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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), projected job growth in addictions and recovery is much faster than in other fields. BLS also reports that the median pay of master-level counselors in addictions and recovery is over $48,500. Similar roles include social workers, community health workers, and marriage and family therapists, all earning an average annual salary of $49,710.

To start a career in this field, students must complete a master’s in addictions and recovery degree program. Average tuition and fees for graduate degrees range from $12,394 at a public university to $26,621 at a private university. It can take between one and three years to complete a master’s program.

How to Choose an Online Master’s in Addictions and Recovery Program

Choose your area of study

Students who create specific career goals may find it easier to select the best master’s program, which may include the following:

  • Master of Social Work
  • Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
  • Master of Arts in Addiction Counseling

Master of Social Work degrees prepares students for clinical and supervisory roles in community organizations. A Master of Science in mental health counseling prepares students to offer mental health and dual diagnosis counseling services to inpatient and outpatient clients. With a Master of Arts in Addiction Counseling degree, students can work with people entering treatment at any stage of recovery.

Research schools and programs

Researching online master’s degree programs means finding valuable answers to questions like:

  • How do former students review the program?
  • What credentials do faculty members have?
  • Do the programs offer practicum or internship experiences?
  • What is the graduation and placement rate?

The school’s website and social media pages should provide answers to many of the questions, but students can also participate in virtual tours and video conferences with program representatives. The best online master’s in addictions and recovery degree programs are accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) and offered at regionally accredited institutions.

Prepare for tests and applications

Students can benefit by implementing methods to stay organized and documenting progress. One of the first steps is determining if the master’s degree program requires the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and, if so, the deadline to submit test results. Some schools may require the GRE subject test in psychology for its counseling program.

Online master’s in addictions and recovery degree programs typically ask for the following to supplement an application:

  • Application fees
  • Resume
  • Undergraduate transcripts
  • Letters of recommendation

Some documents, like official transcripts and test results, must be originals sent directly to the admissions department.

Select your program

Application fees are non-refundable, so applying to multiple schools can be costly and stressful. Students may want to apply only to their top choices or contact program representatives to see if they can waive the fees for the master’s degree in addictions and recovery program.

Students can further narrow options based on benefits such as hands-on experiences, flexibility, accessibility to faculty, and online student services.

Determine how you’ll pay for your online master’s in addictions and recovery degree program

A 2023 report from the Department of Education shows that 74% of graduate students receive financial aid. Students can explore ways to reach their educational goals by connecting with the financial aid office, such as the following:

  • Work-study or co-op programs
  • Fellowships or assistantships
  • Grants
  • Scholarships

A financial aid officer can help students begin the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which will collect income data and connect students with financial programs they qualify for. Another option may be through an employer offering tuition assistance, which may pay a portion of the overall cost.

Best 50 Accredited Online Master’s in Addictions and Recovery Programs

Best Online Master's in Addictions and Recovery Degree Programs

University of North Texas

University of South Dakota

Virginia Commonwealth University

Governors State University

Liberty University

West Virginia University

Regent University

University of Oklahoma

University at Buffalo

University of the Cumberlands

Indiana Wesleyan University

University of Massachusetts

Wake Forest University

Nova Southeastern University

George Washington University

University of Alabama

Drexel University

University of Mary

Prescott College

Mid-America Christian University

University of Southern Maine

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How We Rank Schools

For this list, we sought master’s programs 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).

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.

What Can You Expect from an Online Master’s in Addictions and Recovery Program?

Most master-level programs require 30 or more credit hours. When attending full-time, which consists of 12 credit hours per semester, students can usually finish in two years. Part-time students will likely need an extra year to complete the program.

The best online master’s in addictions and recovery degree programs offer accelerated programs for those who can handle more than a full course load in a semester, allowing students to complete it in 18 months or less.

Master-level students in addictions and recovery programs have requirements other than courses, including one or more of the following:

  • Practicum
  • Internship
  • Thesis and oral presentation
  • Final exam

Practicums help students gain real-world experience working under the supervision of a licensed professional. Students can choose from various settings, such as dual diagnosis treatment centers, outpatient counseling agencies, inpatient hospitals, and schools.

Potential courses you’ll take in an online master’s in addictions and recovery degree program

  • Ethics in Addictions and Recovery Counseling. All counselors must follow legal and ethical guidelines when providing therapy services. In this class, students learn boundary setting, conflicts of interest, confidentiality, and making good decisions. Not following ethical codes could affect a person’s recovery.
  • Relapse Prevention. Students will learn the risk factors for relapse and counseling tools and techniques to help clients avoid relapse. Some topics explored include cognitive restructuring, identifying triggers, improving coping skills, and building a support system.
  • Pharmacology. Students learn the substances misused by those with a substance use disorder and how they affect the body. They learn potential consequences, interactions, and adverse effects. Finally, students learn how prescription drugs can treat addiction.
  • Group Counseling. This course covers group dynamics and how they can help the recovery process. Students learn various group counseling techniques and how to run a group program. Topics include active listening, body language, behavioral therapies, and the stages of group counseling.
  • Assessment and Referral. Students learn the various diagnostic tools to use when conducting a biopsychosocial assessment to find the proper treatment for a client. The class covers the levels of care, how addiction affects family and friends, and how to handle resistant clients.

What Can You Do With an Online Master’s in Addictions and Recovery??

