Online master's in addiction and recovery programs prepare students to help people suffering from substance abuse and addictive behavior. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that job growth for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors will be 22% between 2014 and 2024, which is much faster than average. This expected industry growth is partially attributable to the fact that insurance companies are covering addiction treatment more than they have in the past. Additionally, more people are seeking help as addiction loses the stigma it held previously. Use the following guide to identify the best online master's degree in addiction and recovery programs.
Choosing a Program
WILL THIS PROGRAM PROVIDE ME WITH THE SKILLS I NEED TO ADVANCE MY CAREER?
Yes. The best online master's in addiction and recovery programs give students tangible skills that lead to career advancement. You'll leave the program with in-depth understanding of how to identify, prevent, and treat substance abuse and addictive behavior. These skills are in demand for counseling and management jobs in addiction treatment centers. You'll also gain skills in program design, implementation, and evaluation that are needed for higher-level research, education, and public health positions.
DO I NEED PREVIOUS WORK EXPERIENCE TO GET IN?
No. Most online master's in addiction and recovery programs don't require previous work experience. However, if you do have experience in the field you're more likely to be admitted and possibly receive scholarships or grants.
HOW DO I FIND THE RIGHT ONLINE PROGRAM FOR ME?
Finding the right online program requires you to identify the program traits that are most important to you. When selecting a program you should consider program length, cost, types of courses, instructors, specializations/concentrations, accreditation status, and internship/practicum requirements.
CAN I WORK WHILE I COMPLETE MY ONLINE MASTER'S in ADDICTION & RECOVERY?
Yes. One of the benefits of pursuing a master's in addiction and recovery online is that you can work while completing your degree. Although you must meet deadlines set by your instructors, online courses allow you the flexibility to study when and where it is most convenient for you. That could be in the evenings after work or in the early morning before your kids wake up for the day.
What Are The Best Online Master's in Addiction & Recovery Programs?
Governors State University
|University Park, IL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 77%||
Founded in 1969, GSU is a public university located 30 miles south of Chicago. The school's college of health and human services provides accessible health and human services programs. GSU's master of health science in addictions studies program focuses on cultural understanding and sensitivity, emphasizing evidence-based approaches to address addiction. Students learn how to plan and manage treatment programs, and classes cover topics including pharmacology, prevention, counseling, and group techniques. Graduates are eligible to become certified addictions counselors.
Students earning their master's degree in addiction studies online take classes like etiology and epidemiology of substance abuse, clinical models of addiction, and treating coexisting disorders. The program culminates in a final comprehensive examination and a four-credit internship. Qualified students can complete an internship to earn a criminal justice addictions professional certificate.
The curriculum consists of 32 credits and is available in fully online and hybrid formats. Many students take two courses at a time. However, GSU encourages learners to work at their own pace. The addictions studies program is fully accredited by the Illinois Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Professional Certification Association and the National Addiction Studies Accreditation Commission.
Applicants must hold a minimum 2.5 undergraduate GPA. Prerequisites include three credits of introductory psychology; three credits in psychology, sociology, social work, or anthropology; six credits of biological sciences or chemistry; a statistics or research methods course; and nine credits of addiction-related coursework. Applicants must also submit a personal statement.
|Lynchburg, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 47%||
The largest private, nonprofit university in the United States, Liberty is an evangelical Christian institution based in Lynchburg, Virginia. The school serves more than 100,000 students online and on campus.
Liberty's school of behavioral sciences offers an online master of arts in addiction counseling program. Coursework covers substance abuse and addiction counseling topics, such as counseling techniques, treatment, and the recovery process. Classes include assessment techniques in counseling, biological aspects of addiction and recovery, and diagnosis and treatment planning of addictive disorders.
Students earning a master's in addiction counseling online complete at least 58 credits, including 27 credits of core courses, 18 credits of specialization classes, and three credits of electives. Distance learners can complete the degree in two years.
Graduates are eligible to become certified substance abuse counselors, and many students pursue careers as counselors, case managers, and mental health professionals. Learners can complete an additional 12 credits of coursework to meet the requirements for licensure as a substance abuse treatment provider in Virginia.
Coursework is available entirely online, and the program includes an internship and optional intensives. Transfer students can bring in up to half of the program requirements from previous studies. Prerequisites include three credits of statistics. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree earned with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Liberty offers benefits and discounts to military members and veterans.
