20 Best Online Master’s Degrees in Substance Abuse Counseling
As more and more people suffer from abuse and addiction, the demand for licensed counselors grows. An online Master in Substance Abuse Counseling degree, a wise investment, typically meets the education requirement for licensure.
Whether you are already working in the mental health field or just exploring a career change, a master’s degree in Substance Abuse Counseling and a master’s degree in Alcohol and Drug Addiction Counseling are worthy of your consideration.
Traditional courses don’t always suit the schedule of working adult students who would most likely enroll in a Master in Substance Abuse Counseling degree program; an online format would be more desirable. Luckily, many schools see the need to offer e-courses, and some are even making full degrees available entirely online.
A solid graduate program does not need to have a prestigious name attached to it, nor does it require famous alumni. More likely, a winning online Master in Substance Abuse Counseling degree program will provide its students with tangible learning experiences by way of internships and practicum, as well as the proper curriculum needed to sit for licensing board exams.
Some of the online universities do require a certain number of days for face-to-face meetings—these should be viewed as the equivalent of professional development, just the same as one might go to conferences or workshops in order to gain applicable knowledge.
Those interested in pursuing a career in any type of counseling should always check with their state board of licensure to determine certification and licensing requirements.
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1. University of North Texas (Denton, TX)
Located just north of Dallas, the University of North Texas is a public research university founded in 1890. Graduate programs at this school are ranked #13 in the nation and #1 in Texas according to U.S. News & World Report.
The university offers the Master of Science degree in Rehabilitation Counseling. The degree is delivered entirely online and CORE-accredited.
Students must complete 48 credit hours, comprised of coursework and tangible experiences by way of practicum or internships.
Students may select a thesis or non-thesis option within their online Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling degree program.
Students receive preparation towards national certification as a rehab counselor or towards state licensure for becoming a professional counselor or a chemical dependency counselor.
2. Thomas University (Thomasville, GA)
A private, coeducational university located in southern Georgia, Thomas University first opened as a junior college in 1950 and ultimately awarded its first bachelor’s degree in 1988.
The university offers the Master of Rehabilitation Counseling with a specialization in Addictions and Alcohol Counseling. The 60 credit program can be completed entirely online; no residencies are required. A practicum and three internships are required of those seeking the specialization area.
Graduates are academically equipped to pass the exam necessary for being nationally certified CRC and a nationally certified Clinical Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CCAADC).
Alternately, students taking the online Master of Rehabilitation Counseling with a specialization in Addictions and Alcohol
Counseling program are prepared to for licensure towards becoming Licensed Associate Professional Counselors.
The program is CORE-accredited.
3. Indiana Wesleyan University (Marion, IN)
Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) is a private, Christian, liberal arts institution located between Indianapolis and Ft. Wayne. It was founded in 1890 as a college for business and teacher preparation.
In 2007, U.S. News & World Report named the university one of the top master’s universities in the Midwest. IWU enrolls over 7,000 online students each year.
The university offers the Master of Arts in Addictions Counseling online. The 48 credit hour program prepares students to work with patients who have addictive behaviors and disorders. The rigorous academic coursework enables students to pursue licensure and certifications.
IWU encourages and emphasizes students to incorporate their Christian worldview, ethics, and faith into their counseling practices. All faculty members hold doctoral degrees and licenses in the field.
4. Assumption College (Worcester, MA)
Assumption College, founded in 1904, is a private Catholic liberal arts college located between Boston and Springfield.
The graduate program in Rehabilitation Counseling has received national rankings from U.S. News & World Report, coming in at #45 in Rehabilitation Counseling.
Assumption offers the Master of Arts degree in Rehabilitation Counseling with a specialization in Substance Abuse Rehabilitation. The 20-course program can be finished in under three years.
The classwork prepares students for the CRC exam. The Master degree in Rehabilitation Counseling with a specialization in Substance Abuse Rehabilitation is fully CORE-accredited.
Students must participate in two five-day residencies on campus; campus housing is available. Mandatory clinical experience includes supervised practicum and internships.
5. Virginia Commonwealth University (Richmond, VA)
Originally founded as a medical school in 1838, Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) is now a public research university in the heart of Virginia’s state capital. While the Medical College of Virginia is part of the university at large, VCU has expanded its offerings since its inception and has become a nationally ranked institution.
U.S. News & World Report named VCU a Tier 1 school with a ranking of #94 among public universities and colleges throughout the nation. Additionally, that magazine rated VCU’s Rehabilitation Counseling program #7 in the nation.
The university offers the Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling. The online degree is accelerated; classes can be completed within three semesters and the final semester can be dedicated to internship.
The Master in Rehabilitation Counseling degree is awarded upon the completion of 48 graduate credits, which includes 36 credits in academic coursework, with the remaining credits coming from 100 hours of practicum and 600 hours of internship, electives, and comprehensive exams.
All courses are offered online; however, students must complete a one-week residency in skills development on the Richmond campus.
6. West Virginia University (Morgantown, WV)
West Virginia University (WVU), a public land grant institution, is located in the north-central part of the state, near the Pennsylvania border. Founded in 1862 as a school for agriculture, WVU is now a highly ranked academic institution with course offerings across the board.
