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2023 Best Online Substance Abuse Counseling Degrees in Washington

By OnlineU Staff Writers | Updated 9/29/2023

Becoming a substance use and addiction counselor helping individuals struggling with the devastating effects of chemical dependency requires developing specialized skills through a certificate or degree program. We’ve identified online substance use degrees in Washington that can help you prepare for a career in the field, and potentially certification and licensure (depending on the program).

Our ranked lists of the best online substance abuse counseling programs, the most affordable online substance abuse counseling programs, and the best online counseling programs provide some additional options worth exploring.

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Eastern Washington University

  • Locations: Cheney
  • Annual Tuition: $25,748

Public Eastern Washington University (EWU) in Cheney is a mid-sized institution offering several online degrees and certificates in addiction studies.

  • The Bachelor of Arts in Addiction Studies is a 120-credit program that includes approximately 40 credits in the addiction studies major, specifically. Full-time students take around four years to complete the curriculum, which provides the educational requirements necessary for Washington State certification as a Substance Use Disorder Professional through the Department of Health. Courses include Relapse Prevention, Medication Assisted Treatment, Trauma Informed Care in Behavioral Health, and Treating Co-occurring Disorders. Students must also complete the required practicum hours needed for certification.
  • The Master of Arts in Addiction Studies is 37 credits, and it helps students work toward their certification. It generally takes those attending at a full-time pace from two to three years. Courses include HIV/AIDS and Addiction Treatment, Case Management, and Addiction Treatment With Families and Diverse Populations. Students who want to sit for the SUPD exam in Washington must also complete 1,500 hours in an approved behavioral health agency, which a program advisor can assist with.
  • The Master of Arts in Advanced Addiction Therapies is primarily designed for students who have already completed the required courses for certification and are seeking career advancement. It provides advanced knowledge in areas such as medication treatment, food addictions, and process addictions. Graduating requires 29 credits and takes about two years of full-time study. Courses include Spirituality and Addiction, Understanding Addiction in Tribal Communities, and Addiction: A Biopsychosocial Approach.
  • The Graduate Certificate in Addiction Studies is designed for students with a bachelor’s or master’s degree. It's a 30-credit program that fulfills requirements for certification in Washington State. Students in other states will need to check if it will help them meet requirements. Courses include Adolescent Addiction Assessment and Treatment, Screening and Assessment of Co-occurring Disorders, and Pharmacological Actions of Alcohol and Other Drugs. Students must also complete up to 2,000 hours in a substance use treatment agency to become certified in Washington State.
  • The Graduate Certificate in Addiction Studies - Licensed Professionals is designed for individuals with master’s degrees, a 3.0 GPA or higher, and who currently hold (or are working toward) licensure in professions such as nurse practitioners, marriage and family therapists, advanced social workers, or physicians. Graduating requires completing approximately 13-14 credits and takes a year or less. Courses include Addiction Group Counseling, Counseling Theories for Addiction Professionals, and Case Management. It also prepares students to sit for licensure exams in several states, the District of Columbia, and several foreign countries.

EWU uses the Canvas learning management system to deliver its asynchronous online curriculum to distance learners. Its online student resources include access to the career center, academic advising, library access, and tech support.

  • Financial Aid Recipients: 96%
  • Avg. Aid Package: $8,167
  • Repayment Rate: 94%
  • Acceptance Rate: 96%
  • Avg. Graduation Rate: 50%
  • Retention Rate: 67%
  • Recommend Rate: 89%
  • School Type: Nonprofit (Public)
  • Undergraduate Online: 1,069 enrolled
  • Graduate Online: 1,318 enrolled
  • Certificate Online: 6 enrolled
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Overview of Substance Abuse Counseling Degrees in Washington

Washington, like so many other states in the U.S., is looking for ways to address the dramatic rise in drug addiction and substance use disorder. As a result of these increases, drug overdose deaths in the state have doubled from 9.9 per 100,000 in 2011 to 20.5 per 100,000 in 2021.

