Those who have a heart of service, experience with addiction, or who are interested in some type of counseling career may have likely asked the question, should I get a degree in substance abuse counseling? That question, more often than not, leads to the inquiry about how to get a degree in addiction counseling. These are both good questions, and like most answers, hopefully, that information will lead to better and more informed decisions. Decisions that can help answer those questions like should I get a degree in substance abuse counseling?
Beginning the road to becoming a substance abuse counselor will begin by finding accredited addiction counseling programs. These accredited substance abuse counseling programs can be found at colleges and universities across the country. In most cases, a program accreditation for substance abuse counseling will still require taking a certification exam.
Methodology: Ranking the Best Addiction Counseling Degrees in America
Bachelor’s Degree Center wants to lead prospective substance abuse counselors to programs that will actually make a positive impact on their career. That’s why we feature only accredited, trusted institutions, ranking programs according to practical considerations like tuition cost, student reviews, and potential salary.
1. Purdue University
Purdue University’s College of Health & Human Sciences offers a baccalaureate addictions counseling degree that is ranked among the best addiction counseling degrees in the marketplace. Students enrolled in Purdue University’s degrees in addiction counseling will be required to complete a minimum of 120 semester credits to meet graduation requirements. Classes for this undergraduate degree in addiction counseling include substance abuse in society, treatment models of substance abuse, counseling issues in substance abuse, and theories of personality, to name a few.
Established in the late 1860s by John Purdue, Purdue University now operates as a sea, space, and land-grant research school. While school began with only 39 students, Purdue University is now home to nearly 46,000 undergraduate and graduate degree students each year.
What We Like: Purdue University holds the distinction of having the fourth-largest population of international students.
Degree: Human Services – Addiction Studies Concentration
2. Colorado State University
Colorado State University offers a BS in Psychology with an academic specialty addictions counseling degree program that requires degree candidates to complete 120 undergraduate semester credits. Coursework for Colorado State University’s addiction counseling degrees includes basic counseling skills, principles of human physiology, psychobiology of addictions, psychological measurement, and cognitive neuroscience lab, to name a few. In addition, Colorado State University (students with these degrees in addiction counseling programs will also be required to complete an addictions-related field placement.
Colorado State University (CSU) was founded as an agricultural college in 1870 under the Morrill Land Grant Act. Colorado State University is recognized to be the state’s flagship university with a student enrollment that exceeds 34,150 students each year.
What We Like: Colorado State University’s eight colleges offer more than 100 degrees at the bachelor’s, master and doctoral levels.
Degree: Psychology BS – Addiction Counseling
3. University of Houston – Clear Lake
The University of Houston – Clear Lake offers a BS in addictions counseling degree program to prepare students to improve lives through solving social issues. UHCL’saddiction counseling degrees require students to complete at least 120 undergraduate semester units. Classes for these degrees in addiction counseling include pharmacology of addiction, group process, addictions counseling theories, family dynamics, suicide, and violence assessment, plus an addiction practicum, to name a few.
The University of Houston (UHCL) is a public university that was established in the 1970s. The University of Houston, Clear Lake maintains branch campuses in Pearland and at the Texas Medical Center, with an academic staff that nears 750. The University of Houston was developed to meet the need for scientists in nearby NASA.
What We Like: Several astronauts proudly call the University of Houston in Clear Lake their alma mater.
Degree: Addictions Counseling B.S.
4. Texas Tech University
Texas Tech University’s College of Human Services offers a Bachelor of Science degree program (BS) in Community, Family, & Addiction Sciences (CFAS) that is ranked as a national program for degrees in addiction counseling. Coursework for Texas Tech University’s addictions counseling degree program includes financial counseling, substance abuse prevention & treatment, program development, addictive behavior, family therapy, and human sexuality, plus a practicum, to name a few. Students enrolled in Texas Tech University’s addiction counseling degrees must maintain a 2.5 Grade Point Average for all upper division coursework to meet requirements.
Founded in the 1920s as a technical college, Texas Tech University is one of five members of the state’s tech system. More than 40,150 students attend classes online and on the school’s campus.
What We Like: Texas Tech University is organized into thirteen colleges/schools that offer more than 140 programs.
Degree: BS in Community, Family, & Addiction Sciences
5. University of North Dakota
The University of North Dakota’s Department of Social Work offers an addictions counseling degree program with a minor in the subject that is designed and approved as an Addiction Counselor Training Program in the state. Coursework for UND’s minor in degrees in addiction counseling require minor candidates to complete twenty semester units. Classes for the University of North Dakota’s addiction counseling degrees include Dynamics of Addiction, Health and the American Indian Cultures, Drugs & Society, Substance Use & Abuse, and Readings in Pharmacology, Physiology, and therapeutics, among other classes.