U.S. News & World Report named WVU a Tier 1 university and ranked the institution #90 among the nation’s public universities and colleges.
The university offers an online Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling. The program is fully accredited by the Council on Rehabilitation Education.
The online Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling degree is awarded upon completion of 51 hours of coursework; however, it is recommended that those seeking professional licensure choose the 60+ credit hour track.
An intensive week-long residency for advisement sessions is required, as well as a practicum and supervised internships. Full-time students can expect to finish the program in two years.
7. Umass Online (Amherst, MA)
Founded in 1863, the University of Massachusetts (UMass) is a public, coeducational, land-grant, research university system, whose main campus is located in Amherst in central Massachusetts.
UMass consistently appears at the top of ranking system publications worldwide. The Times of London named the university #19 in the world in 2011.
The university’s online teaching division, known as UMass Online, is the recipient of the Sloan Consortium Award for the Most Outstanding Online Teaching and Learning Program.
UMass Online offers an online Master in Science in Rehabilitation Counseling through the Department of Counseling and School Psychology. Students must participate in two on-campus clinicals during the first summer session of the program, in addition to completing 60 credits for the Master in Science in Rehabilitation Counseling online degree.
The program is nationally accredited through CORE (Council on Rehabilitation Education) and the curriculum prepares students to earn national certification as a rehab counselor or Massachusetts state licensure.
8. Capella University (Minneapolis, MN)
Based in the larger of Minnesota’s famed Twin Cities, Capella University is an online university. Founded in 1991, the institution went online in 1996 and is a true pioneer in e-learning.
Accreditation comes from The Higher Learning Commission North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
Cappella offers an online Master of Science in Addiction Counseling. The program emphasizes the relationship between addiction and mental health illness. Over the course of the 44 course credits, students will participate in two residencies, each spanning the course of six days.
Each member of the counseling faculty holds a doctoral degree.
9. Liberty University Online (Lynchburg, VA)
Liberty University is a private, non-profit Christian university that was founded by the Reverend Jerry Falwell. It has been training Champions for Christ since 1971, and pioneering distance education since 1985.
Liberty University now enrolls more than 90,000 students from around the world in its thriving online program. With more than 160 fully accredited programs of study, Liberty University Online offers degrees from the certificate to the postgraduate level.
In addition to its ranking as the largest Christian university worldwide, U.S. New & World Report rated Liberty University #65 among universities in the South.
Liberty University Online offers the M.A. degree in Professional Counseling—Addictions and Recovery. The program is delivered entirely online. Students may complete either a 48 or 60 hour Master in Professional Counseling degree program, depending on their professional interests and educational needs.
All students must participate in a three-credit-hour internship; students in the 48-hour program must also complete a three-credit-hour practicum. Anywhere from 12–15 credit hours are transferable into the respective programs.
This course of study may lead to licensure as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC).
10. Nova Southeastern University (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
Nova Southeastern University (NSU) is a fully accredited, private research institution located on the south Florida coast, north of Miami.
Originally founded in 1961 as a graduate school, the university merged with Southeastern University of Health Sciences in 1994.
NSU offers a Master of Science in Counseling. Students must select between the 48-credit Substance Abuse Counseling emphasis or the 60-credit Substance Abuse Counseling and Education program.
Each program is delivered entirely online.
11. Post University (Waterbury, CT)
Founded in 1890 as a business school, the present-day Post University is a for-profit institution located between Hartford and Danbury.
U.S. News & World Report ranks Post #12 in faculty training and credentials and #28 for student services and technology among distance education programs.
Post offers the Master of Science in Human Services—Alcohol and Drug Counseling degree entirely online. Applicants are exempt from the GRE: Post states that it seeks students with a strong undergraduate background and relevant work experience for this particular degree program.
Up to nine credit hours are transferable from another accredited institution.
All students are assigned an academic adviser upon enrolling in the online classes, which are offered six times a year in eight-week modules.
Graduates of the online Master of Science in Human Services—Alcohol and Drug Counseling degree program can become licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselors through coursework completion and fulfillment of state requirements.
12. Grand Canyon University (Phoenix, AZ)
Grand Canyon University (GCU) was founded in 1949 as a private Christian liberal arts college in 1949; it became a for-profit, regionally accredited Christian university in 2004.
GCU offers the Master of Science in Addiction Counseling online. Students receive relevant, hands-on experience through the completion of supervised fieldwork and an internship, which are mandatory program requirements.
The 36-credit-hour Master of Science in Addiction Counseling online degree program prepares students for Arizona licensure towards becoming a Licensed Associate Substance Abuse Counselor or a Licensed Independent Substance Abuse Counselor.
13. University of Buffalo (Buffalo, NY)
The University of Buffalo (UB) was originally founded as a private institution by president Millard Fillmore in 1846. It joined State University of New York system in 1962, and is now a public research university and the largest university in the SUNY system.