With this in mind, state lawmakers passed a new drug law, often referred to as the "Blake" bill, which went into effect in July 2023. Proponents of the law say that it's designed to encourage people to seek substance abuse counseling in Washington. However, critics of the bill claim there aren't enough facilities or mental health professionals to provide adequate treatment and counseling for substance abuse.

Clearly, more substance use counselors are needed, which may explain why demand for trained specialists in Washington is projected to increase by 23.1% over the next several years. Not only can substance use counselors assist those struggling with drug addiction, they can help anyone who wants to overcome an addiction to a substance like food or alcohol or to a behavior such as gambling. In this state, entering the counseling field begins with earning a degree.

Discover more options for online bachelor's degrees by reviewing our lists of 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 Washington

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


f you're a Washingtonian with a substance abuse counseling degree, there are several different career paths open to you. As in most states, you will need to obtain substance abuse counseling certification before you can start working with people in a healthcare or advisory capacity. 

Perhaps the most obvious choice is to become a counselor specializing in substance abuse, behavioral disorder, or mental health. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are currently close to 13,000 of these specialists working in the state. They earn a mean annual wage of $58,070, and demand for professionals is expected to grow by 23.1% through 2030.

Other than working as a counselor, you could provide support for people suffering from addiction by becoming a health education specialist or community health worker. After a few years of experience, you may be able to advance to management positions in social service or community health service agencies.

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Substance Use Counselor in Washington?


To be a substance use counselor in Washington, you need at least an associate degree from an accredited college or university. However, the state's licensure requirements include hundreds of hours of supervised clinical practice. The higher your degree level, the lower the number of clinical hours you'll need to obtain certification.

Washington also accepts all types of degrees — not just on-campus or online substance abuse counseling degrees — but you'll need to show that you've taken coursework in a long list of counseling-related topics. Some of these topics include substance use clinical evaluation, substance abuse and addiction treatment planning and methods, pharmacology of alcohol and other drugs, individual and group counseling, developmental psychology, and many more.

How Do I Become a Substance Use Counselor in Washington?


If you want to become a certified substance use counselor in Washington, you'll need to complete a number of steps and meet several key criteria to obtain certification as a Substance Use Disorder Professional through the Washington State Board of Health. However, while you're enrolled in a substance abuse counseling program or working toward meeting the full certification requirements, you can apply to become a Substance Use Disorder Professional Trainee.

In terms of education, Washington's substance use counseling certification requirements are designed to ensure that applicants have taken the appropriate courses and received training in specific areas. As such, you can become a certified counselor with any type of associate, bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree. However, your transcripts must show that you've studied all aspects of substance abuse treatment, as well as cultural diversity, counseling techniques, professional practices and ethics, and more. An easy way to achieve this is by pursuing a bachelor's or master's in substance abuse counseling degree.

You'll also need to accumulate hundreds of hours of supervised clinical experience in specific substance use disorder areas, such as clinical evaluation and individual and group face-to-face counseling. The number of required hours varies based on your education: 2,500 hours for associate degrees, 2,000 hours for bachelor's degrees, and 1,500 for master's or doctoral degrees.

Once you've met these education and experience requirements, you must pass one of several possible exams. Most applicants take the National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC) level one or higher exam. Alternatively, you can sit for International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium exams such as (ICRC) the Alcohol Drug Counselor (ADC), or the Advanced Alcohol Drug Counselor (AADC) exams.

Every year, you'll need to renew your certification. As part of this process, once every two years you'll need to document that you've completed at least 40 hours of continuing education.

Does Washington Have Reciprocity for Substance Use Counselors?


Yes, Washington state counseling certification requirements do allow for reciprocity. Under "substantial equivalency," substance use counselors from other states may work in Washington as long as their home states' certification requirements are similar to those in Washington. However, before providing in-person or online substance abuse counseling services, out-of-state counselors must first apply for and receive a temporary probationary license, and they can only work for approved agencies.

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