Founded in the mid-1880s, the University of North Dakota (North Dakota) was developed about five years before North Dakota became a state. The University of North Dakota’s urban campus is home to approximately 13,550 students each year.
What We Like: The University of North Dakota is home to the state’s only medical and law schools.
Degree: Chemical Dependency Minor
6. University of St. Francis
The University of St. Francis offers a BA in Substance Abuse Counseling that ranks among Illinois’ most innovative degrees in addiction counseling. Additionally, the University of St. Francis’s addictions counseling degree program is the only Bachelor of Arts degree of its kind in the greater Chicago vicinity. The University of St. Francis’s addiction counseling degrees have received accreditation from the state’s certification board (IAODAPCA.org) and regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The University of St. Francis (St. Francis) was founded in 1920 as a private institution of higher education that is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church. The University of St. Francis maintains multiple campuses throughout the country, with about 1,250 students enrolled online or at the Joliet main campus.
What We Like: The University of St. Francis began as a high school that grew to become a normal school upon a merger with another school years later.
Degree: BA in Substance Abuse Counseling
7. LeTourneau University
LeTourneau University’s School of Psychology & Counseling offers a Bachelor of Science degree program (BS) in Counseling Psychology that is among the Lone Star State’s most accessible degrees in addiction counseling. This addictions counseling degree program from LeTourneau University requires degree candidates to complete 120 undergraduate semester credits. Coursework for LeTourneau University’s addiction counseling degrees includes group therapy, human growth & development across the lifespan, techniques of counseling, basic counseling skills, and adolescent interventions, plus a practicum, to name a few.
LeTourneau University (LeTourneau) was founded in the 1940s as a private higher learning technical institution affiliated with the Christian Church on an interdenominational basis. The university’s urban campus and online platform are home to about 3,000 students each year.
What We Like: LeTourneau University was developed to help educate veterans returning from the second world war.
Degree: BS in Counseling Psychology
8. Indiana Wesleyan University
Indiana Wesleyan University offers a BS in Addictions Counseling that is one of Indiana’s best degrees in addiction counseling completion programs that can be completed in only 22 months. Applicants to Indiana Wesleyan University’s addictions counseling degree program must have already completed a minimum of sixty-semester credits that are eligible for transfer. Core coursework for Indiana Wesleyan University’s addiction counseling degrees includes addictions theory, principles of addictions counseling, theories of personality, physiological psychology, counseling addicted & dysfunctional family systems, plus an addictions counseling practicum, to name a few.
Indiana Wesleyan University is one of several campuses in this Christian, evangelical-based education system. The Marion campus of Indiana Wesleyan University serves about 3,000 students from its online platform and suburban campus.
What We Like: Indiana Wesleyan University’s Marion campus began as a teacher’s training school in 1890.
Degree: BS in Addictions Counseling
9. Drexel University
The Nursing & Health Professions College at Drexel University offers a BS in Behavioral Health Counseling that is among Pennsylvania’s most innovative degrees in addiction counseling. Graduates from Drexel University’s addictions counseling degree program find rewarding careers in the fields of crisis intervention, addictions counseling, psychiatric rehabilitation, and family/child support services, to name a few. Students must complete at least 181 quarter credits to meet Drexel’s graduation criteria. Coursework in Drexel’s addiction counseling degrees that includes counseling with special populations, cognitive/behavioral counseling, group counseling, behavioral disorders, and genetics & mental health, to name a few.
Drexel University (Drexel) was founded in the early 1890s by financier Anthony Drexel as an institute for technology. The school’s online platform and Philadelphia campus serve approximately 15,450 students each year.
What We Like: Drexel University is often named among the most innovative schools in the United States.
Degree: BS in Behavioral Health Counseling
10. Midwestern State University (TX)
Midwestern State University offers a BS in Substance Abuse Counseling that has been recognized to be one of the more innovative degrees in addiction counseling that can be completed entirely online. Midwestern State University’s addictions counseling degree program requires degree candidates to complete 120 semester units to meet Midwestern State University’s graduation criteria. Students graduating from Midwestern State University’s addiction counseling degrees are prepared to obtain Chemical Dependency licensure, complete classes in family dynamics, substance abuse theories, and treatment planning for relapse prevention, to name a few.
Midwestern State University (MSU Texas) is a public institution of higher education that was established in the early 1920s. More than 6,000 undergraduate and graduate students attend classes offered by Midwestern State University Texas.
