Best Online Master's in Substance Abuse Counseling Degrees

By OnlineU Staff | Updated 3/29/2020
2020 Best Online Master's in Substance Abuse Counseling Badge

The 17 colleges and universities on this list are the best value options for online master's programs in substance abuse counseling, based on their tuition and alumni-reported salaries. Graduates of the #1 school, Drexel University, report earning a median salary of $102,934. In the #2 spot, University of Oklahoma-Norman Campus offers a Master of Prevention Science for only $17,821 per year, making it an affordable choice for distance learners who are looking for a high quality and affordable education.

Alumni salaries were provided by PayScale. View our methodology for more details or learn more about OnlineU.

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RankSchool Annual Tuition Mid-Career Salary
# 1 #1 Drexel University $13,156 $102,934
# 2 #2 University of Oklahoma-Norman Campus $17,821 $96,690
# 3 #3 University of Louisville $22,920 $98,442
# 4 #4 Wright State University-Main Campus $24,286 $90,453
# 5 #5 Governors State University $11,296 $83,867
# 6 #6 University of South Dakota $8,384 $82,300
# 7 #7 Regent University Online $17,850 $68,014
# 8 #8 Texas Southern University $23,337 $69,600
# 9 #9 New Mexico Highlands University $10,500 $62,525
# 10 #10 Cornerstone University $13,110 $62,600
# 11 #11 Eastern Washington University $27,214 $66,100
# 12 #12 Crown College $15,120 $61,100
# 13 #13 Morehead State University $10,260 $58,600
# 14 #14 Liberty University $11,300 $54,300
# 15 #15 Virginia Commonwealth University $25,956 $60,100
# 16 #16 Nova Southeastern University $18,960 $57,100
# 17 #17 Washburn University $9,522 $52,825
Salary data provided by Payscale Logo

2020 Online Colleges Offering Substance Abuse Counseling Degrees - Ranking Details

#1 Drexel University

  • Annual Tuition: $13,156
  • Median Salary: $102,934
  • Locations: Philadelphia (PA)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

The Master of Science in Addiction Counseling program at Drexel University provides students with a firm foundation in evidence-based practice in the field of substance abuse counseling. Graduates will be equipped with the skills needed to assess substance abuse patients and administer treatment, as well as plan for long-term treatment and counseling services as part of a continued care program. Students in this online substance abuse counseling program can be eligible to sit for licensure exams depending on the requirements of their home state. Drexel also offers a Master of Science in Complementary and Integrative Health for students who are interested in pursuing healthcare careers that address the growing opioid epidemic.

#2 University of Oklahoma-Norman Campus

  • Annual Tuition: $17,821
  • Median Salary: $96,690
  • Locations: Norman (OK)
  • Accreditation: HLC

The Master of Prevention Science degree at the University of Oklahoma – Norman has a curriculum that is based both in theory and hands-on training to produce graduates equipped to help others. This accelerated online substance abuse counseling program offers a flexible way for counselors to advance their skills in providing the proper treatment plans for those fighting addiction. Graduates of the program will be eligible to sit for the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium’s Prevention Specialist (IC&RC CPS) credential.

#3 University of Louisville

  • Annual Tuition: $22,920
  • Median Salary: $98,442
  • Locations: Louisville (KY)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The Master of Science in Social Work program at the University of Louisville is an appropriate academic option for students seeking careers in social and human services. The program offers a concentration in alcohol and drug counseling that teaches students the best practices and methodologies for creating an envirnonment in which communities, individuals, and families can thrive. Graduates of this online substance abuse counseling program can pursue careers as case managers or counselors. The coursework fulfills some requirements needed to attain the certified alcohol and drug counselor credential.

