The 10 Best Drug and Alcohol Counselor Degrees Online in 2023

Substance abuse is a very common problem in the US and across the world. It is the most rampant mind disorder and is currently one of the most continuing health problems. Drug and alcohol abuse is also the number one prison problem in the US.

Best Drug and Alcohol Counselor Degrees Online - fact

The National Survey on Drug Use & Health says that 15% of Americans 18 years old and up need proper treatment for substance use disorders. Thus, the need for drug and alcohol counseling professionals who can assess, diagnose, and treat substance abuse is greater than ever.

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The Lowdown

Featured Programs

Substance abuse counselors, also called addiction counselors, provide expert and professional care and support to people struggling with various mental health disorders– usually drug and alcohol dependence.

Addiction generally presents various issues, varying from person to person. That is why mental health counselors have to tailor treatment plans according to the needs of their patients.

A substance abuse counselor meets with his patients regularly to help them successfully recover. Sometimes, the counselor may work with patients in groups or even collaborate as part of a multi-disciplinary treatment team.


This list of 10 of the Best Online Substance Abuse Counseling degree chronicles colleges and universities in the US that offer the online undergraduate program. These schools offer the best features that help distance learners earn an amazing overall learning experience.

  • Delivers rigorous programs and coursework of the same academic quality as conventional brick-and-mortar instruction,
  • Features the core courses featuring substance abuse or addictive disorders, mental health, counseling principles, treatment plans, intervention, and similar principles,
  • Facilitated through a reliable virtual platform or Learning Management System,
  • Fast-track completion options, as well as transfer credit programs, are also made available to qualified students.
  • Provide students with opportunities and career tracks that are both lucrative and personally fulfilling.

Learn more about our ranking process. Check our Methodology page.

10 Best Online Drug and Alcohol Counseling Programs

The University of Cincinnati

University of Cincinnati - Online

Online Bachelor’s in Science in Substance Abuse Counseling

The University of Cincinnati is the oldest institution of higher education in the state. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, the school serves a diverse community of students across 14 colleges.

UC offers an online Bachelor’s degree in Substance Abuse Counseling, designed to prepare students for budding careers helping people struggling with alcohol and drug addictions.

  • This is a research-oriented online program that offers practical course content designed to help students learn how to become qualified in clinical mental health counseling.
  • This program is offered 100% and can be completed in just three years.
  • Students will learn how to guide patients to keep their sobriety at bay. They will have an overview of the field of substance abuse counseling, together with its graduate-level academic trajectories (social work, counseling, and psychology).
  • Core courses include Case Management and Treatment Planning in Substance Abuse Counseling, exposing students to various clients and scenarios.
What Makes the Program Unique

Students who complete this program may possibly meet the needed academic requirements for licensure in most states. However, since most states also ask for state-specific prerequisites, it’s best to research the state’s chemical dependency licensure boards to find out more about levels of licensure, reciprocity across states, and certificates available.

Did you know?

The University of Cincinnati is the founder of the Co-Op (cooperative education) model. The program revolves around alternating coursework on campus and outside work at a pre-determined host firm. This allows students over a year of relevant work experience upon completing their degree.

Indiana Wesleyan University

Indiana Wesleyan University

Bachelor’s Degree in Addictions Counseling

Indiana Wesleyan University is a Christian university of The Wesleyan Church. The school serves nearly 13,000 students between its online, residential campus, regional education programs, and Wesley Seminary.

IWU offers an online BS Addictions Counseling degree program to help prepare students for a challenging and fulfilling career working with people and families in crisis.

  • This faith-based addiction counseling program is not just your ordinary evidence-based program that produces the best alcohol and drug abuse counselors. This is an online degree set to prepare online students spiritually and emotionally for the work God has called them to help addicted individuals.
  • This addiction counseling degree is handled by experienced faculty members. Students will be prepared to work in domestic violence centers, the court system, inpatient facilities, and the Department of Correction.
  • Following completion of this online substance abuse counseling degree, students can proceed and earn a master’s degree in counseling, including clinical mental health counseling, addiction counseling, and more.
What Makes the Program Unique

Aside from focusing on addiction counseling coursework, the program also covers topics in general psychology and psychopharmacology. This program is 120 credit hours and can be completed in just 22 months using a cohort approach to join in class activities.

Students will also complete at least 350 hours of practical experience in an approved addictions facility.