UB offers the Master of Science degree in Rehabilitation Counseling online. The accredited program consists of 48 credit hours and prepares its graduates for a variety of counseling careers, including jobs in alcohol and drug abuse programs.
14. King’s College London (London, UK)
Founded in 1829, King’s College London is the fourth-oldest university in England.
King’s is a public research university, ranking #56 among universities worldwide in the 2012 London Times Higher Education University World Rankings.
King’s College offers a Master of Science in Addiction Studies. The year-long intensive program is offered exclusively online.
Students do not need to complete any residency requirements for the Master in Addiction Studies degree. The course of study was designed through the joint work in addiction science of three universities: Virginia Commonwealth University (USA), University of Adelaide (Australia), and King’s College.
King’s College is home to the National Addiction Center through the Addictions Department of the Institute of Psychiatry. The online Master in Addiction Studies degree emphasizes the translation of research on substance abuse counseling into practice and policy, and aims to produce leaders in the working field.
Students should consult their local governing agencies to ensure that coursework is in alignment with their licensure requirements.
15. University of Oklahoma Tulsa (Tulsa, OK)
Founded in 1890, the University of Oklahoma is a public research institution whose main campus is located in Norman. U.S. News & World Report ranked the school among the top 50 best public universities in 2011. and named it one of the top 100 national universities in 2012.
The University of Oklahoma Tulsa (not to be confused with the University of Tulsa) offers the Master of Prevention Science online. The fast-paced, 33-credit-hour program is geared towards working adults who might already be in the field. Students are assigned an academic adviser who assists in the creation of an individualized graduation plan.
Graduates of the online Master of Prevention Science degree program may pursue the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium’s Certified Prevention Specialist credential.
16. California Southern University (Irvine, CA)
California Southern University—which is located south of Los Angeles, and should not be confused with the University of Southern California—is a regionally accredited private institution that began offering distance education programs in 1978.
CalSouthern offers the Master of Science in Psychology with an emphasis in Chemical Dependency and Compulsive Disorders. The two-year, 42-credit degree program is offered entirely online. Up to six transfer credits may be accepted.
The GRE is not a requirement for admission into this particular program, which is a nationally accredited program. Courses are taught by faculty members who are experienced clinicians as well as academic professors.
17. Mid-America Christian University (Oklahoma City, OK)
Initially founded in Houston in 1954 as South Texas Bible Institute, the modern-day Mid-America Christian University makes its home in Oklahoma’s capital city.
The university offers the Master of Science in Counseling with an emphasis in Addiction and Substance Abuse.
All courses are delivered online and meet the requirements for Oklahoma licensure towards becoming a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor.
The 45 credit hours necessary for the Master degree in Counseling with an emphasis in Addiction and Substance Abuse can be completed in less than three years. Mandatory practicum experiences are part of the course of study.
18. Walden University (Minneapolis, MN)
Walden University is an private, for-profit, accredited, online university headquartered in Minneapolis.
Walden offers the Master of Science in Addiction Counseling with optional specializations available in Addictions and Public Health, Child and Adolescent Counseling, Family Studies and Interventions, Forensic Counseling, and Trauma and Crisis Counseling.
Ninety quarter-credits in total, including a 100-hour practicum and a 600-hour internship, are required for the degree, which can be completed in under three years. Students create a professional develop plan and a plan towards licensure during their enrollment.
Students are equipped to take national and state certification exams necessary for licensure. While the degree from Walden enables its graduates to enter the workforce with a highly specialized, particular knowledge, the program is not accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs.
Some states do not require this particular accreditation in academic coursework; others mandate it before granting licensure. Students should check with their local governing agencies before committing to the course of study offered through this particular degree program.
19. Aspen University (Aspen, CO)
Established in 1987 as a correspondence school, Aspen University is a nationally accredited, online university based in one of Colorado’s foremost ski resorts.
The university offers the Master of Arts in Psychology and Addiction Counseling. The degree is approved by the National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC).
Students in the Master in Psychology and Addiction Counseling online degree program seeking licensure are required to participate in a counseling practicum; non-license-seeking students complete a research-based project in lieu of the practicum.
20. Kaplan University (Chicago, IL)
Founded in 1938, Kaplan University is a for-profit corporation headqaurtered in Davenport, Iowa, which offers higher education courses both online and on 10 campuses nationwide.
Kaplan offers an online Master of Science in Psychology degree with an emphasis in Addictions.
Students on the thesis track must complete 65 credits, 25 of which come from their specialization courses; non-thesis students complete a total of 60 credits. There are no residency requirements, nor are there any requirements for practicum or internships.
Students should check with their local governing agencies to see if any additional fieldwork or coursework is necessary for licensure.
- 20 Best Online Master's Degrees in Substance Abuse Counseling | The Best Schools. [online] The Best Schools. Available at: http://www.thebestschools.org/blog/2013/07/05/20-online-masters-degrees-substance-abuse-counseling/.
- Bestcollegereviews.org. (2017). The 25 Best Online Masters in Substance Abuse Counseling - Best College Reviews. [online] Available at: http://www.bestcollegereviews.org/top/online-substance-abuse-counseling-masters-programs/.