Why This Matters


    Substance abuse disorders are very prevalent in the U.S., although only about 10% of people who abuse substances will seek treatment for their addiction, according to the U.S. Surgeon General.


    One of the most critical drug-related crises the U.S. is currently facing is the widespread abuse of prescription and illegal opioids, including heroin. In 2017, 47,000 people died from opioid overdoses.


    Due to these trends, the need for substance abuse and mental health counselors is increasing at a rapid pace, with an estimated 68,500 new job opportunities expected in the next decade.

Our Research

For this list, we sought master’s programs that focused on addictions and recovery counseling. The most common types of degrees in this area are Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Science (MS).

In order to guarantee accessibility for the greatest number of students, we only reviewed programs that can be completed fully or primarily through online coursework. Please note that many programs do have in-person clinical experience requirements.

All of the schools on our list have regional accreditation. Many programs also have specialized accreditation through bodies like the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), or the National Addiction Studies Accreditation Commission (NASAC).

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

  • 61 hours to write this article
  • 122 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 319 education programs we compared

The Top 26 Online Master’s in Addictions and Recovery Degree Programs

Best Online Master's in Addictions and Recovery Degree Programs
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What You Should Know About This Degree

Working with individuals who are dealing with substance abuse disorders or other addictions is a rewarding but often challenging field. Addictions and recovery counselors work with vulnerable populations who may be coping with other issues besides addiction. Counselors must be compassionate, patient, and empathetic. They must also be prepared to deal with mental, emotional, and sometimes physical demands on the job. Before pursuing a career in addictions and recovery, consider your natural aptitudes and personality to determine if you have the right qualities for the job.

There are two types of professional credentialing available to addictions and recovery counselors – the Licensed Alcohol Drug Abuse Counselor (LADC) and the Certified Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor (CADC). The LADC is regulated and awarded at the state level, while the CADC is a nationally transferable credential. The two types of credentials also have different education requirements. An advanced degree is required to be eligible for the CADC, while the educational requirements for the LADC tend to be less stringent, although they do vary by state.

It’s important to review your state’s requirements for credentialing so that you can be sure to select a program that will lead to licensure or certification. Most addictions and recovery jobs seek employees who have their credentials or are eligible for credentials.

What’s Next?

You can ask the following questions when reviewing online master’s in addiction and recovery programs:

  • Are there in-person requirements for this program? As a human services field, part of learning how to be an addictions and recovery counselor involves working with people. Most master’s programs have clinical requirements in which students gain hands-on experience in an addictions and recovery setting. When researching programs, find out what these requirements are and when you are expected to complete them so that you can plan to accommodate them in your schedule.
  • Does this program offer training in additional types of counseling? Some programs focus specifically on addictions and recovery counseling, while others include coursework related to mental health or rehabilitation counseling. Your personal and professional interests will guide what type of program you are seeking. Individuals who have educational experience in mental health or rehabilitation counseling may have a wider range of job opportunities post-graduation.

During the research process, you should also review the program’s admissions deadlines and start collecting your application materials.

Now is also a good time to research options for funding your graduate degree, including loans, institutional and private scholarships, assistantships, and employer tuition benefits if you are currently employed.