University of North Texas
|Denton, TX||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 54%||
UNT is a public research university located in Denton. The school offers a master of science in rehabilitation counseling for individuals who are currently working in a related setting. The program explores counseling services, including physical, mental, developmental, cognitive, and emotional disabilities. Students learn how to help clients reach their personal, career, and independent living goals. Graduates often pursue work in hospitals, insurance companies, school settings, community programs, nonprofit agencies, and independent living centers.
This online addiction counseling master's degree requires students to complete 36 credits, including three credits of electives, a three-credit practicum, and a six-credit internship. Students also gain more than 700 hours of supervised fieldwork experience and can complete an optional thesis. Courses include rehabilitation in a multicultural society, disability issues in human development, group work and the rehabilitation process, principles of psychiatric rehabilitation and recovery, and case management and rehabilitation services.
UNT's addiction studies program is nationally accredited by the Council on Rehabilitation Education. The curriculum meets the requirements for national certification as a rehabilitation counselor and for licensure as a professional counselor in Texas. The university delivers coursework asynchronously, and students can complete online classes at their own pace.
Applicants must have a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA. Prospective students must also participate in an interview and submit a personal statement, two letters of recommendation, and a current resume.
|West Long Branch, NJ||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 70%||
Monmouth is a private university located in West Long Branch, New Jersey. The university offers a master of arts in addiction studies that focuses on wellness, personal growth, and pathology for a diverse population. Graduates often pursue careers in outpatient and inpatient programs and are eligible to become licensed clinical alcohol and drug counselors in New Jersey.
Learners pursuing Monmouth's master's degree in addiction studies online complete 33 credits, including classes in theories of counseling, psychopathology, community mental health, treatment of alcohol and drug abuse, and substance awareness in schools. Students also complete a three-credit professional counseling practicum.
Monmouth offers the program in fully online and hybrid formats, the latter of which blends online coursework with in-person instruction. The university encourages students to complete coursework at their own pace, and online learners can study on a full-time or part-time basis. The addiction studies program holds accreditation from the International Coalition of Addiction Studies Educators and the National Addiction Studies Accreditation Commission.
Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree earned with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Prerequisites include 12 credits in psychology-related coursework, including personality theory, statistics, abnormal psychology, and research methods. Prospective students must submit a personal narrative, two letters of recommendation, and official GRE scores. Monmouth waives the GRE requirement for applicants who hold a master's degree. Applicants must participate in a group interview. Incoming students can begin in the fall, spring, or summer.
University of South Dakota
|Vermillion, SD||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 55%||
USD is the state's flagship university. Located in Vermillion, the school serves more than 10,000 students and offers a variety of online degrees, including a master of arts in addiction studies. The curriculum covers topics like addiction studies research, alcohol and drug counseling theories, and wellness recovery. Classes include psychopharmacology of addiction, case management and assessment of co-occurring disorders, psychopathology and addiction, and relapse prevention.
Distance learners can pursue a 45-credit standard track designed for individuals without certification or a 33-credit advanced track that is well-suited for licensed addiction counselors and mental health professionals who hold level II or level III chemical dependency certification. All students complete a three-credit substance use and addiction treatment continuum and a three-credit internship involving supervised field experience.
Graduates are eligible for the highest level of licensure in South Dakota, and many pursue leadership roles in addiction and prevention education. The addiction studies program holds accreditation from the National Addiction Studies Accreditation Commission.
Learners can complete USD's master's degree in addiction studies online in an asynchronous format through the Desire2Learn platform. Distance learners gain access to a student counseling center, an online writing center, and digital library resources. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree and submit a statement of purpose, a current resume, and three letters of recommendation. Admission requirements also include a criminal background check. All online learners pay the same tuition rate, regardless of their state of residency.
Virginia Commonwealth University
|Richmond, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 63%||
VCU is a public research university in Richmond. Founded in 1838, the university serves more than 31,000 students. Housed within its school of medicine, the international master of science in addiction studies program is a collaboration between VCU, King’s College London, and the University of Adelaide in Australia. The program provides cross-cultural exposure to prevention, treatment, research, and policy issues.
Students in the program explore and compare international perspectives surrounding effective addiction prevention and treatment practices. The curriculum includes coursework in public health issues and approaches to addictions, the biological basis of addition, addiction policy, and pharmacotherapies. Students take a research methodology course and complete a 12-week, six-credit final research project. Graduates often pursue leadership positions in addiction research, policy, and treatment.
