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With the United States National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reporting that over 46.8 million Americans struggle with some type of substance use disorder, there is more of a need now than ever for addiction and recovery counselors. A master’s degree in addictions and recovery prepares students for advanced careers in hospitals, private practices, substance abuse clinics, and group practices.

The median annual salary for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors is $49,710. Wages vary depending on the location, position, and industry. For example, those in state, local, or private hospitals had a higher median salary of $54,740, while those in residential mental health and substance abuse facilities had a lower median salary of $44,150.

Most master’s degrees in addictions and recovery require two years of full-time study and the completion of 33 to 69 credits to graduate. The average annual cost for a master’s program is $19,749. If students plan to live on campus, this cost will increase due to housing and living expenses.

How to Choose a Master’s in Addictions And Recovery Program

Choose your area of study

Students interested in a master’s program in addictions and recovery can choose between a Master of Arts and a Master of Science degree. The best option for you will depend on your career goals.

A Master of Arts degree is best for students interested in theoretical and critical industry knowledge. This type of degree often focuses on the arts, humanities, and social sciences, with an approach that includes critical thinking, communications, and analytics.

A Master of Science is recommended for students with career goals that include scientific or specific technical training. This type of degree approaches learning with a quantitative, scientific perspective. Courses often include technology, natural sciences, medicine, and math.

Students can choose an area of specialization that aligns with their professional goals. Common specializations in the field include rehabilitation counseling, clinical counseling, mental health, addiction studies, and prevention science.

Research schools and programs

When researching schools and programs, look for those that are accredited. Accredited institutions meet a set quality standard and help students receive financial aid, transfer credits, and gain employment after graduation.

To learn more about prospective schools, attend open houses, visit the campus in person, browse their websites, and follow them on social media. You can also speak with a school representative to ask questions and learn more about the program.

Prepare for tests and applications

Visit the program website to learn more about the admissions requirements and deadlines. Most master’s in addictions and recovery programs will require you to submit the following:

  • Undergraduate transcripts
  • Letters of recommendation
  • A personal statement or essay
  • GRE or GMAT scores
  • A resume

Some schools may also ask you to participate in an admissions interview, during which they’ll ask about your professional aspirations, professional experience, and educational background. Contact an admissions advisor before applying to ensure you have the required materials.

Select your program

If you’ve been accepted to multiple programs, review your options and find the one that best aligns with your career goals and lifestyle needs. Consider whether the program is offered online or in person, full-time or part-time, or synchronously versus asynchronously. Also, weigh the costs, length, and specialization options.

If you need help deciding, you can speak with an academic advisor. They’ll review your options and help you find the program that best meets your needs.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Consider your financial situation to determine if you’ll need assistance paying for your degree. Create a budget outlining the tuition, fees, supplies, housing, and living expenses to determine the program’s total price.

Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to determine your eligibility for financial aid, including loans, scholarships, grants, and work-study funds. Due to the high demand for addiction counselors, some companies also offer tuition reimbursement.

Best 50 Accredited Master’s in Addictions And Recovery Programs

Best Master's in Addictions And Recovery Degree Programs_2024 badge

Governors State University

Monmouth University

Indiana Wesleyan University

University of North Texas

Cambridge College

Assumption University

Ottawa University

Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School

St. Cloud State University

Antioch University

Montclair State University

West Virginia University

Metropolitan State University of Denver

The University of North Carolina at Charlotte

East Carolina University

Johnson & Wales University

Discover More Options

How we rank schools

Our chosen programs are all at the master’s level, but whether it’s a Master of Science or Master of Arts depends on the focus of the individual program. They range from 33 to 69 credit hours, although the length of time it takes you to complete your chosen program will depend on whether you are attending classes full-time or part-time.

All the colleges and universities on our list are approved by DOE-recognized regional accrediting organizations, such as the New England Commission of Higher Education or the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Many of these options also have programmatic accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.

We evaluated each program on the basis of flexibility, faculty, course strength, cost, and reputation. Then, we calculated the Intelligent Score for each program on a scale from 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.

What Can You Expect From a Master’s in Addictions And Recovery Program?

A master’s degree in addictions and recovery equips students with the knowledge and skills to become leaders in the field of addiction and recovery counseling. Students graduate with a thorough understanding of addictions, their causes, and treatments. The main topics studied include sociology, psychology, economics, education, humanities, and natural sciences.

Students use various learning materials during the program, including lectures, coursework, exams, guest speakers, and labs. Many programs conclude with a practicum or internship that allows students to practice their skills and gain real-world experience.

Potential courses you’ll take in a master’s in addictions and recovery program

  • Introduction to Addictions. Students will discuss the causes, patterns, assessments, and treatments of addiction. They’ll also learn the core functions of addiction counseling and explore different rehabilitation approaches.
  • Co-Occurring Disorders. This course examines the research of co-occurring disorders and the cycle of relapse and recovery. Students will learn how this affects addiction counseling.
  • Issues in Addiction Recovery. Issues in addiction recovery provide a general overview of substance abuse counseling and behavioral syndromes. Students will focus on pharmacology, treatment protocol, neurology, and the difference between addictions.
  • Theory and Techniques in Group Counseling. Students will study the theories, dynamics, stages, and processes of group counseling. The course will also include a group therapy session for all students enrolled.
  • Counseling Addicted Families. This course discusses the approach to the therapy of families affected by addiction. Students will examine family systems and how they are affected by addiction.

Master’s in Addictions And Recovery Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to a master's in addictions and recovery degree program?

To apply for a master’s in addiction and recovery, you will likely need to submit your undergraduate transcripts, a resume, letters of recommendation, an essay, and test scores. Some schools may also require you to take part in an admissions interview. Speak with an admissions counselor before submitting your application to discuss the requirements and ensure you have all the necessary materials.

How much does a master's in addictions and recovery degree cost?

The average annual tuition and fees for a graduate degree program is $20,513. The total expenses will vary depending on the program, school, and student requirements. In general, private schools are more expensive than public schools, though public schools tend to charge out-of-state students a higher tuition rate than in-state students.

How long does it take to earn a master's in addictions and recovery degree?

Depending on the degree, a master’s program in addictions and recovery requires between 33 and 69 credits for graduation. Most programs are designed to be completed within two years of full-time study. Students needing more flexibility can inquire with schools about online, part-time, or asynchronous learning options. These options may result in a longer completion time but allow students to study at their own pace.