What We Like: Midwestern State University holds the distinction of being the only public liberal arts school in the Lone Star State.
Degree: Substance Abuse Counseling BS
11. Minot State University
Minot State University offers a BS in Addiction Studies that is recognized as one of the top degrees in addiction counseling in North Dakota. Minot State University’s addictions counseling degree program requires the completion of a minimum of 120 undergraduate semester units. Core coursework for Minot State University’s addiction counseling degrees includes foundations of psychology, psychology of adulthood and aging, professional relations and ethics, psychopharmacology, and introduction personality theories, plus a practicum, among others.
Minot State University (MSU) is a space-grant school that is a member of the state’s university system. Founded as a public school for teacher training, Minot State University now serves more than 2,100 students online and on its rural campus in Minot.
What We Like: Minot State University is recognized to be North Dakota’s third-biggest higher learning institution.
Degree: Addiction Studies BS
12. Minnesota State University – Mankato
Minnesota State University – Mankato offers a BS in Alcohol & Drug Studies that is among Minnesota’s NASAC-accredited degrees in addiction counseling. Graduates of Minnesota State University’s undergraduate addictions counseling degree program have completed the courses required to pursue the LADC credential or the Board-Certified Counselor in North Dakota. Students enrolled in UM Mankato’s addiction counseling degrees include classes like ethics/professionalism for addictions professionals, theories/methods for addictions professionals, co-occurring disorders, and group procedures, plus an internship, to name a few.
Minnesota State University (MSU) was established as Minnesota’s second normal school for teacher training in the late 1860s. Additionally, Minnesota State University in Mankato is the flagship campus with a student enrollment of 17,250 undergraduate and graduate students each year.
What We Like: Minnesota State University Mankato is recognized to be the second-largest in Minnesota and the second oldest within the state’s university system.
Degree: Alcohol and Drug Studies BS
13. Eastern Washington University
Eastern Washington University offers a BA in Addiction Studies that is considered as one of Washington’s most innovative degrees in addiction counseling. Eastern Washington University’s addictions counseling degree program includes courses in counseling theories for the addiction professional, alcohol/drug group counseling, adolescent addiction assessment, and treatment, law & ethics for addiction professionals, medication assisted treatment, and community prevention methods, to name a few. Additionally, degree candidates in EWU’s addiction counseling degrees may also choose to complete a practicum or an addiction studies seminar to meet the requirements.
Eastern Washington University (Eastern Washington) was established as a state normal school in the early 1880s. The university’s college-town campus in Cheney is home to more than 12,300 students.
What We Like: EWU offers programs through many locations in the state of Washington that include Spokane.
Degree: BA in Addiction Studies
14. SUNY College at Brockport
SUNY College at Brockport offers an undergraduate degree in Alcohol & Substance Abuse Studies that is among New York’s best addiction counseling degrees that have received accreditation from the Association for Addiction Professionals. SUNY Brockport’s addictions counseling degree program has also been recognized by the state for excellence in addiction education and programming. Core coursework for SUNY Brockport’s degrees in addiction counseling includes dual diagnosis of alcohol & other rugs, ethics for alcohol/drugs, group counseling skills and theories of alcohol and drugs, plus an alcohol/drug internship, to name a few.
The College at Brockport is a member school of SUNY – New York’s university system that operates as a liberal arts college. SUNY Brockport was established in 1841 and was open to women and men, unusual at that time in history.
What We Like: More than 7,000 undergraduate and graduate students attend classes online and on the school’s upstate New York suburban campus, which is about twenty miles from Rochester, New York.
Degree: Alcohol & Substance Abuse Studies
15. University of New Mexico
The Psychology Department within the University of New Mexico offers a BS in Psychology with a BAC (Basics in Addiction Counseling) academic track that is among New Mexico’s degrees in addiction counseling. UMN’s addictions counseling degree program prepares graduates to sit for their LSAA or LADAC credential upon board approval. The University of New Mexico’s addiction counseling degrees includes classes like drugs and behavior, alcoholism, treatment of addictions, learning & memory, and psychological research techniques, plus an applied clinical experience in addictions counseling, among others.
The University of New Mexico (UMN) is a space-grant higher learning institution that was established in the late 1880s. The university’s Albuquerque campus covers more than 500 urban acres and serves more than 26,450 students each year.
What We Like: The University of New Mexico was founded decades before New Mexico joined the union.
