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Online Substance Abuse Counseling Degree Grads Treat AddictionEarn an online substance abuse counseling degree and help patients overcome addictions and self-destructive behaviors related to drugs, alcohol, and overeating. Millions of people in the United States are struggling with some form of addiction; you may even know a friend or family member who is suffering from this mental health disease. Because substance abuse issues are so common, counselors are in heavy demand.

Substance abuse counseling combines knowledge of social work, psychology, sociology, and mental health. Counselors pull from all the social sciences to provide services and treatment to individuals working to overcome alcoholism, drug addiction, or other behavioral disorders.


Educational requirements to become a drug and alcohol counselor vary widely by state. In some states, only a high school diploma is required. But in most states, you will need to earn at least a college level drug counseling certificate to enter the substance abuse field.

In a few states, certification can be earned after completing an associate-level online substance abuse counseling degree. Most state certification agencies require some formal education, plus supervised counseling experience, plus passing a state exam. 

After earning state certification, some drug counselors continue to earn a national certification such as becoming a National Certified Addiction Counselor (NCAC) or a NCAC II. The NCAC II requires a bachelor's degree as well as extensive counseling experience and state certification. 

Higher education allows counselors to serve as a greater resource to their clients, and work on a more independent and individualized level. If your goal is to become a private practitioner, run a treatment center, supervise programs, or accept insurance reimbursements for psychotherapy, you will most likely need a master's degree in drug and alcohol counseling or a post-bachelors online certificate as well as a state license. You will have the option to work in various settings—medical rehabilitation institutions, outdoor rehabilitation, community outpatient services and even private practice.

In whatever setting they may practice, counselors will commonly provide the following types of services to their clients:

  • Connecting addicts with community services and other supportive organizations
  • Use behavioral modification therapy to help their clients adapt to sober living
  • Working with patients to set realistic goals
  • Educating family members on how to best support their loved ones as they overcome addiction
  • Intervening in crisis situations for clients
  • Evaluating client progress and effectiveness of treatments

According to the United States Department of Labor, Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors make an average salary of $42,920. This figure largely depends on the setting in which a counselor works, however, as government employees are likely to make less than private practices with a developed client base. Overall, the demand for these professionals is expected to grow faster than average.


Substance abuse counseling requires similar traits as those required of social workers and psychologists: the ability to work in stressful situations, to actively listen others, and the capacity for critical thinking. If you have an interest in understanding human behavior and psychology, helping those with substance abuse issues, and offering a needed community service, then you might want to research this career. Most professionals in this counseling field also consider addiction an illness and are sympathetic to their clients’ situation.


Seek substance abuse counseling degree programs that allow you to pick courses that may be especially relevant to your interests. If you are more intrigued by the social welfare and policies related to substance abuse, it might be wise to start combine your substance abuse education with social work. Whereas, if the psychological and scientific theories behind human behavior are your specialty, it may be beneficial to study broader psychology in addition to substance abuse.

The Center for Addiction Studies and Research recommends that you graduate from a program that includes topics like:

  • Domestic Violence and Substance Abuse Treatment
  • Group Therapy in Substance Abuse Treatment
  • Managing Anger and Depression in Substance Abuse Treatment
  • Treatment Planning for Substance Abuse Treatment
  • Ethics for Addiction Professionals 


GetEducated’s rankings reveal that an online bachelor’s in substance abuse counseling average around $50,000 and master’s programs are a little less expensive at around $30,000. Keep in mind that books are not be included in this estimate.

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List of Accredited Online Degrees

Grand Canyon University

Bachelor of Science in Counseling / Addiction, Chemical Dependency & Substance Abuse

The Bachelor of Science in Counseling with an Emphasis in Addiction, Chemical Dependency, and Substance Abuse is designed to train practitioners in the field of addiction counseling, chemical dependency, and substance abuse treatment. The coursework ...

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Southern New Hampshire University

Bachelor of Arts in Psychology / Addictions

SNHU’s addiction studies degree explores the theories and contemporary research of addictive behaviors, preparing students to both understand the compulsions themselves and the people they affect. The program pairs the fundamentals of ...

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Purdue University Global

Bachelor of Science in Psychology / Addictions

Purdue University Global’s Bachelor of Science in Psychology / Addictions degree is designed for those who seek to become professionals in careers that assist people whose lives are affected by substance abuse, or those who suffer from other ...

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Southern New Hampshire University

Bachelor of Arts in Human Services / Substance Abuse

SNHU's substance abuse degree online provides the training and tools you need to support sufferers of alcoholism, drug addiction and other substance use disorders as they endeavor to restore their lives and relationships. You'll graduate ...

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University of South Dakota

Bachelor of Science in Addiction Studies

The online Bachelor of Science in Addiction Studies combines an academic foundation with real-world experience in counseling and prevention and focuses on science-based addiction education. Students will be prepared to meet standards for certificati...

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Walden University

Bachelor of Science in Psychology / Addictions

Students can opt to complete a number of different psychology concentrations. Addictions Applied Psychology Child and Adolescent Development Criminal Justice General Psychology Human Services Industrial and Organizational Psych...

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City Vision University

Bachelor of Science in Addiction Studies

City Vision University is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission, and is an Approved Academic Education Partner for NAADAC, which means that its courses are approved for addiction counseling credit in most states. Gradua...

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Elizabethtown College

Bachelor of Science in Human Services / Behavioral & Addictions Counseling

The online BS in Human Services / Behavioral & Addictions Counseling degree program is designed to give students the same solid foundation that Elizabethtown College’s Human Services degree provides, but it also features classes covering ...

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Argosy University

Bachelor of Arts in Psychology / Substance Abuse

The goal of the BA in Psychology program is for you to build a broad understanding of social sciences theory and the application of these theories in real-world work environments. The faculty teaches you the skills and competencies required to launch...

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Liberty University

Bachelor of Science in Psychology / Addiction and Recovery

Liberty University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Psychology degree program with an emphasis on Addiction and Recovery.  The flexible, online program allows for professional students to earn a valuable degree for entry-level career ...

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New England College

Bachelor of Arts in Psychology / Addiction & Substance Abuse

The Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at New England College teaches students how to look at human behavior from an analytical perspective, blending practical skills with critical-thinking abilities. Diagnosis and treatment of psychological ...

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Northwestern State University of Louisiana

Bachelor of Science in Addiction Studies

With an online Bachelor of Science in Addiction Studies degree from Northwestern State University of Louisiana, you will be prepared to help people overcome harmful, destructive additions. This program of study consists of numerous ...

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Union College

Bachelor of Science in Substance Abuse Counseling

The online BS in Substance Abuse Counseling degree program from Union College is designed to prepare students for successful careers as substance abuse counselors. Courses cover topics such as: Chemical Dependency  Ethical Issues ...

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University of Cincinnati

Bachelor of Science in Substance Abuse Counseling

For students who are interested in becoming a substance abuse counselor or working in a related field, the University of Cincinnati’s Bachelor Degree program in Substance Abuse Counseling is an excellent course of study to pursue. The program ...

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Aspen University

Bachelor of Arts in Psychology & Addiction Counseling

The online BA in Psychology & Addiction Counseling degree program introduces students to the fundamental aspects of individual and family counseling, healthcare ethics, and addiction-specific topics related to the assessment, treatment, and ...

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Ottawa University

Bachelor of Science in Addictions Counseling

The online BS in Addictions Counseling degree program examines factors that influence the delivery of addiction counseling and substance use disorder services, as well as methods of assisting individuals in obtaining long-term recovery. Coursework co...

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