Did you know?

Indiana Wesleyan University is composed of 60% females (average). Single students under 23 must live on the school’s campus through their junior year. The university also has regional education centers for adult students.

Northwestern State University of Louisiana

Northwestern State University Of Louisiana

Online BS Degree in Psychology with a Concentration in Addiction Studies

The Northwestern State University of Louisiana is located in Natchitoches, Louisiana. As part of the University of Louisiana system, NSU offers more than 50-degree programs.

NSU offers a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Psychology with a Concentration in Addiction Studies, where students will gain organization and time management skills, abstract reasoning, and general research skills.

  • This program is offered fully online and is composed of classes in counseling, pharmacology in addiction, and diversity issues in psychology.
  • In this online bachelor’s degree, students will understand addictive behaviors, the human mind, and the advances in addiction counseling.
  • This program is the gateway for a student to join one of the fastest-growing job careers and become an in-demand addiction counselor.
  • After completing the program, students get to work at Louisiana’s Department of Health and Hospitals Office for Addictive Disorder.
What Makes the Program Unique

Since 2017, NSU’s Addiction Studies Program has been consistently ranked as one of the ten most affordable online colleges for substance abuse counseling degrees by the SR Education Group.

Did you know?

Northwestern State University was one of the first six universities to join NASA’s Joint Venture Program. Students have the opportunity to work with NASA scientists in helping analyze data and research for the 1996 Space Shuttle Columbia shuttle mission.

Liberty University

Liberty University - Online

Online Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology- Addictions and Recovery

Liberty University offers a world-class education with a solid Christian foundation where students will gain the knowledge, skills, and values they need for success. At Liberty University, students can tailor their associate, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or doctoral degree to match their area of interest while studying on campus or online.

It also offers certificate programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Among its more than 250 online programs is the online Bachelor of Science in Psychology- Addictions and Recovery.

  • Students will delve into the world of drug addiction and learn skills in intervention and treatment plans.
  • Students will network and build connections through the school’s expert faculty.
  • Core courses include Psychology and Christianity, Psychological Measurement, Theory and Treatment of Substance Abuse, and Social Psychology.
  • This is a flexible online program designed to meet the specific needs of students.
  • Students will learn how to assess, diagnose, and create effective substance abuse treatment plans for people struggling with substance dependence and addiction.
What Makes the Program Unique

Liberty University’s online psychology degree in addiction and recovery is recognized by different institutions for its affordability, academic quality, and accessibility. Students in this online program who can complete PSCY450-Children in Healthcare coursework are qualified to pursue a Child Life Specialist Certificate Program.

This course teaches students about the psychological well-being of children and the principles of human development.

Did you know?

The school is committed to providing top-quality education at an affordable tuition rate; thus, on top of financial aid, they have frozen their rates of undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs for the past eight years and counting. The school also provides electronic textbooks to all undergraduate students for free. Full-time students can save up to $800-$2,000 annually on textbooks!

Thomas University

Thomas University

Online BS in Rehabilitation Studies

Thomas University is a non-profit, regionally accredited university located in Thomasville, Georgia, and offers associate, bachelor, and master’s degree programs at its main campus, online, and at locations across Georgia.

Through the Center for Professional Learning, certificate programs and professional development courses are also offered.

One of the more popular online programs at Thomas University is the Online BS in Rehabilitation Studies, designed to prepare students to become mental health counselors.

  • This online substance abuse counseling program aims to teach future addiction counselors how to provide services in private and public agencies to persons with various disabilities.
  • Completely offered online, this program offers specializations in Addictions, Gerontology, or the Criminal Justice System.
  • Those who get to complete the Addiction/Drug Abuse specialization will have the chance to take the state exams and become an Associated Licensed Substance Abuse Counselor.
  • Under the addiction counseling specialization, students can choose which among these courses they will major in: Crisis Intervention, Substance Abuse, Treatment Models of Addictions, Pharmacology of Drug Abuse, and Concurrent Disorders.
What Makes the Program Unique

This program is 100% online and can be completed in 8 weeks. After finishing this online degree, students can work in mental health centers or go to private practice, or better yet, continue schooling in Thomas University’s Clinical Mental Health and Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling master’s degree program.

Did you know?

Thomas University collaborates with different professional organizations and agencies to provide students in various majors to provide fieldwork and internship experiences so students will gain critical education aspects.