Students can complete this master's degree in addiction studies online without visiting campus. The program consists of 36 credits, and learners take courses synchronously and in a prescribed sequence. Full-time students can graduate in one year, while part-time learners typically complete the program in two years.
Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited school (earned with a minimum 3.0 GPA) or an international level 2A or 1 honors degree. Prospective students must submit three letters of recommendation and a statement of intent. VCU offers a variety of payment plans and scholarships. Enrollment in this program is limited to 40 students each year.
|Virginia Beach, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 61%||
Regent is a Christian research university located in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The private university offers a master of arts in human services with a concentration in addictions counseling. This non-licensure counseling degree explores intervention techniques in ministry and professional recovery contexts. Many graduates go on to pursue careers as substance abuse counselors, medical and health services managers, pastoral counselors, and clinical case managers.
Students earning a master's degree in addiction studies online complete at least 30 credits. Regent offers courses in eight-week sessions, both asynchronously and synchronously. Online coursework involves real-time discussions, group projects, and podcast lectures. The curriculum includes classes in multicultural awareness and individual diversity, helping skills and techniques, process addictions, and advanced counseling skills and techniques.
Learners explore human growth and development, treatment options, research, and professional ethics. They also prepare to assess, diagnose, and treat different types of misuse, abuse, and dependency. The program culminates in a final three-credit capstone and field experience course. Part-time students can graduate in two years, and full-time students can earn their degrees in one year.
Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited university earned with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Prospective students with an undergraduate degree in counseling, psychology, or a related human behavioral field receive preference. All online learners pay the same tuition rate, regardless of their state of residency.
University of the Cumberlands
|Williamsburg, KY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 41%||
The University of the Cumberlands is a private university located in Williamsburg, Kentucky. Established in 1888, the school began as Cumberland College and earned university status in 2005. The school's master of arts in addiction counseling is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.
Learners pursuing a master's in addiction counseling online explore topics like ethics, humanity, client-centered counseling, diversity, and social change. Coursework covers psychological assessment in clinical practice, human growth and development, and counseling during grief and crisis. Students learn how to select assessments to evaluate and diagnose individuals, develop appropriate treatment plans, and apply addiction counseling intervention and prevention theories.
The curriculum includes courses in psychopharmacology and addictions, motivation and change, family therapy in addiction treatment, and spirituality and values in counseling. Many program graduates become licensed professional counselors or licensed/certified addiction counselors.
The program requires participants to complete 60 credits of coursework. Transfer students can apply up to 30 eligible credits earned from another regionally accredited institution. The university offers online courses in synchronous and asynchronous formats. Students typically take a maximum of two courses per eight-week term. Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution earned with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Prospective students must also submit two letters of recommendation. All distance learners pay the same tuition rate.
Wright State University
|Dayton, OH||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 36%||
Wright State is a public research university located in Dayton, Ohio. The school enrolls more than 15,000 students annually and offers a master of rehabilitation counseling with a chemical dependency major. The program focuses on addictions, rehabilitation, and counseling theory and practice.
Classes include marriage and family counseling, systems theory, counseling for lifespan development, psychosocial rehabilitation, and vocational evaluation and assessment. The program prepares students to sit for the certified rehabilitation counselor examination and the national counselor examination. Graduates can also earn their Ohio professional counselor license. Students often pursue careers as chemical dependency and rehabilitation counselors, prevention specialists, and employee assistant counselors.
The program consists of 60 credits, with all coursework available online. Students also complete a 100-hour on-site practicum, which includes at least 40 hours of direct client contact. Additionally, participants carry out an internship worth six credits; they can pursue paid internship opportunities through the university's Cornerstone Project. This master's in addiction counseling online program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.
Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree earned with a minimum 2.7 GPA and a minimum 291 combined GRE score or a minimum 403 scaled MAT score. However, Wright State waives test score requirements for applicants with a GPA of 3.3 or higher. Individuals must also submit three letters of recommendation and a statement describing their educational and professional goals. Prospective students need to participate in a group interview, and admitted students can begin in the fall or spring.
|Topeka, KS||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 39%||
Founded in 1865, WU is a publicly funded, independently governed university in Topeka, Kansas. The university offers more than 200 programs and enrolls over 6,000 students. WU oversees a master of arts in human services program with an emphasis in addiction counseling. Faculty follow a holistic, integrative approach to counseling. Learners focus on the application of theory and research, preparing to become licensed master’s addiction counselors and licensed clinical addiction counselors.