#4 Wright State University-Main Campus

  • Annual Tuition: $24,286
  • Median Salary: $90,453
  • Locations: Dayton (OH)
  • Accreditation: HLC

The online Master of Rehabilitation Counseling degree at Wright State University offers concentrations in addiction counseling and clinical rehabilitation counseling. The curriculum for the addiction counseling program explores the diagnosis and treatment of addictions and counseling methods used in practice. Graduates of this program are eligible for professional counseling licensure. Students who choose the clinical rehabilitation counseling concentration can later qualify for the certified rehabilitation counselor credential (CRCC). Graduates of this program can go on to achieve clinical licensure in the state of Ohio with the addition of two years of post master’s experience and a passing grade on the National Mental Health Counseling Examination.

#5 Governors State University

  • Annual Tuition: $11,296
  • Median Salary: $83,867
  • Locations: University Park (IL)
  • Accreditation: HLC

The Masters of Health Sciences in Addiction Studies degree at Governors State University equips individuals with the skills needed to pursue careers in addiction prevention and treatment. This nationally accredited online substance abuse counseling degree program combines the principles of research with practice in the planning and management of substance abuse addiction programs. An internship is required to complete the program as well as proceed toward certification as an addictions counselor. Students may also opt for an internship in criminal justice that will allow them to qualify for the Criminal Justice Addictions Professional certification.

#6 University of South Dakota

  • Annual Tuition: $8,384
  • Median Salary: $82,300
  • Locations: Vermillion (SD)
  • Accreditation: HLC

The University of South Dakota (USD) provides online degrees for working professionals seeking graduate education for possible career advancement. Online classes are asynchronous, so students can complete online coursework on their own time. The online programs share the same faculty as their corresponding on-campus versions. The D2L learning management system houses instruction materials and assignments. The School of Health Sciences provides prospective substance abuse counselors with an online Master of Arts in Addiction Counseling and Prevention. Graduates are eligible for South Dakota licensure by the South Dakota Board of Addiction and Prevention Professionals. The MA in Addiction Counseling has two tracks: a 33-credit advanced track or a 45-credit standard track. The standard track has optional concentrations in Relapse Prevention or Psychopathy & Addiction. Both tracks require an internship component. Admission to the online master’s in substance abuse counseling program requires at least a 2.7 GPA from previous undergraduate coursework. USD Online also offers an online Master of Science in Administration with a concentration in Addiction Studies. The program requires 36 credits, with 15 credit hours devoted to concentration coursework. Applicants can fill out the online common application for summer, fall, winter, or spring. USD online students have access to disability accommodations, an IT service desk, and the Academic & Career Planning Center.

#7 Regent University Online

  • Annual Tuition: $17,850
  • Median Salary: $68,014
  • Locations: Virginia Beach (VA)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Regent University Online provides online learners with a Master of Arts in Human Services and a Master of Science in Psychology program through the School of Psychology & Counseling. Neither program leads to counseling licensure. Regent University's online degrees rely on a Christian worldview. Within the MA, there are eleven different major concentrations, including one in Addictions Counseling. Classes run for eight-week terms. The 30-credit MA in Human Services- Addictions Counseling explores the assessment and diagnoses of abuse and dependency. Students will learn about the addiction cycle and treatment options. A capstone and field experience is required. Similarly, the 39-credit MS program runs in eight-week terms, with six different concentrations, including one in Addictions. Both degrees can be completed in two years; participants must maintain a 3.0 GPA. Online learners will access materials through Blackboard learning management software. Most classes are asynchronous, though Blackboard Collaborative is available should a real-time lecture or discussion be required. Class instruction incorporates podcast lectures and small group projects. Applicants can enroll in eight different sessions throughout the year. A completed application, an application fee, and transcripts are required for admission. Additionally, candidates must send in a personal goal statement. Distance education students may access resources in academic advisement, career and talent management, disability services, and mental health counseling.

