Why This Matters


    According to O*NET, 19% of substance abuse and behavioral disorder counseling roles require a bachelor’s degree, and a further 30% call for a master’s.


    There is excepted to be 79,000 new jobs for specialist addiction counselors by 2028, and this growth rate is significantly faster than the average across all occupations.


    Although the median wage for substance abuse counselors is $47,660, continuing your studies at a master’s level could boost your earning potential. The top 10% of practitioners earn at least $78,770.

Our Research

Our list features undergraduate and postgraduate degrees focusing on substance abuse counseling. Bachelor’s degrees are typically in psychology and follow either the Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science pathway. The list also includes master’s programs for people who have already earned a bachelor’s and wish to study further, and there are also shorter associate degree and certification courses.

Many of these courses are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, an independent organization that monitors the quality of higher education institutions and holds them accountable for ensuring improvement. Others carry alternative regional or national accreditation that verifies the provision quality. Bear in mind that regional accreditation may make it easier to transfer credits to a different college.

  • 63 hours to write this article
  • 82 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 122 education programs we compared

The Top 50 Online Substance Abuse Counseling Programs

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What You Should Know About This Degree

The primary difference between the degrees on this list is the length and level of study. High school graduates can choose between a two-year associate degree or undertake a four-year bachelor’s program. Master’s programs are suitable for students who have already completed an undergraduate degree in psychology or another related field.

When you’re choosing between online substance abuse counseling programs, check that the institution is accredited regionally or nationally for quality assurance.

Job prospects for graduates in this field are excellent. As more people seek substance abuse and mental health support, opportunities for specialist counselors are expected to increase by around 25% by 2028.

Although qualification requirements for substance abuse counseling roles vary across employers, most ask for a bachelor’s degree at minimum. Completing a master’s degree can help you access the highest-paying roles.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching online substance abuse counseling programs:

  • Am I eligible for this program? Associate and bachelor’s courses generally require a high school diploma, usually with a minimum 2.0 GPA. Institutions may also ask for minimum SAT, ACT, or CLT scores. You’ll need a bachelor’s degree in psychology or another relevant subject to meet the admissions requirements for a master’s program.
  • What licensing or certifications are required? There isn’t a standard nationwide certification for substance abuse counselors, and required qualifications vary by area and employer. Generally, you’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree, but many employers strongly prefer candidates with a master’s.

While you narrow down your options, keep track of the application deadlines for each course and find out what admissions documentation you need to provide. You can often find this information listed on each institution’s website, and the admissions department can also help.

Determining how to finance your program is also important. Don’t forget to submit your financial aid application before the deadline and explore alternative funding sources like scholarships.