WU's program holds approval from the Kansas Behavioral Sciences Regulatory Board. Students earning their master's in addiction counseling online take classes like diagnosis of substance use disorders, advanced pharmacology and substance use disorders, professional ethics and practice, and lifespan development. Students complete two practica, a supervision and leadership course, and an applied research course. Coursework is available entirely online, and students complete fieldwork in their own community.
The curriculum comprises 36 credits, and WU accepts up to 12 eligible transfer credits. Students can complete the program part time or full time in 1-2 years. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree -- preferably in human services, social work, psychology, or nursing -- and a minimum 3.0 GPA. WU offers an early-entry option for college seniors who have completed at least 88 credits of a baccalaureate program in a field related to human services.
What Else Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Addiction & Recovery Program?
Online master's degree in addiction and recovery programs train students to provide treatment, counseling, and support to people in recovery from addiction. Many programs prepare graduates to sit for state-specific exams required to become a licensed counselor. Details of what to expect when pursuing an online master's in addiction and recovery may vary depending on school and program.
CURRICULUM FOR AN ONLINE MASTER'S DEGREE IN ADDICTION & RECOVERY
Online master's degree programs in addiction and recovery offer different types of courses depending on the school you choose to attend. Some programs focus on academic theories of addiction, treatment, and recovery, while others spend more time developing students' clinical skills. Below you'll find a sample curriculum for a master's in addiction and recovery online degree program.
- Group Therapy in Addiction Treatment: Students learn to facilitate group therapy sessions for people in treatment for substance abuse and addictive behavior. Skills learned include active listening, observation of individual behavior and group interactions, facilitation, leadership styles, problematic client behavior, and evaluation. At the end of the course, students will know how to develop, facilitate, monitor, assist, and evaluate a small group undergoing addiction treatment. This course prepares students to work as counselors in recovery/rehabilitation centers.
- Introduction to Addictive Disorders: Students get an introduction to the nature of addiction and how it impacts individuals suffering from it. Topics covered include identification, prevention, and treatment of substance abuse and other addictive disorders. Current research and historical approaches to addiction are discussed. This introductory course prepares students for any type of job related to addiction, including counseling, research, and education.
- Practicum in Substance Abuse Counseling: Students receive hands-on, real-world experience counseling people with substance abuse issues and addictive behavior. Students are placed in a field experience and learn from a supervisor with direct experience in substance abuse counseling. Activities may include monitoring and evaluating clients/patients. This course prepares students to work as substance abuse counselors.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET AN ONLINE MASTER'S IN ADDICTION & RECOVERY?
To determine how long it will take you to get an online master's in addiction and recovery, you'll need to consider your individual situation. Will you be working while attending school? Will you be taking classes part time or full time? The number of courses you take each term will affect how quickly you can graduate. The school's academic calendar and schedule may also impact how long it takes you to complete your degree. Some schools deliver courses year-round, while others only offer classes during two semesters each year.
Some programs permit students to progress through the curriculum at their own pace; others feature a cohort learning approach where groups of students cycle through the program together. Cohorts enjoy a sense of community and usually finish the program together at a predetermined time.
If your program requires you to complete an internship or become a licensed counselor, you'll likely take longer to finish. On average, it takes 1-3 years and anywhere from 33 to 60 credits to complete an online master's in addiction and recovery.
Accreditation for Online Master's in Addiction & Recovery Programs
Make sure to choose an accredited program when you're looking for an addiction and recovery master's degree online. Accreditation is process of evaluation that schools voluntarily undergo to make sure they meet a certain standard of educational quality.
Two types of accreditation exist: regional and national. Regional accreditation organizations focus on geographic areas of the U.S., whereas national accreditation agencies accredit schools throughout the country. The more widely recognized type of accreditation is regional accreditation. Transfer credit from regionally accredited schools is also more widely recognized and accepted than credit from nationally accredited schools. Choosing an accredited school is a good way to ensure you get a high quality education.
Here are the two most well-known national accreditation agencies in the field of addiction studies:
- Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP) accredits master's and doctoral degree programs in counseling and its specialties.
- National Addiction Studies Accreditation Commission (NASAC) accredits higher education addiction studies programs.
Students should also determine if the online master's degree in addiction and recovery programs they are interested in are accredited by an industry-specific or state-specific organization. Some states require that addiction counselors become licensed and feature state organizations that accredit addiction degree programs.
