By Staff Writer
Last Updated: May 18, 2020
Earning a bachelor's degree in addictions counseling can provide graduates with the skills and knowledge needed to pursue lucrative career opportunities in the field. Substance abuse and addictions counselors evaluate their clients' mental and physical health, focusing on addictions or problematic behavior.
Online substance abuse counseling programs allow learners to explore a more flexible program format that can provide them with the convenience they need to continue working as they earn their degrees. Learners should ensure they enroll in accredited programs to easily transition into graduate degrees. In this guide, readers can explore some of the best accredited substance abuse counseling programs online.
Read about our ranking methodology here.
Career Outlook for Substance Abuse and Addictions Counselors
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselor professions to grow by 22% from 2018-28, which is significantly faster than projections for all U.S. employment. The BLS anticipates this level of growth due to the amount of people who continue to seek mental health and addiction counseling services.
These counselors can also expect strong job prospects, especially if they hold a bachelor's or master's degree. Substance abuse and addictions counselors earned a median annual salary of $44,630 in 2018. The top industries for these counselors include government, hospitals, and individual and family services, along with outpatient mental health and substance abuse centers.
Junior colleges pay these counselors the highest salaries, and outpatient care centers provide the highest employment levels and concentration of jobs for the profession. In terms of state-specific figures, Utah boasts the highest pay for counselors focused on substance abuse and addictions, Vermont features the highest concentration of jobs, and California offers the highest employment levels.
Top 2020 Online Bachelor's in Substance Abuse and Addictions Counseling
OU, a private Baptist university founded by Baptist missionaries in 1865, maintains campuses in Kansas, Arizona, Indiana, and Wisconsin, along with offering many undergraduate and graduate online degrees. Among these distance learning options, OU offers an online BS degree in addiction counseling.
This program meets the certification requirements students need to become drug and alcohol counselors in their respective states. The substance abuse degree at OU offers a comprehensive curriculum covering topics in theories of personality and addiction. Counseling courses include group counseling, special issues in addiction counseling, and professional responsibility.
At OU, students can earn college credit toward their degree through military service and personal/professional experience. The institution offers a discounted tuition rate for active-duty military personnel.Visit School
Western New Mexico University
Silver City, NM
Founded in 1893 and dedicated to serving its diverse enrollment of over 3,500 learners, WNMU offers approximately 150 online courses and several online degrees. Through its school of behavioral sciences, WNMU offers a fully online chemical dependency counseling degree. WNMU provides graduates with the tools needed to act as effective leaders and advocates in the field.
This online substance abuse counseling degree has a core requirement of 74 credits. Of these classes, students dedicate 43 credits to chemical dependency counseling, 16 credits to psychology, 12 credits to sociology, and three to statistics. Students receive the academic and practical experience to work as licensed alcohol and drug counselors in New Mexico.
Each interested candidate must complete an online application and submit their official high school transcripts or proof of a GED certificate. WNMU encourages the submission of ACT/SAT scores.Visit School
Ohio Christian University
OCU serves approximately 4,000 students each year. Most enrollees pursue their degrees online, choosing from undergraduate and graduate degrees, along with professional certificate programs. OCU offers an entirely online substance abuse counseling degree that provides students with a Christian approach to issues surrounding addiction.
This 120-credit online degree requires 45 general education credits, 36 elective credits, and 39 credits of coursework dedicated to substance abuse-related topics. Courses include family dynamics, prevention strategies, chemical dependency counseling, and spiritual dimensions of illness and recovery. Each degree-seeker also enrolls in a class that prepares them for state certification testing.
Each applicant must have a minimum of 50 credits accumulated from an accredited institution of higher learning. Other required materials include official transcripts demonstrating at least a 2.0 GPA in prior undergraduate coursework.Visit School
Indiana Wesleyan University-National & Global
IWU serves more than 13,000 students annually as the largest private university in the state. This private Christian university is also home to IWU National & Global, which offers online degrees to more than 8,000 adult learners around the globe.
As part of this international network, the university offers a bachelor's degree in addiction counseling that approaches substance abuse through a Christian lens. Learners can complete this flexible program in approximately 22 months. Every student joins a cohort upon admission and progresses through the degree simultaneously.