Most majors at Thomas University require students to obtain fieldwork as part of their coursework. Other programs offer students the opportunity to do internships for credit toward their degree.

Thomas University is approved by the SACSCOC-Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

City Vision University

City Vision University

Online Bachelor in Addiction Counseling

City Vision University is a small, completely online university that offers a private education. Not only is it private, but it is also a non-profit Christian university composed of faculty members who are also working for non-profits, ministries, or Christian counseling centers.

The school offers undergraduate programs in Nonprofit Management, Addiction Counseling, Business, and Christianity and Ministry.

CVU’s online Bachelor’s Degree in Addiction Counseling is designed for students to land a job as Certified Addiction Counselors.

  • Through the program, online students are prepared to work in addiction counseling treatment centers.
  • Students will learn the 12 core functions of a Certified Addiction Counselor.
  • The program is aligned with the standards set by NAADAC Addiction Counseling.
  • This program is a 120-credit curriculum and includes courses in Recovery Dynamics, Counseling Foundation, Drugs of Abuse, and Addiction Counseling Certificate Program, among others.
What Makes the Program Unique

Anybody can apply to the program for free. Enrollees will just prepare a scanned copy of their high school diploma, GED, or equivalent, and a scanned photo of a government-issued photo ID.

Students no longer have to prepare additional requirements to qualify for entry into the program. This online degree in substance abuse also teaches students to provide counseling in rescue missions or the Salvation Army urban ministries serving the addicted and the poor.

Did you know?

City Vision University is known for its stringent practical Christian education, especially for those who are interested in Addiction Counseling and Nonprofit Management. Because this school offers fewer degrees than prominent universities, the degree they offer is simply top-notch.

Crown College

Crown College

Online BS in Alcohol and Drug Counseling

Crown College in St. Bonifacius, Minnesota is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The school offers more than 40 accredited degree options through its online and on-campus programs- all designed to help students gain the experience and knowledge to excel in their field.

Crown College offers an online Bachelor of Science in Alcohol and Drug Counseling program to teach students how necessary skills they need to help people struggling with addiction.

  • Online students will study the effects of drug addiction on families and individuals.
  • This bachelor’s in substance abuse program pays close attention to the emotional, cultural, cognitive, financial, professional, and spiritual consequences of addiction.
  • Through these addiction studies, coupled with an internship experience, students are geared to become LADC (Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselors) through the MN Board of Behavioral Health and Therapy (BBHT).
What Makes the Program Unique

This is the only program that allows graduates for counselor jobs without a master’s degree. To achieve more understanding of substance use disorder, students in the program are each assigned an academic adviser whose sole job is to focus and help students succeed and become masters in the field of mental health services.

Did you know?

Crown College is exceptionally passionate about helping their student become prepared for the workforce while focusing on Jesus. From a small student-to-teacher ratio to coursework based on a biblical standpoint, the school has remained a wonderful place to study.

Southern New Hampshire University

Southern New Hampshire University

Online BA in Human Services-Substance Abuse Degree Concentration

Southern New Hampshire University, located in Manchester, is a private institution that offers different options for students who wish to complete their degrees.

Aside from its more than 100 undergraduate degree options, Southern New Hampshire University also offers evening and weekend classes, and online courses and programs that combine classroom and online learning.

Southern New Hampshire University offers an online substance abuse counseling degree thru its BA in Human Services department. This online degree in substance abuse is designed for future drug and alcohol counselors who wish to help those struggling with the disorder.

  • This program provides prospective students with specialized tools and training needed to support people suffering from drug addiction, alcoholism, and other substances.
  • To become an efficient drug counselor, one has to understand more about the behavioral disorder to be able to come up with the best substance abuse treatment plan, and SNHU offers the skills necessary to become one.
  • Through this online degree in substance abuse, addiction professionals and other behavioral disorder counselors are put in a greater position to provide entry-level service
  • Focusing on individual and group counseling, you can find jobs in places like outpatient addiction programs, addiction treatment facilities, prisons, state drug courts, and the like.
What Makes the Program Unique

This program provides confidential communications in case management and comprehensively focuses on the 12 core functions of addiction counseling.

Did you know?

SNHU conducts open admissions to anyone interested in enrolling. What’s great about this college is that it only requires a high school diploma and GED for potential students.