Two organizations that play major roles in accreditation are the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). In addition to establishing educational policy, the DOE coordinates federal assistance and distributes student loans and grants. The DOE also publishes a list of nationally recognized accreditors that students can trust. CHEA is an group of colleges and universities that coordinates the accreditation process for higher education in the U.S. by ensuring that the accrediting agencies themselves meet certain quality standards.
Employment Outlook for Master's in Addiction & Recovery Graduates
MASTER'S IN ADDICTION & RECOVERY SALARY
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselor Salary by Employer Type
In addition to geographic location, type of career, and professional experience level, the kind of employer you work for will impact your annual earnings in the addiction and recovery field. The table below features data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics regarding expected salaries for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors working for different types of employers.
|Hospitals; state, local, and private||$48,300|
|State and local government, excluding education and hospitals||$45,990|
|Outpatient care centers||$39,820|
|Individual and family services||$39,130|
|Residential intellectual and developmental disability, mental health, and substance abuse facilities||$37,050|
MASTER'S IN ADDICTION & RECOVERY CAREERS
An addiction counseling master's degree online prepares graduates to work in the fields of direct client/patient services, public health, human services, social and community services, research, and education. Addiction and recovery professionals work in nonprofits, hospitals, outpatient clinics, private practices, and at all levels of government organizations. The most common career path in the field is substance abuse/addiction counselor.
A position in the addiction and recovery field is well-suited for those interested in helping people improve their health. Additionally, a calm and empathetic disposition, especially under stress, is a helpful personality trait for professionals in this field.
- Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors
These counselors provide treatment to people struggling with various addictive behaviors, from alcoholism and drug addiction to eating disorders. Professionals with an advanced degree in this role are poised to earn more than those with only a bachelor's degree.
Median Annual Salary - $41,070
Projected Growth Rate - 22%
- Social and Community Service Managers
Managers of social and community services coordinate and supervise community organizations and social services, including addiction and recovery services. They usually manage staff members who provide these services directly to individuals. A bachelor's degree is needed for entry-level positions, but it's helpful to have a master's degree for career advancement.
Median Annual Salary - $64,680
Projected Growth Rate - 10%
- Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists
These therapists help people battling problems with their marriage, family, and/or mental health issues, which sometimes includes addiction. They typically need a master's degree and a license in order to practice.
Median Annual Salary - $44,170
Projected Growth Rate - 19%
- Social Workers
Social workers assist people with problems in their everyday lives. Clinical social workers diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional issues, which may include addictive behavior. A bachelor's degree is usually required for entry-level positions, but a master's will enable individuals to qualify for higher positions.
Median Annual Salary - $46,890
Projected Growth Rate - 12%
- Health Educators and Community Health Workers
These professionals teach others how to improve their health as individuals and communities. They develop, implement, and evaluate programs to promote community health, including programs dealing with addiction. An advanced degree will make job candidates more competitive and allow them to earn a higher salary.
Median Annual Salary - $44,390
Projected Growth Rate - 13%
LICENSURE AND CERTIFICATION
- Master Addiction Counselor (MAC): This voluntary certification demonstrates skills learned through graduate coursework or work experience. MACs can advance their careers and earn higher salaries. Applicants must have a master's degree in addiction studies, a current professional counseling license, three years of full-time experience, and 500 hours of education. Additionally, candidates must pass the certification exam within four years of application.
- National Certified Addiction Counselor I (NCAC I): A voluntary certification similar to the MAC, the NCAC I is for those working in the addiction/substance abuse field and may lead to career advancement and higher salary. The credential indicates specialized knowledge in addiction assessment and treatment. Applicants must be currently licensed addiction counselors, have 270 hours of education, and pass the certification exam within four years of applying.
Joining professional organizations in the field of addiction and recovery is beneficial to both current students and recent graduates. Membership in industry groups is good way to connect with future colleagues and employers; learn about job, volunteer, and committee opportunities; and stay informed about new developments in addiction and recovery studies. Most professional organizations offer discounted membership rates for students and recent graduates.
Financing Your Online Master's in Addiction & Recovery Program
Paying for your degree can seem daunting. Luckily, there are numerous options for funding your education. Everyone should complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form in order to understand federal funding opportunities like scholarships, loans, grants, and work-study. Numerous scholarships and grants are also available through private individuals and organizations. Those who already work for a substance abuse or addiction-related organization should find out if their employer offers tuition assistance for employees seeking further education in the addiction and recovery field.
Approximately two-thirds of today's college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.
Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.
Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you'll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn't always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.
Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family's financial future. We've compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.
Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.