Along with general education requirements, this degree pulls from courses, such as general psychology, addictions theory, psychopharmacology, and counseling addicted and dysfunctional family systems. In addition to asynchronous coursework, each student completes a four-part addiction counseling practicum.
Each prospective student must possess at least 60 transferable credits from a regionally accredited institution, along with corresponding transcripts and proof of high school completion.Visit School
Founded as a Franciscan Roman Catholic liberal arts institution in 1958, Alvernia is a private four-year school located in Reading, Pennsylvania. Alvernia created its behavioral health program as the first of its kind in the United States. After 40 years of service, the department changed its name to the addictions and mental health treatment program. The university offers this accredited substance abuse counseling program as an entirely online option.
This four year, 123-credit bachelor of arts degree prepares graduates to enter the addiction counseling field and supplies the academic credentials and hands-on experience to obtain alcohol and drug counselor certification. Along with a minimum 31-credit liberal arts core, major requirements include coursework in origins of mental illness, counseling techniques, and crisis intervention. This degree also requires 12 credits in practicum field experience.
Each prospective student needs to provide evidence of completing high school, official transcripts from any previous college-level work, and a completed online application.Visit School
SUNY Empire State College
Saratoga Springs, NY
Established in 1971, ESC operates as a public liberal arts college located in upstate New York. With an enrollment of more than 10,000 students, the majority of ESC students enroll as online learners through the college's Center for Distance Learning. This SUNY institution offers a BS in addiction studies among its extensive roster of online degrees.
The New York State Education Department approves this 124-credit addiction degree, which helps students build the skills needed to assess the myriad effects of addiction, learn effective treatment methods, and help clients build preventative measures. Major courses include case management, crisis prevention, and interventions for addiction disorders. This program offers graduates the opportunity to become credentialed substance abuse counselors in New York State.
To receive consideration for admission, each prospective student must complete an online application, provide proof of high school completion, and submit an essay demonstrating an ability to complete college-level coursework.Visit School
Saint Bonifacius, MN
Founded in 1916 as the Alliance Training Home, Crown is located 25 miles west of Minneapolis, Minnesota. This four-year, private Christian college is home to about 1,300 students and offers more than 40 accredited majors. Crown's school of online studies offers a bachelor's degree in alcohol and drug counseling.
This 125-credit degree features a 31-credit interdisciplinary general education core. Major requirements lean on the counseling component and include a 12-credit internship in alcohol and drug counseling. Coursework explores general and abnormal psychology, methods of counseling, and diversity issues in counseling. As a Christian university, Crown requires each enrollee to complete a 15-21 credit Christian studies core. Prospective students must also sign Crown's statement of faith.
Those interested in applying to Crown must submit an application, along with high school transcripts or a GED certificate.Visit School
Northwestern State University of Louisiana
Founded in 1884, NSU now boasts over 11,000 enrollees as a public institution. The university offers more than 40 online programs, including bachelor's, master's, doctoral, and professional degrees, including an entirely online BS in addiction studies through its department of psychology and addiction studies.
This 120-hour online substance abuse degree includes 42 general education hours pulling from the humanities, math, and English. The addiction studies core includes classes in case management, addiction counseling skills, ethics, and serving special populations. Major electives draw from the psychology curriculum to explore social psychology and childhood disorders.
Those interested in applying to the BS in addiction studies at NSU must submit an application with high school transcripts and SAT/ACT scores.Visit School
University of South Dakota
Established by the Dakota Territory Legislature in 1862, USD enrolls nearly 10,000 students as a public research university. The school offers an accredited substance abuse counseling program among its 40 online degree options. Its BS in addiction studies integrates a rigorous academic curriculum with the necessary experience to provide effective counseling.
The department dedicates 45 of the 120 required credits to its addiction studies curriculum. Core courses comprise 30 credits and examine the study of alcohol/drug use and addiction, fundamental skills for individual and group counseling, family systems, and ethical and legal issues. Students can specialize in treatment or prevention concentrations.
Each interested candidate must complete an online application and supply the university with high school transcripts, along with official ACT or SAT scores sent directly from the testing agency. Students over the age of 21 are not required to submit standardized test scores.Visit School