Best Online Master’s in Addiction and Recovery Programs

July 6, 2020

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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.

What are the Best Master's in Addiction and Recovery Programs? Here are our top 10:

Rank School Location
1 Virginia Commonwealth University Richmond, VA
2 University of North Texas Denton, TX
3 Governors State University University Park, IL
4 University of South Dakota Vermillion, SD
5 Monmouth University West Long Branch, NJ
6 Regent University Virginia Beach, VA
7 Liberty University Lynchburg, VA
8 University of the Cumberlands Williamsburg, KY
9 Prescott College Prescott, AZ
10 Wright State University Dayton, OH

Related Programs That Might Interest You

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Choosing a Program


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.


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.


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.


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.

Best Accredited Online Master's in Addiction and Recovery Programs

Virginia Commonwealth University View School Profile Richmond, VA

VCU serves over 30,000 students every year. Distance learners can pursue an online master's in addiction studies that emphasizes a cross-cultural examination of treatment and prevention issues. Students may enroll part time or full time, gaining the skills needed to pursue careers in program management and international policy.

The 36-credit curriculum covers topics like the biological basis of addiction, research methodologies, and relevant public health issues. Students examine various treatment strategies, including psychosocial interventions and pharmacotherapies. The program culminates in an intensive research project.

Applicants must have a minimum 3.0 GPA. They must also submit a statement of intent and three recommendation letters. The program does not require GRE scores for admission. Prospective students may apply for the fall semester.

University of North Texas View School Profile Denton, TX

UNT offers more than 60 online certificates and degrees through the Canvas platform, including an online master's in rehabilitation counseling. This 60-credit program allows distance learners to complete all of their required coursework online or take some courses on UNT's Denton campus.

Required courses include medical and psychosocial aspects of disability, counseling theories and techniques, and research and program evaluation. Students can explore various addiction counseling models and treatments through electives. All learners must complete at least 700 hours of supervised fieldwork.

Admission requirements include a current resume, two professional recommendation letters, and a personal statement. Applicants may also be asked to complete an on-campus interview.

Governors State University View School Profile University Park, IL

GSU serves approximately 5,500 students in over 80 programs, including an online master of health science in addiction studies. After completing this 32-credit program, graduates are prepared to work as policy experts, certified counselors, and program managers.

Required coursework covers topics like substance abuse prevention, psychopharmacology, and psychopathology and coexisting disorders. Students may pursue an addictions counseling concentration and complete a criminal justice internship to become a certified criminal justice addictions professional. The program culminates in a comprehensive exam.

Applicants must have a minimum 2.5 GPA and submit a personal statement discussing their professional interests and goals for the program. This program is accredited by the National Addiction Studies Accreditation Commission

University of South Dakota View School Profile Vermillion, SD

The state's flagship higher education institution, USD educates about 10,000 students annually and offers a variety of innovative programs, including an online master of arts in addiction counseling and prevention.

The curriculum totals 33 or 45 credits, depending on a student's academic and professional background. Required courses include advanced legal/ethical issues, relapse prevention, and case management and assessment of co-occurring disorders. All students must also complete an internship.

Prospective students must have a minimum 3.0 GPA, and applicants with at least one year of relevant work experience are preferred. This master's program is fully accredited by the National Addiction Studies Accreditation Commission.

Monmouth University View School Profile West Long Branch, NJ

Based in West Long Branch, New Jersey, Monmouth offers over 20 graduate programs, including an online master of arts in addiction studies that prepares students for careers as licensed clinical alcohol and drug counselors. The curriculum covers topics like human growth and development, group dynamics, and assessment of individual clients.

After completing required coursework, students complete a 100-hour field placement. Learners can complete all coursework online or take some on-campus evening courses.

Admission requirements include a minimum 3.0 GPA, two professional recommendations, and a personal narrative. Applicants must submit GRE scores unless they already hold a graduate degree in a related field. Monmouth's master's in addiction program is accredited by the National Addiction Studies Accreditation Commission and the International Coalition for Addiction Studies Education.