Career outlook

The career outlook for individuals with an online master’s in addictions and recovery is promising. With the growing recognition of addiction as a critical public health issue, there is a rising demand for trained professionals in this field. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts an 18 percent increase in the need for trained substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors by 2032, much higher than the economy as a whole. The median annual salary of a professional in this field is $49,710, with the top ten percent making more than $82,710.

Career paths

Graduates with an online master’s in addictions and recovery can pursue diverse career paths, including substance abuse counseling, clinical supervision, addiction research, program coordination, education, and advocacy roles. These roles offer competitive salaries and the opportunity to make a meaningful impact on individuals and communities struggling with addiction.

Here are a few common career choices for individuals with this level of education:

  • Addiction educator — teaches courses to those entering the field at universities and vocational schools
  • Clinical director — oversees operations at addiction treatment centers
  • Private practice therapist — provides one-on-one counseling and tailored treatment plans
  • Mental health counselor — addresses co-occurring mental health issues alongside addiction
  • Social worker — helps individuals and families navigate the complexities of addiction, connecting them to essential services and resources

Substance Abuse Counselor

Earning Potential: $34,500-$82,700 annually

Education Required: Master’s degree in addictions counseling or related field; state licensure or certification may be required

Substance abuse counselors play a pivotal role in helping individuals overcome addiction and achieve recovery. They provide compassionate support, conduct assessments, and develop personalized treatment plans. Counseling sessions focus on addressing underlying issues, teaching coping skills, and fostering long-term recovery. These professionals work in diverse settings, such as rehabilitation centers, outpatient clinics, and correctional facilities, creating a safe and nonjudgmental environment where clients can work towards sobriety and healthier lives. Substance abuse counselors also provide essential guidance to families and collaborate with healthcare teams for comprehensive care.

Clinical Supervisor

Earning Potential: $60,000-$80,000 annually

Education Required: Master’s degree in counseling, addictions and recovery, or related field; licensure or certification may be required

Addictions and recovery clinical supervisors play a crucial role in guiding and overseeing the work of counselors and therapists. They ensure treatment programs are effective and adhere to industry standards and regulations. Clinical supervisors provide clinical expertise, offer support and mentorship to counselors, and conduct regular case reviews to assess client progress. They also help develop and implement evidence-based practices and training programs. By fostering a collaborative and supportive environment, clinical supervisors contribute to the continuous improvement of addiction treatment services and the well-being of clients on their journey to recovery.

Program Coordinator

Earning Potential: $50,000-$70,000 annually

Education Required: master’s degree in social work, addictions and recovery, or related field; certification or licensure may be required

Addictions and recovery program coordinators are responsible for developing, managing, and evaluating addiction treatment programs. They work closely with a team of professionals to ensure that services meet the needs of clients and comply with industry standards and regulations. Coordinators oversee program budgets, allocate resources, and track program outcomes. They also collaborate with staff to implement evidence-based practices, assess the effectiveness of interventions, and make improvements as needed. Additionally, program coordinators may liaise with community partners and advocate for policies that support individuals in recovery. Their work is vital in providing comprehensive and quality addiction treatment services to those in need.

Online Master’s in Addictions and Recovery Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply for an online master's in addictions and recovery degree program?

The application process for an online master’s in addictions and recovery starts with an application plan. Make a checklist that includes the name of the school, the program, and application deadlines. It is helpful to have a separate checklist for each school containing the specific items to submit, which can include the following:

  • GRE test results
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Undergraduate transcripts
  • Resume
  • Personal essay or statement

Request help to create a checklist by contacting an admissions counselor at your preferred school. They can verify submission deadlines and provide tips for completing a quality application.

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

After speaking with the admissions department, contact the university’s financial aid department. A financial aid counselor can assist in applying for numerous assistance programs.

Costs include more than the base tuition. There are additional fees to consider, including technology, library, student services, textbooks, and activities. However, an online master’s in addictions and recovery program can save students money. For example, the following are reduced or eliminated:

  • Transportation costs
  • Parking permits
  • Campus meal plans
  • Housing

Other factors that affect overall costs include attending part-time versus full-time versus accelerated. Also, consider any expenses a student pays to help them attend a master’s program, like childcare.

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

The time a student commits to an online master’s in addictions and recovery program determines how long it will take to graduate. Part-time students will need more time than accelerated program students.

Unexpected life factors influence their timeline, some of which are out of a student’s control. Examples include being understaffed at work, losing a loved one, personal illness or injury, relationship problems, and financial struggles.

Another factor affecting the timeline is how many credits the graduate program requires, which can range from 30 to 48 credit hours.

Is an online master’s in addictions and recovery worth it?

An online master’s degree in addictions and recovery can be worth it for individuals who want to make a difference in the lives of others and help those struggling with substance abuse. Earning a master’s degree in this field opens the door to leadership positions and higher-paying jobs. Graduates can pursue careers as clinical supervisors, addiction researchers, or other positions that command competitive salaries. According to, a substance abuse counselor in the U.S. earns a median salary of $57,880.

An online master’s degree provides in-depth knowledge of addiction psychology, counseling techniques, and evidence-based interventions, allowing graduates to become experts in the field and better equipped to understand and address complex addiction issues.

An online program offers a high level of flexibility in terms of scheduling and location, allowing students to balance their education with work and personal commitments. This is particularly beneficial for professionals who are already working in the field. The knowledge and skills acquired through online education can prepare graduates for remote counseling or telehealth roles, which are becoming increasingly important in today’s digital world.

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