard college application, along with their program of interest. At the master's level, applicants typically apply directly to the school, though college application systems work with some graduate programs. Application systems can streamline the process, specifically when applying to many schools.
Schools often require candidates to submit test scores for admission, including GRE and GMAT results. Score requirements vary by program. Schools may even provide test waivers as a result of the COVID-19 situation. To improve their test scores and odds of being admitted, prospective students can complete GRE prep.
Letters of Recommendation
College applications at every level require recommendation letters. These letters typically come from relevant professionals who can provide insight into the applicant's strengths and potential in the program. For best results, prospective students should begin asking for letters of recommendation as early as possible.
Resume and Work Experience
College applications may require a resume and a minimum amount of work experience for admission. Along with highlighting relevant experience, college application resumes provide information about the candidate's skills and strengths.
Many applications include an essay, which may address the applicant's journey or answer a specific question related to their discipline of interest. When writing a grad school essay, prospective students often address their specific research interests and what appeals to them about the school and faculty.
Prospective students usually need to submit official transcripts with their applications. These records provide schools with details on the applicant's previous education, prerequisites, and grades. According to our transfer guide, transcripts are also essential to the transfer credit process.
What Can I Do With an Online Master's in Addiction Counseling Degree?
The more we understand addiction, mental health, and behavioral disorders, the greater the demand for these services increases and the more support people can provide. Additionally, the legal system is increasingly looking for treatment alternatives to jail time, which may help drive demand.
The BLS projects the addition of over 75,000 new addiction counselor jobs between 2020 and 2030. The BLS also projects more than 41,000 annual openings on average. The median annual wage for these professionals was $47,660 in May 2020.
Along with positions directly related to substance misuse, graduates with a master's in addiction counseling may pursue careers in behavioral counseling. Other options include mental health counseling, school and career counseling, and community and social service management jobs.
Find out where a master's in addiction counseling can take you. Learn more about counseling careers.
These professionals support individuals with substance misuse conditions and mental health challenges. They assess clients, develop and implement treatment plans, and connect clients with social service and support programs. Counselors need state licensure, which typically requires a master's degree and significant clinical experience.
Median Annual Salary: $47,660
Probation Officer and Correctional Treatment Specialist
Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists help law offenders in their rehabilitation. They evaluate probationers, develop rehabilitation plans, and advise the legal system on the offender's progress. These professionals may need additional academy training to qualify for employment.
Median Annual Salary: $55,690
Social and Community Service Manager
These professionals develop and run community service programs for organizations. They research opportunities, assess program effectiveness, and increase awareness. They also communicate with stakeholders. Social and community service managers may specialize in certain fields, such as substance misuse.
Median Annual Salary: $69,600
School and Career Counselor
School and career counselors help students and professionals work through their current paths and prepare for their next steps. They help them set goals, evaluate their progress, and assist them as they work through challenges. Licensure requirements vary by state. But counselors typically need a master's degree, supervised clinical experience, and a passing grade on a certification test.
Median Annual Salary: $58,120
Social workers help individuals and groups work through diverse challenges. They evaluate individuals and groups to identify their needs, provide support and services, and respond to crises. Social workers typically need a master's degree and supervised clinical experience for licensure.
Median Annual Salary: $51,760
Addiction Counseling Not For You? Check Out These Related Careers.
While a master's in addiction counseling leads to many community and social service occupations, it can also grant access to doctoral programs. In addition to a doctorate in addiction counseling, the foundational counseling training may qualify graduates for a doctorate in family counseling or a doctorate in school counseling.
Depending on the state, these degrees may also lead to postgraduate licensure or certification. Check out what counseling licenses are available in your state and what licensure requirements it has.
How Do I Choose an Online Master's in Addiction Counseling Program?
Program cost is often a top consideration for prospective students. They should compare costs for online and on-campus programs, in-state and out-of-state programs, and private and public schools. Prospective learners should also think about the true program cost, which factors in their working income.
Program format plays a large role in when and how students learn. Prospective learners should think about what format works best for them and look for schools and programs offering that option. Consider, for example, comparing synchronous vs. asynchronous studies and full-time vs. part-time studies.
All prospective students choosing between online and on-campus studies should consider location. On-campus learners typically choose locations nearby or within traveling distance. While online learners can expand their parameters, they may still need to travel to campus to complete residency requirements.
According to our online college accreditation guide, institutional accreditation is one of the most important considerations for students. Accreditation can impact financial aid, licensure, and employment. While not mandatory, programmatic accreditation may influence postgraduate opportunities.
The type of student services schools provide can add to higher education experiences and outcomes. Prospective students should investigate what their ideal schools and programs offer. They may look at the specific online student services, academic and wellness support, career services, college mentorships, and internships.
Best Accredited Online Master's in Addiction Counseling Programs
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