Affordable Online Master’s Degrees in Addiction Counseling

If you want a career that changes lives, addiction counseling might be the right job for you. Addiction counselors draw from the fields of psychology, sociology, and biology to address and treat the many causes of substance abuse and addiction. With one in four people in the United States today suffering from some form of addiction, the demand for counselors is higher than ever. Your bachelor’s degree may be useful for finding entry-level positions, but becoming an addiction counselor requires a higher level of education.

A master’s program can provide you with the skills you need to become an addiction counselor. Courses expand on foundational topics in counseling theory, emphasizing issues related to substance abuse and the role social issues play in addiction and treatment. You’ll also gain diagnostic and practical skills that can be applied in a clinical setting. A master’s degree can make state licensure possible for anyone hoping to become a practicing counselor or case manager.

Despite a fast job growth rate of 22%, addiction counseling isn’t always the most lucrative profession. If you’re concerned about the cost of tuition, or don’t have the time for traditional schooling, earning your master’s degree in addiction counseling online can be an excellent choice. Providing flexible course schedules and round-the-clock support, online programs let you learn at your own pace, whenever and wherever is most convenient. The following accredited, affordable programs offer the highest returns for the lowest tuition rates, allowing you to get the most value out of your education.

Most Affordable Online Master's Degrees in Addiction Counseling
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University of South Dakota

Value Score 9.05
Average Tuition $5,264
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 43
Number of Online Programs 4

As the oldest university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota provides quality education to both traditional and nontraditional students through regular classes at its main campus in Vermillion, evening and weekend classes at four off-campus learning centers, and online via distance learning. The school's master's degree in addiction counseling online program offers both a 45-credit-hour standard track for most students and an accelerated 33-credit-hour advanced track for students who already have a bachelor's degree, or level I or II chemical dependency certification. Coursework prepares students for the highest level of addiction counseling certification in South Dakota (although certification may not be valid in other states) and includes 27 required credits in core classes such as "Alcohol and Drug Continuum" and "Case Management and Assessment of Co-Occurring Disorders." Specialization courses such as "Psychopathology and Addiction" and "Relapse Prevention" are also offered. Best of all, online students pay the affordable in-state tuition rate, regardless of where they reside.

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Washburn University

Value Score 6.63
Average Tuition $6,426
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 31
Number of Online Programs 4

Washburn University offers an addiction counseling degree online program that is approved by not only a state regulatory board, but also the National Association for Alcohol and Drug Addiction Counselors. Although course work is conducted 100% online, the program is best suited for residents in or near Topeka, Kansas, as students are required to conduct fieldwork in the local community. Full-time students can expect to earn their master's degree in addiction counseling online within two years, but part-time students can take up to six years to complete the required 36 credits, which include courses on clinical supervision as well as professional ethics and practice. Thanks to an interstate tuition waiver agreement, online students in Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas pay the same tuition rate as in-state students. Since they are not on campus, student activity fees are also waived for distance learners, making online tuition a little more affordable than traditional on-campus learning.

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Governors State University

Value Score 6.48
Average Tuition $7,368
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 28
Number of Online Programs 2

Online programs at Governors State University, located in Chicago, Illinois, are aimed at working professionals looking for a flexible education experience to help them advance their careers. The school's master's in addiction counseling online degree program aims to provide students with the training and skills needed to acquire additional credentials beyond the typical entry-level counselor and focuses on training in motivational therapies, such as motivational interviewing, acceptance and commitment therapy, and cognitive and behavioral therapy. Students who complete the 60-hour comprehensive program that includes both online classes and an on-site clinical experience are prepared to deal with not only a patient's addiction, but also co-occurring disorders, such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. GSU is a school with an open-door policy that welcomes students of all varieties, including veterans, international students, and undocumented students. The school boasts one of the most affordable tuition rates of any state college in Illinois, and online students are allowed to pay the cheaper in-state tuition rate. What's more, application fees are waived for veterans and service members.

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Virginia Commonwealth University

Value Score 4.80
Average Tuition $10,710
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 9
Number of Online Programs 11

The international program in addiction studies at Virginia Commonwealth University is an online master's degree program that focuses on providing a cross-cultural perspective on addiction prevention, treatment, research, and policies, making it an excellent online addiction counseling degree option for students hoping to work in large cities with diverse populations. VCU's program is conducted in collaboration with King's College London and the University of Adelaide in Australia, and students admitted to the program are concurrently enrolled at all three universities, giving them access to each school's resources. Both full-time and part-time students are accepted and must complete 36 credit hours of coursework to graduate. The required curriculum includes a mentored research project on addiction that involves completion of a 12-week intensive online course and the composition of a 10,000-word paper to demonstrate critical understanding of a chosen topic area. Students are expected to have already earned a bachelor's degree but students without a bachelor's can still apply to the program, but will need to have equivalent professional experience and approval of the program committee to be admitted.

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Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies

Value Score 3.30
Average Tuition $32,164
Percentage of Students in Online Programs 74
Number of Online Programs 1

The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is a well-known addiction treatment and advocacy organization that also offers accredited graduation education in addiction studies. The Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies offers a master's degree in addiction counseling online program that students can customize with internships and electives that emphasize a variety of specialties, such as eating disorders and nutrition or co-occurring disorders in children and adolescents. Required courses include classes in differential diagnosis, trauma-informed treatment, and psychopharmacology, all of which are aimed at preparing students to become a licensed alcohol and drug counselor (LADC) or licensed professional clinical counselor (LPCC). Students who enroll in the 60-credit program full-time are expected to take four classes per semester and usually complete the program in two years. Part-time students take two classes a semester, completing the program in four years. Although the coursework is conducted online, the program also includes three mandatory four-day on-site residency experiences in Center City, Minnesota. Students in Kentucky and Massachusetts are unable to receive credit for internships at this time.

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