#8 Texas Southern University

  • Annual Tuition: $23,337
  • Median Salary: $69,600
  • Locations: Houston (TX)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Texas Southern University’s (TSU) College of Education has an online Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Counseling. Within this online substance abuse counseling degree, students can select from one of three specializations: Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Rehabilitation Counseling, and School Counseling. Each track requires students to complete a 600-hour counseling internship in a clinical setting. The online programs only admit students in the fall semester. Students will take the Department of Counseling Qualifying Exam after completing 18 hours in the Graduate School. Sixty credits hours are required to graduate, which includes passing a comprehensive examination. Successful graduates meet the requirements to take the Certified Rehabilitation Counseling Examination. Instructors use Blackboard learning management software to house course materials. There is no on-campus attendance required, though students receive the same diploma as residential students. Faculty members from the College of Education teach the online M.Ed. in Counseling classes. All courses are asynchronous, though some instructors will schedule real-time meetings for student support. Online students have access to TSU’s career services, the IT service center, disability accommodations, and an Office of Veterans Affairs. Graduate applicants must have a completed bachelor’s degree with a 2.5 GPA minimum. In addition to a completed application, students must submit GRE scores.

#9 New Mexico Highlands University

  • Annual Tuition: $10,500
  • Median Salary: $62,525
  • Locations: Las Vegas (NM)
  • Accreditation: HLC

The School of Education at New Mexico Highlands University (NMHU) offers a 48-credit, Master of Arts in Counseling with a concentration in Rehabilitation Counseling. The program is comprised of 39 core credits and nine credits within the concentration. Course topics include different aspects of disabilities, such as medical and cultural perspectives. The MA in Counseling requires a practicum and 600 hours of an internship (completed over two semesters). Successful graduates can apply for their Certified Rehabilitation Counselor credential. The curriculum also meets licensure requirements for New Mexico public schools. NMHU online students have access to a student success center, 24/7 eTutoring, career services, an IT help desk, and online resources from the Donnelly Library. Online course delivery relies on Brightspace learning management software, which incorporates Zoom teleconferencing and chat features. Most classes have a required log in time, and only a few are available asynchronously. Interested applicants must have a completed bachelor’s degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA, and a background in counseling. Students must submit official transcripts, a statement of educational goals, a minimum of two letters of recommendation, and a completed application.

#10 Cornerstone University

  • Annual Tuition: $13,110
  • Median Salary: $62,600
  • Locations: Grand Rapids (MI)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Cornerstone University (CU) is a Christian institution that provides online graduate degrees facilitated through the Moodle learning management system. Students can access course materials and communication tools from a web-based platform from any location with internet access. Students can even access mobile-friendly textbooks and other resources. Individuals interested in a career in substance abuse counseling may consider the Master of Arts in Counseling. This online graduate degree requires 69 credit hours, including core courses in Bible and theology, counseling major classes, and a nine-hour specialization. Students can select a concentration in Addictions Counseling. The online substance abuse counseling degree includes a practicum and two internship components. Graduates are eligible to apply for the Limited License as a Professional Counselor. The program can be completed in three years; counseling classes follow a seven-week format. While most classes are online, students meet their cohorts for two, three-day-long intensives. Online learners have access to resources from the Miller Library, an online writing lab, e-tutoring, and 24/7 IT support. Interested applicants will work with an enrollment counselor online for assistance navigating the application process. Admission requirements include an application form (with fee), a professional reference, a ministry reference, and official transcripts. Candidates must have a completed bachelor’s degree with a minimum 2.5 GPA.

#11 Eastern Washington University

  • Annual Tuition: $27,214
  • Median Salary: $66,100
  • Locations: Cheney (WA)
  • Accreditation: NWCCU

Eastern Washington University Online (Eastern Online) has hundreds of online courses that students can complete at their own pace. Online students have access to EWU’s library resources, an online student orientation, IT support, a career center, and peer tutoring. EWU faculty use Canvas learning management software, which houses announcements, assignments, discussions, and exams for online students. Most teachers upload video/audio content for students to access at their convenience. If synchronous classes or webinars are required, students can use video conferencing services. The College of Social Sciences has a Master of Arts in Behavioral Health for prospective students seeking an online substance abuse counseling degree. Courses focus on addiction studies, including topics like relapse prevention, counseling theory, ethics, and treatments. The total degree is 60 credits and includes two optional alcohol/drug practicums. The curriculum prepares graduates to begin the substance abuse disorder professional licensure process. Interested candidates must complete an online application (with fee), send official transcripts, and submit GRE scores, three letters of recommendation, and a resume.

#12 Crown College

  • Annual Tuition: $15,120
  • Median Salary: $61,100
  • Locations: Saint Bonifacius (MN)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Crown College is a Christian institution with a long history of providing online education. The School of Online Studies employs a team of advisors to assist students in the application process. Online graduate degrees are asynchronous so that students can complete assignments and review materials on their own time. These degrees are designed for working professionals. Online learners have access to resources from the Crown College library, career development, and an IT help desk. Crown College is recognized as a Military-Friendly institution. Individuals interested in the field of substance abuse counseling can apply for the Master of Arts in Counseling, which offers a specialization in Alcohol and Drug counseling. This is a 60-credit degree that meets the academic requirements for professional licensure in the state of Minnesota. While most classes are available online, there is a four-day residency requirement on campus each May. Students will complete a 700-hour internship experience. Courses can be completed over four semesters (two years) plus the internship requirements. Most students graduate within three years. Interested applicants must have earned a bachelor’s degree with at least a 2.5 GPA. Students must also complete a prerequisite in ministry leadership, submit official transcripts, and attend a self-paced online orientation.

#13 Morehead State University

  • Annual Tuition: $10,260
  • Median Salary: $58,600
  • Locations: Morehead (KY)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Morehead State University Online (MSU Online) provides flexible and supportive graduate programs. Classes are asynchronous, though professors may encourage specific meeting times for individual students as needed. MSU Online is facilitated through Blackboard learning management software, which allows students to submit assignments and receive feedback from professors through one platform. MSU faculty design and teach online courses. Individuals interested in substance abuse counseling may consider one of two programs: a Master of Arts in Sociology with a concentration in Chemical Dependency or a Master of Public Administration with a concentration in Counseling Addiction Services Management. The MA in Sociology requires 30 credit hours and has a thesis option. The MPA requires 40-43 credit hours and includes an internship and a capstone project or thesis. Online learners have access to academic advising, resources for veterans and active-duty students, career services, e-tutoring, and library materials. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree with a minimum 2.75 GPA, and should also have completed some undergraduate coursework in a related field. Admission requires a two-page personal statement.

#14 Liberty University

  • Annual Tuition: $11,300
  • Median Salary: $54,300
  • Locations: Lynchburg (VA)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Liberty University Online offers more than 275 master's degrees. Prospective students interested in substance abuse counseling have three graduate-level options: a 48-credit Master of Arts in Addictions Counseling, a 30-credit Master of Arts in Human Services Counseling with a concentration in Addictions and Recovery, or a 36-credit Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling with a concentration in Addictions and Recovery. Liberty University is founded in Christian traditions. Students can continue working full-time due to the program's flexibility. The Master of Arts programs are entirely online and run in eight-week terms. Graduates of the two-year MA in Addictions Counseling are qualified to obtain certification as a Certified Substance Abuse Counselor. There is an optional internship that can be completed within a student’s community. The MA in Human Services Counseling takes 1.5 years to complete but does not lead to licensure or certification. Neither does the 1.5 year-MA in Pastoral Counseling, though this degree does require an internship. Online learning is facilitated through Blackboard learning management software. It follows an asynchronous format, allowing students to complete work at their own pace without meeting specific login times for class. Students may transfer up to 30 graduate credit hours. Applicants must submit a completed application and official transcripts showing the successful completion of a bachelor's degree. Online learners have access to Adobe products, an IT Helpdesk (with hours Sunday through Saturday), an online writing center, resources from the Jerry Falwell Library, and free tutoring.

