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.
View ranking methodology here.
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.
Best Online Bachelor’s Programs in Substance Abuse and Addictions Counseling
Saint Bonifacius, MN
Located in Saint Bonifacius, Minnesota, Crown first began as a small Bible college in 1916. Today, it strongly focuses on Christ-centered community and education. The college offers a spiritually-rooted bachelor of science in alcohol and drug counseling, prioritizing a holistic approach to addiction recovery. Students explore the effects of addiction on emotional, financial, cultural, and spiritual aspects of life.
Preparing students for Minnesota state licensure, Crown helps students find an internship before graduation, a requirement for licensing. Each student receives a personal academic advisor to help them throughout their degree.
Psychopharmacology | Social Science Research Methods | Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy | Assessment and Treatment Planning | Diversity Issues in Counseling | Group Dynamics
Cost: $395 per credit Link to School
Credits Required: 125 credits
Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
Indiana Wesleyan University
Based in St. Marion, IWU opened in 1920 as Marion College. The university currently offers 80 undergraduate majors, including the online bachelor of science in addictions counseling which roots itself in a Christian perspective.
Although mostly online, the program also allows students to take advantage of several in-person practicums. The experience involves both field supervision and faculty advising. Over the course of 350 practicum hours, students gain extensive first-hand experience at an addiction treatment center. Applicants must show that they previously completed at least 60 undergraduate credits from a regionally accredited college or university.
Developmental Psychology | Principles of Addictions Counseling | Physiological Psychology | Psychology of Abnormal Behavior | Counseling Addicted and Dysfunctional Family Systems | Theories of Personality
Cost: $392 per credit
Credits Required: 48 credits
Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
Link to School
University of South Dakota
Located on an idyllic campus in Vermillion, USD enrolls nearly 10,000 students. Their online bachelor of science in addiction counseling and prevention stands out as one of the few such four-year programs in the region, offering specializations in treatment and prevention.
Accredited through the National Addiction Studies Accreditation Commission, the program develops key competencies in students, including engaging empathically with diverse communities. Students combine online learning with hands-on experience during the course of the program. The South Dakota Board of Addiction and Prevention Professionals also fully sanctions the program.
Ethical and legal issues in the addiction profession | Addictive family systems & family counseling | Evidence-Based Decision Making | Study of Alcohol Use & Addiction | Individual Addiction Counseling Practicum | Group Addiction Counseling Practicum
120 credits https://www class="sonic-btn primary".Link to School
Minimum 2.6 GPA required
Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission
Northwestern State University of Louisiana
Founded more than 136 years ago at the old Bullard Mansion in Natchitoches, NSU now offers more than 20 online degree programs. Its campus is the oldest continually-occupied higher education site in the state. The university's online bachelor of science in addiction studies covers co-occurring disorders, ethics for addiction professionals, and psychology of gender.
The program includes a seminar on alcoholism and concludes with a senior capstone project. Throughout their studies, students explore a wide range of research and theories to internalize a broad overview of the field. The online program stands out for its uniquely affordable tuition rates, which cost $375 per credit for the first 12 credits and then $100 per credit thereafter.
Introduction to Addictions Disorders | Screening & Assessment | Pharmacology of Addiction | Childhood Disorders | Positive Psychology | Introduction to Experimental Methodology
Minimum 2.35 cumulative high school GPA required
Minimum SAT 1050 (ACT 23) required
$100 per credit after the first 12 credits |
A Franciscan institution located in Reading, Pennsylvania, Alvernia was founded in 1958 by the Bernardine Sisters of the Third Order of Saint Francis. The university's bachelor of arts in addictions and mental health treatment accepts up to 75 transfer credits and can take between 2-4 years to complete. The degree offers the option of 12 credits (or 400 onsite hours) of practicum experience.
Students learn about de-escalation in potentially dangerous situations and a range of psychological theories and treatment approaches. Besides pursuing a career as an addictions counselor, students may apply their training toward community health or correctional treatment. Normal course cycles last seven weeks.
Foundations of Chemical Dependency | Origins of Mental Illness | Counseling Theories | Assessment and Evaluation | Crisis Intervention | Human Development Across the Lifespan
2.0 minimum GPA required Link to School
$500 per credit
Accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education
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.