Addiction and substance abuse counselors are taking on increasingly prominent roles as the American criminal justice system continues emphasizing mental health treatment over incarceration.
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a projected 25% job growth rate for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors from 2019-29. That rate far outpaces the average for U.S. industries, placing the profession among the top 20 fastest growing occupations from 2019-29.
Individuals interested in becoming drug and alcohol counselors can start their career journey by pursuing substance abuse counselor degrees. Online drug counseling degrees come with added benefits for learners who work full time and degree-seekers who live far from campus. Online programs allow distance learners to work at their own convenience and avoid a potentially time-consuming commute.
If an online addiction counseling degree piques your interest, check out the best online substance abuse degrees below.
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Best Online Bachelor's in Substance Abuse and Addictions Counseling 2020
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Featured Online Programs
Figuring out where to apply? These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online degrees. Consider one of these accredited programs, and discover their value today.
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.
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.
St. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Western New Mexico University
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.
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.
Applying to a Online Bachelor’s Substance Abuse and Addictions Counseling Program
Candidates seeking a bachelor’s degree in addiction counseling need a high school diploma or associate degree. Some programs also consider GED certificate-holders for admission. Schools usually expect a minimum high school GPA ranging from 2.0-2.5.
Prospective students typically need to submit their ACT or SAT scores, although more and more schools are choosing to bypass standardized test scores altogether.
Applicants are usually expected to submit their high school transcripts, one or two letters of recommendation, and a personal essay outlining their educational and professional aspirations.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can you do with a bachelor's in addiction studies?
Many individuals who complete an online addiction counseling degree become a substance abuse counselor. In some states, counselors can work with only a bachelor’s degree, while others require substance counselors to earn a master’s degree. An undergraduate degree can serve as a stepping stone for more advanced education. Many bachelor’s degree-holders find jobs as case workers or correctional treatment specialists.
What is accreditation and why is it important?
Accreditation is an evaluation process ensuring that schools and programs provide quality education. Candidates must hold an accredited degree to obtain licensure, and employers prefer job applicants who have graduated from accredited programs. When researching online substance abuse counselor degrees, keep an eye out for programs accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).
Can you work as a counselor with a bachelor's degree?
States uphold different licensing requirements. Some states allow bachelor’s degree-holders to seek licensure, while others require candidates to possess a master’s degree.
What does a substance abuse and addiction counselor do?
Substance abuse and addiction counselors guide people with dependency on drugs and alcohol. They may work with clients one-on-one or in group sessions, or incorporate methods like 12-step recovery programs to help people overcome addiction issues.