Ohio Christian University

Ohio Christian University

Online BA in Substance Abuse Counseling

Ohio Christian University is a Christian university located in Circleville, Ohio. Approved by the Higher Learning Commission, it is denominationally affiliated with the Churches of Christ in the Christian Union.

The school offers adult and online degree programs in the associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree levels.

The Online Bachelor’s Degree in Substance Abuse Counseling at Ohio Christian University prepares and equips students with the requirements to become a license holder in Chemical Dependency Counseling in the state.

  • To qualify as a substance abuse counselor and apply to the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals board and attain a CDCA (Certified Chemical Dependency Assistant) status, prospective students at this degree program must have clocked in 40 hours of chemical dependency training.
  • This online substance abuse counseling degree integrates Christian principles in decision-making and critical thinking into the study of the field.
  • This substance abuse counselor degree also addresses the needs of individuals through the use of treatment planning, diagnostic criteria, and assessment techniques.
What Makes the Program Unique

This online substance abuse counseling degree not only focuses on substance use treatment but also on how drug counseling can be achieved using chemical dependency interventions, ethical codes of conduct, and knowledge of drugs.

Did you know?

Ohio Christian University is known for its Trailblazer Academy, a program that allows high school and middle school students to take college courses at OCU through dual credit/Ohio College Credit Plus (CCP). Through this program, students can save money and avoid repetition between mandatory high school and college coursework. This also allows for a smoother transition from high school to college, resulting in more successful college completion.

The University of South Dakota

University of South Dakota

Online BS in Addiction Counseling and Prevention

The University of South Dakota in Vermillion is the state’s oldest public university. This university is home to the only law school and medical school in the US. It offers 205 undergraduate and 75 graduate programs across its seven colleges and universities.

The Online bachelor’s degree in addiction counseling and prevention focuses on mental health treatment, and it provides both online and on-campus options.

  • This online degree program teaches students the knowledge on how they can provide the best quality counseling to people who are going through substance abuse disorders.
  • In this bachelor’s degree, students will gain hands-on experience in group counseling, human services, substance use disorders, and other issues of mental health.
  • Graduates of this online bachelor’s degree will complete the program, having met the academic standards in South Dakota, prepared to make a significant difference in inpatient and outpatient care facilities, detoxification, correctional facilities, transitional living, and prevention education programs.
What Makes the Program Unique?

Through USD’s bachelor’s degree in addiction counseling and prevention program, graduates are eligible for addiction/prevention credentialing through SDBAPP (Souther Dakota Board of Addiction and Prevention Professionals).

There is also a certificate program in the field intended for professionals who wish to meet the specialized academic course requirements for South Dakota certification.

Did you know?

Because the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts college in the state and the only school that offers medical and law courses, these distinctions have made the school nationally recognized and regionally acclaimed in higher education.

Career Options for Drug and Alcohol Counselor Graduates

Career Options for Drug and Alcohol Counselor Graduates

A substance abuse counseling degree requires someone to have extensive knowledge, skills, and experience. An addiction and drug counselor provides support and treatment to individuals who are struggling to overcome different addictions, like alcoholism, opiate use, and other behavioral disorders like shopping or gambling.

In a substance abuse counseling degree, students are trained to work in mental healthcare or rehabilitation counseling settings. As a mental health counselor, you can provide one-on-one therapies, consult with family members about treatment plans, or conduct group sessions in residential facilities and community agencies.

Below are some of the more popular career paths for degree holders in substance abuse counseling.

Addiction Workers: Addiction workers provide therapy to individuals or groups who are dealing with alcohol addiction, drug addiction, gambling addiction, and other disorders. These professionals create patient records, keep track of their progress, administer treatment plans, and draw samples like urine to check if their patients remain drug-free.

Chemical Dependency Counselors: These practitioners help people suffering from substance addiction overcome their behavioral disorders and addictions. Patients may be addicted to cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamines.

To achieve this, these community outreach specialists can help patients by understanding first the reasons why they are chemically dependent. Addicts are allowed to share their experiences and even encourage other drug dependents to support other addicts.

These workers also work with family members of their patients so they can also be educated on the process in how to deal with drug users. They also create and impose community programs to reach out to the public and discuss the cause and effects of chemical dependency.

Social Workers: Social workers work on treating people with substance abuse problems. They may create and implement programs, including activities like therapies, crisis intervention, prevention, and client advocacy.