Regent University View School Profile Virginia Beach, VA

Regent offers programs in over 135 different fields, including an online master's in human services in addictions counseling. A non-licensure option, this 30-credit program prepares graduates to work as pastoral counselors, clinical case managers, and medical/health services coordinators.

Required courses include addiction intervention, addictive behavior and substance abuse, and advanced counseling skills and techniques. Students also delve into the psychological and physiological aspects of process addiction. The program features eight-week courses and no residency requirements, providing distance learners with plenty of flexibility.

Prospective students must have a BA or BS earned with a minimum 3.0 GPA from a regionally accredited school. Regent prefers applicants with degrees in psychology, counseling, or a related human behavioral field.

Liberty University View School Profile Lynchburg, VA

Liberty is a leading provider of distance learning, offering over 300 online graduate programs, including an online master of arts in addiction counseling. This program teaches students the skills needed to work as managed care specialists, clinical case managers, and rehabilitation counselors. Students can fulfill up to 50% of degree requirements with transfer credits, and most students graduate in under two years.

The 48-credit curriculum includes coursework in multicultural counseling, theories of family systems, and diagnosis and treatment planning of addictive disorders. Through electives, learners can examine specialized topics like acute stress, grief, and trauma. All students must also complete an internship.

To qualify for full admission, applicants need a 3.0 GPA or higher. Prospective students who do not meet this threshold can enroll on a provisional basis.

University of the Cumberlands View School Profile Williamsburg, KY

Based in Williamsburg, Kentucky, UC serves approximately 13,000 students every year. Distance learners can choose from more than 40 programs, including an online master's in addiction counseling. Graduates can pursue careers as licensed counselors, public health educators, and regulatory affairs directors.

The 60-credit curriculum includes core courses in etiology and diagnosis of mental disorders, advanced clinical assessment, and research methods and program evaluation. Students examine the theories and practices for group, multicultural, and grief/crisis counseling. All learners must complete an internship.

Applicants must have a minimum 3.0 GPA. The program does not require GRE scores for admission and accepts up to 30 transfer credits. This master's in addiction counseling program is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

Prescott College View School Profile Prescott, AZ

Prescott College powers distance learning with the Moodle platform, overseeing 41 online certificates and degree programs. Among its offerings is a master's degree in counseling with an emphasis in addictions counseling. Using a hybrid, limited-residency delivery method, this 60-credit program combines asynchronous courses with in-person residencies where learners connect with professors and peers.

Required courses cover topics like psychopathology; career and lifestyle development; and marriage, couple, and family counseling. Students also delve into pertinent ethical concerns and social justice challenges in the field. In addition to a supervised practicum, all students must complete a two-semester internship.

This program offers fall and spring start dates. Applicants must submit a personal essay, a resume, and two recommendation letters. Financial aid opportunities include endowed scholarships.

Wright State University View School Profile Dayton, OH

Wright State serves more than 14,000 students annually, many of whom enroll online. The university offers an online master of rehabilitation counseling in addiction counseling through the Blackboard platform. After completing this 63-credit program, graduates qualify for professional counseling licensure in Ohio.

The program includes required coursework in areas like group process counseling, treatment and prevention of addictions, and advanced personality theory and psychopathology. The curriculum also covers case formulation, clinical intervention, and supervision. All students must complete a practicum and an internship.

Applicants can earn full admission if they have a minimum 3.3 GPA or a minimum 2.7 GPA and adequate GRE or MAT scores. Prospective students with a 2.3-2.7 GPA may be able to enroll on a conditional basis.

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.


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.


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:

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.

Visit the website for the Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation for a list of accredited schools.

Employment Outlook for Master's in Addiction & Recovery Graduates


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.

Employer Expected Salary
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


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%



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.

This group represents addiction counselors, educators, and other healthcare professionals focused on addiction. NAADAC features 47 state affiliates that work together to foster healthier communities through prevention and treatment of addiction. This nonprofit organization provides its members with clinical and operational resources relating to addiction issues. One of the organization's main goals is to disseminate information on industry-wide best practices. This professional society represents physicians, clinicians, and other professionals in the field of addiction medicine. ASAM educates doctors and the public, supports research, and is dedicated to improving the qualify of addiction treatment.

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.

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