#15 Virginia Commonwealth University

  • Annual Tuition: $25,956
  • Median Salary: $60,100
  • Locations: Richmond (VA)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Individuals interested in an advanced degree in substance abuse counseling may consider the Master of Science in Addiction Studies from Virginia Commonwealth University’s (VCU) School of Medicine. This program is offered entirely online and is facilitated through an international partnership between VCU, King’s College London, and the University of Adelaide. Students will engage in cross-cultural perspectives in prevention, treatment, and research, as well as differences in international policies. The total degree requires 36 credit hours and includes a six-credit research project in addictions. Online learning at VCU is completed synchronously, with students logging in at a specified time and engaging in live virtual classrooms. Students can utilize VCU’s career services program, disability accommodations, military student services, and access the VCU library resources, including a live chat with librarians. Interested candidates can apply for the fall semester and must hold a completed bachelor’s degree (or international equivalent) and demonstrate English proficiency. VCU’s general admission requirements for graduate study include three letters of recommendation, a minimum 3.0 GPA, and a statement of intent.

#16 Nova Southeastern University

  • Annual Tuition: $18,960
  • Median Salary: $57,100
  • Locations: Fort Lauderdale (FL)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Nova Southeastern University’s (NSU) online degrees employ a range of interactive tools for students and faculty to utilize to remain engaged. Classes are entirely online, but asynchronous discussion boards and real-time class presentations allow for networking and support among peers. Nova Southeastern University relies on Canvas learning management software to house course materials and assignments. NSU online students have access to career development services, academic advising, veteran student services, and resources from the NSU Alvin Sherman Library, Research, and Information Technology Center. NSU’s College of Psychology has an online Master of Science in Counseling that prepares students for careers in mental health clinics, hospitals, and schools. The degree requires between 48 and 60 credit hours to complete and includes a combination of core courses, concentration courses, and a comprehensive final exam. Tracks are available in Substance Abuse Counseling and Substance Abuse Counseling and Education. Both tracks require a substance abuse practicum. This program is designed for working adults seeking flexible, advanced training. Interested applicants must submit an online application (with fee), proof of the successful completion of a bachelor’s degree program with at least a 2.9 GPA, and GRE scores.

#17 Washburn University

  • Annual Tuition: $9,522
  • Median Salary: $52,825
  • Locations: Topeka (KS)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Online learners at Washburn University utilize D2L learning management software to access class materials and submit assignments. Students have access to an IT help desk, disability accommodations, academic advising, and resources provided by the Mabee Library, including a live chat with a reference librarian. Individuals interested in a career in substance abuse counseling may apply for the online Master of Arts in Family and Human Services/Addictions Counseling. Coursework emphasizes theory and research and includes a practicum. This program can be completed in two years, but part-time options are also available. Classes are entirely online, but students complete fieldwork in their own communities. Hosted by the Department of Human Services, applicants can start in either the fall or spring semesters. Graduates are qualified to seek licensure as a Licensed Masters Addiction Counselor and a Licensed Clinical Addictions Counselor. The full degree requires 36 credit hours to graduate. The graduate admissions process requires a completed bachelor’s degree with a 3.0 GPA minimum. Additionally, official transcripts, three letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and a current resume are required for admission.

Overview of an Online Master's Degree in Substance Abuse Counseling

A master's degree in substance abuse counseling allows individuals to engage in clinical work. Some substance abuse counselors go into private practice, whereas others work at schools, universities, corretional facilities, or inpatient or outpatient treatment centers.

Program Requirements

Applicants to a graduate degree program in substance abuse counseling must hold a bachelor's degree. Some schools will only consider prospective learners who have achieved a minimum grade point average in their undergraduate studies. Colleges or universities will ask to see official transcripts, a resume, and GRE scores. A 30-credit program can be completed in two years of full-time study.


Students enrolled in this type of program can expect to take courses in principles of theories of psychotherapy, group counseling, counseling and advocacy with diverse populations, ethics and legal issues in counseling, lifespan development, diagnosis and assessment, and group dynamics. The program may include one or more courses in research methodology. Depending on the concentration chosen, the master's degree program also includes specialization courses in subjects such as human sexuality, interventions, cultural factors in public health, mental health law, vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue, and child and adolescent counseling. The program may also include an internship.


This website offers school details to prospective students as an informational resource. The appearance of a school listing on this website should not be interpreted as an endorsement of the school by this site.

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