These can all be achieved by doing regular interviews with patients, checking their records, keeping track of their progress, and even collaborating with the patient’s nurses and physicians to assess their needs.

Substance Abuse Counselors: These counselors focus on mental health counseling and may be employed by community programs, health agencies, correctional institutes, rehabilitation institutes, and other treatment facilities.

They offer addiction counseling and work by conducting interviews with possible pa patients, administering drug tests, and giving counseling sessions. These counselors also evaluate the progress of the patient’s substance use disorder or meet with other facility members to check on procedures for patients.

Guidance Counselors: Holders of bachelor’s in substance abuse and addiction studies can also practice as guidance counselors. These professionals play a crucial role in keeping students right on track, considering drug and alcohol dependence is very rampant among the youth.

As guidance counselors, they study psychology, social sciences, and other relevant mental health degrees so they can be adept at assessing the warning signs relating to substance abuse disorders in students.

Drug Court Managers: Those with a degree program in substance abuse can also work as drug court managers. The primary task of court managers is to organize and manage drug court programs. They also supervise drug court staff, develop case management, manage budget development, and prepare employee performance evaluations.

Substance Abuse Prevention Specialists: Graduates of addiction studies and substance use disorder professionals may consider becoming substance abuse counseling and prevention specialists. Their jobs include imposing practices to prevent all types of substance addiction, including alcohol and nicotine.

These specialists usually assist in promoting awareness in community groups, schools, and government agencies. They’re the ones that educate groups or individuals about the risks and negative effects of substance abuse and promote an alcohol-and-drug-free lifestyle.

Substance Abuse and Addiction Counselor Associations and Organizations

Substance Abuse and Addiction Counselor Associations and Organizations

In addiction counseling, helping struggling individuals fight addiction and substance abuse is something one can do with proper support. To successfully combat substance use disorder, substance abuse counselors must join and work with organizations and associations so they can:

  • gain access to the latest treatments and information
  • have discounted (and sometimes free) continuing education
  • obtain lesser rates for liability insurance
  • relevant certification and testing
  • networking events and opportunities
  • build a community with other addiction professionals
  • find avenues to join in advocacy efforts

Some of the popular associations you can join after earning your addiction studies include:

NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals

This is one of the world’s biggest organizations of addiction-focused professionals. This organization does a bit of everything: certification, education, resources, networking events, social and political advocacy, and conferences.

Society of Addiction Psychology

This organization promotes professional training, advances in research, and clinical practices within a wide range of addiction behavioral disorders.

International Association of Addictions and Offender Counselors

This is a very good organization, especially for graduate students interested in the constant development of addiction counseling and public offender counseling. Members of this club are granted special access to scholarships, financial aid, and grants.

American Society of Addiction Medicine

This is a professional medical organization with more than 7,000 physicians, clinicians, and associated professionals in the field of substance abuse counseling and addiction as a whole.

Members are given access to career resources, educational resources, advocacy efforts, and other crucial professional tools. These addiction counseling professionals also enjoy a free online subscription to the Journal of Addiction Medicine.

American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry

This organization is the top source of addiction psychiatry information. It is also an amazing resource for anybody who is looking for the most recent evidence-based practices to help patients and improve patient outcomes.

What certifications and licensure can you earn after obtaining a Bachelor's in Substance Abuse and Counseling degree?

Frequently Asked Questions

What certifications and licensure can you earn after obtaining a Bachelor’s in Substance Abuse and Counseling degree?

To set a career following addiction studies, earning a bachelor’s degree in substance abuse is just half the effort. Every state has its requirements and policies regulating the practice in the field– whether you plan to go on private practice or apply to professional organizations.

It’s essential to understand the state licensing board requirements where you intend to practice the field before you enroll.

What is the average cost of an online Bachelor’s degree in Substance Counseling?

According to the NCES, the degree costs $9,375 and $32,825 for a public and private institution, respectively.

Summary Points

  • A career in substance abuse and addiction counseling is a very challenging but rewarding job. You get to provide life-saving help to people hooked on unwanted substances.
  • An online degree in substance abuse provides flexibility and is a perfect choice for those planning to change their careers.
  • A bachelor’s degree in substance abuse counseling usually takes 2-3 years to complete.
  • Graduates must hold proper certification and accreditation from their respective states to be allowed to practice.

Additional Information: