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2023 Best Online Substance Abuse Counseling Degrees in Colorado

By OnlineU Staff Writers | Updated 9/28/2023

Our list below highlights online substance use counseling degrees in Colorado at a variety of program levels, including undergraduate and graduate degrees. Earning a bachelor's in substance use counseling can be a helpful step toward entering this field, and some degree pograms also help prepare students for state licensure. A substance use curriculum focuses on helping students develop a solid foundation in the theories, practices, diagnoses, interventions, and treatments used in the counseling field. 

Those on a budget may want to also check out our ranked list of the most affordable online substance use counseling degrees.

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Online Substance Abuse Counseling Degrees You May Be Interested In

Aspen University

  • Locations: Denver
  • Annual Tuition: $5,110

Aspen University (AU) based in Phoenix, Arizona, is a private, for-profit institution with online bachelor's and master's degrees in substance use counseling.

  • The Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Addiction Studies is a non-licensure program curriculum that aims to help students build a fundamental understanding of addiction studies, healthcare ethics, and addiction-specific topics related to assessing, treating, and preventing substance abuse. Students must complete 40 classes that are worth 120 credits in order to graduate. It's possible for full-time students to complete these requirements in less than three years. Courses include Assessment Procedures in Addiction Studies, Substance Abuse, and Crisis Intervention and Prevention. While this online bachelor's program in addiction studies doesn't help prepare for licensure, it can help students prepare for entry-level jobs in the field working for treatment facilities, outpatient treatment centers, or state and local government agencies.
  • The Master of Arts in Psychology and Addiction Studies is a non-licensure program designed to help graduate students deepen their understanding of substance use, the psychological and neurological aspects of addiction, and the appropriate interventions and treatments. Completing this 48-credit program takes approximately two years of full-time study. Students take courses such as Psychopharmacology, Clinical Supervision, Psychological Interactions, and Neurobiology of Addiction. The program doesn't help prepare students for licensure as counselors, but it can help with career advancement or enrolling in a doctoral program.

AU delivers its 100% online programming to distance learners asynchronously via the Desire2Learn learning management system. AU's online student resources include access to the career center, academic advising, tech support, and access to the AU store.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 69%
  • Avg. Aid Package: $2,496
  • Repayment Rate: 97%
  • Acceptance Rate: N/A
  • Avg. Graduation Rate: 0%
  • Retention Rate: 37%
  • Recommend Rate: 79%
  • School Type: For Profit
  • Undergraduate Online: 4,136 enrolled
  • Graduate Online: 3,604 enrolled
  • Certificate Online: 86 enrolled

Colorado Christian University

  • Locations: Lakewood
  • Annual Tuition: $35,436

Lakewood's Colorado Christian University (CCU) is a mid-sized, private, nonprofit, and undenominational institution that offers an online graduate program in substance use counseling.

  • The online Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling - Substance Use Disorders is accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. It helps prepare students for careers as licensed substance abuse counselors. Graduating requires completing 68 credits, which can take as few as 30 months, even for full-time students. While most coursework is completed online, students must attend three in-person residencies at CCU. Courses include Neuroscience and Clinical Counseling, Addiction Intervention and Treatment, and Counseling and Helping Relationships. Students also complete a practicum and a six-hour internship. CCU requires its graduate students to complete four credit hours in the bible and theology core.

CCU's distance learners use Brightspace to access courses in the 100% online counseling program asynchronously. To support its remote learners, CCU provides online access to student resources, including the bookstore and library, disability services, chapel, and veterans services.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
  • Avg. Aid Package: $21,571
  • Repayment Rate: N/A
  • Acceptance Rate: N/A
  • Avg. Graduation Rate: 58%
  • Retention Rate: 82%
  • Recommend Rate: 63%
  • School Type: Nonprofit (Private)
  • Undergraduate Online: 3,342 enrolled
  • Graduate Online: 1,075 enrolled
  • Certificate Online: 7 enrolled
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Overview of Substance Abuse Counseling Degrees in Colorado

Back in 2021, Colorado had one of the highest drug misuse rates in the nation. Just over 10.4% of residents were diagnosed with a drug use disorder, which was the seventh-highest rate in the U.S. Additionally, the state's drug overdose death rate increased from 16.1 per 100,000 in 2011 to 31.4 per 100,000 in 2021.

To address these disturbing trends, the Colorado Department of Law established a dedicated task force to set priorities and determine appropriate action. The task force, along with other lawmakers and stakeholders, has since taken many steps to both prevent and treat drug misuse. These include ordering a comprehensive study of opioid use in the state, taking legal action against drug-related product manufacturers that target youth or misrepresent their products, and launching a survey to monitor the efficacy of various drug-oriented laws and proposed bills. 

The 2021 annual report from the Colorado Office of the Attorney General stated: "Our response to the opioid epidemic will be most successful when communities, treatment providers, stakeholders, and the State collaborate, respond to new data and actions, and engage in strategic planning." This will undoubtedly include the important work of certified counselors who provide counseling for substance abuse and other addictions.

You can launch your career in substance abuse counseling in Colorado with one of these online bachelor's degrees: the best online substance abuse counseling programs, the most affordable online substance abuse counseling programs, and the best online counseling programs.

FAQs About Substance Use Counseling Degrees in Colorado

What Can You Do With a Substance Use Counselor Degree in Colorado?

No matter where you live in the U.S., you can earn a traditional or online substance abuse counseling degree. Once you graduate with your bachelor's degree, you'll be ready to start building one of many possible careers in substance abuse counseling.

If your career goal is to provide substance use counseling in Colorado, you could start working on earning certification as either a Certified Addiction Technician (ACA) or a Certified Addiction Specialist (ACC). A substance abuse counseling bachelor's degree will qualify you for either of these two levels of certification. However, you'll need a master's or doctoral degree in substance abuse counseling or behavioral science to qualify for the highest level of licensure — the Licensed Addiction Counselor (ACD).

If you're interested in helping others but don't want to pursue a clinical counseling role, you have several other options available. You might go to work as a community health worker, running a program to assist people who are suffering from addiction. You could also find employment as a  health education specialist who develops educational campaigns on the dangers of drug misuse. 

Later, after you've acquired several years of work experience, it might be possible to move into a managerial position in a public health government agency or nonprofit organization.

How Do I Become a Substance Use Counselor in Colorado?

Professionals who provide substance abuse counseling in Colorado are divided into three main tiers: Certified Addiction Technician (ACA), Certified Addiction Specialist (ACC), and Licensed Addiction Counselor (ACD). Becoming a substance abuse counselor at any level in the state will involve completing college coursework, accruing supervised training hours, and passing two exams.

One of the main distinctions between the three substance abuse counseling certifications is educational level. To become an ACA, you need a high school diploma or the equivalent, as well as some college coursework. To become an ACC, you need a bachelor's degree in substance abuse counseling or a similar behavioral science subject. Finally, to become an ACD, you need a master's degree or doctorate in counseling or behavioral science.

When you apply for certification or licensure, you'll need to show that your college coursework covered specific topics. The exact requirements vary by level, but in general, you'll need to show you've studied treatment models, counseling skills, case management, pharmacology, co-occurring disorders, professional practice and ethics, and more.

If you haven't yet completed your degree, be sure to choose an institutionally accredited school. To help meet certification requirements, you may also want to select a program that has been accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). For your convenience, there are many substance abuse counseling bachelor's degrees, substance abuse counseling master's degrees, and affordable substance abuse counseling master's degrees available online. 

In addition to this formal education, you'll also need to complete a certain number of hours of supervised clinical practice, again based on your certification level. You and your supervisor must follow specific guidelines for documenting your hours.

Finally, you'll need to pass two exams. All applicants must take the Mental Health Jurisprudence Exam. The other test varies depending on which level of certification you're seeking, but all three exams are administered by the Association for Addiction Professionals (NAADAC). ACA candidates must pass the National Certified Addiction Counselor (NCAC) exam level I, ACC candidates must pass the NCAC level II, and ACD candidates must pass the Master Addiction Counselor (MAC) exam.

The Colorado State Board of Addiction Counselor Examiners requires several other documents before approving an application for certification or licensure. Once you've been approved, your certification or license needs to be renewed every other year.

Does Colorado Have Reciprocity for Substance Use Counselors?

If you're a chemical dependency counselor from another state, you may be eligible to provide in-person or online substance abuse counseling in Colorado. You'll need to submit an application to the Center for Credentialing and Education (CCE) to have your current credentials reviewed.

How Much Does a Substance Use Counselor Make in Colorado?

In Colorado, substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health therapists earn a mean annual salary of $59,860. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there were 13,030 professionals working in the state in 2021. However, that number is expected to increase by 35.7% between 2020 and 2030, creating many new opportunities for credentialed counselors.

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