Degree: Psychology BS – Basics in Addiction Counseling
16. University of South Dakota
The University of South Dakota’s Addictions Counseling Department offers a Bachelor of Science degree program (BS) in Addiction Counseling and Prevention that is ranked among South Dakota’s most innovative degrees in addiction counseling. The University of South Dakota’s addiction counseling degrees requires enrolled students to complete a minimum of 120 undergraduate semester units to meet USD’s requirements. Core classes for this addictions counseling degree program include evidence-based decision-making, group addiction counseling, ethical/legal issues in the addiction profession, druse use and addiction, plus a three-credit internship, to name a few.
The University of South Dakota was established as a public school in 1862, when South Dakota was still considered a territory. The school’s rural campus and online platform are home to nearly 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students each year.
What We Like: The University of South Dakota is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state and is located about 40 miles from Sioux Falls.
Degree: Addiction Counseling and Prevention BS
17. Eastern Kentucky University
Eastern Kentucky University offers a BS in Psychology with an academic substance abuse concentration that is among the best degrees in addiction counseling in Kentucky that can be complete on-campus or online. Graduates of Eastern Kentucky University’s addictions counseling degree program are prepared to further their education to enter the workforce in social or mental health services in a variety of capacities. Applicants to Eastern Kentucky University’s addiction counseling degrees can transfer up to 90 semester units if the credits meet eligibility requirements.
Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) was founded in the mid-1870s as Central University. Eastern Kentucky University now maintains various campuses through eastern Kentucky in the towns of Manchester, Corbin, Hazard, and Lancaster. Nearly 16,000 students attend classes online or on one of Eastern Kentucky University’s campuses.
What We Like: Eastern Kentucky University’s alumni include Lee Majors, Rex Ryan (NFL Head Coach), and many professional athletes.
Degree: B.S. in Psychology (Substance Abuse Concentration)
18. Metropolitan State University of Denver
The Metropolitan State University of Denver offers a BS in addictions counseling degree program that is among Denver’s top programs. Metropolitan State Universit Denver’s degrees in addiction counseling have received accreditation from the NASAC, with most requirements fulfilled to reach for a CAS or CAT credential. In addition, the Metropolitan State University of Denver’s addiction counseling degrees is accredited by the Council for Standards in Human Service Education. In addition to an internship, classes include family systems, small group dynamics, and psychopathology, and the mental health clinician, to name a few.
The Metropolitan State University of Denver (Met State) was established in the mid-1960s as a public, state-run college. The school’s campus is shared with UC Denver and a community college. More than 20,050 students attend classes each year offered by Metropolitan State Universit Denver.
What We Like: The Metropolitan State University of Denver is organized into five schools/colleges that offer programs in education, hospitality, arts/sciences, business, and professional studies.
Degree: Addiction Studies BS
19. University of Detroit Mercy
The University of Detroit Mercy offers a BS in Addiction Studies that is considered among the first established addiction counseling degrees. Students graduate from the University of Detroit Mercy’s addictions counseling degree program after completing a minimum of 120 semester units. Classes for UDM’s degrees in addiction counseling include individual counseling assessment of substance use disorders, family theory/therapy, prevention, and intervention of substance abuse, plus an advanced addictions internship, to name a few.
The University of Detroit Mercy was established by the Society of Jesus in the late 1970s. The University of Detroit Mercy remains affiliated with the Catholic Church and serves more than 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students yearly.
What We Like: The University of Detroit Mercy maintains three campuses to serve its online and on-campus students.
Degree: BS in Addiction Studies
20. Clarks Summit University
Clarks Summit University offers a BS in Counseling with an academic concentration in Substance Abuse Specialist that is among the best Christian-based established addiction counseling degrees. Graduates of Clarks Summit University’s addictions counseling degree program find rewarding careers as substance abuse counselors, therapeutic support staff, guidance counselors, or rehabilitation directors, to name a few. This 123 semester-credit degrees in addiction counseling includes classes in ethics and professionalism, personality theory, crisis counseling, and marriage & family dynamics, to name a few.
Clarks Summit University (CSU) was founded as a bible college in the early 1930s in upstate New York. The suburban campus is located near Scranton and serves about 500 students each year.
What We Like: Clarks Summit University moved from New York to Pennsylvania in 1968.
Degree: BS in Counseling – Substance Abuse Specialist
21. Georgian Court University
Georgian Court University, in partnership with the Rutgers School of Health Professionals, offers a BS in Psychiatric Rehabilitation and Psychology that is among the few joint addiction counseling degrees in New Jersey. Students complete the first five semesters of this addictions counseling degree program and finish it at the Stratford or Scotch Plains Rutgers campus. Classes for Georgian Court University’s degrees in addiction counseling include an introduction to psychology, theories of personality, biological psychology, and an introduction to applied behavior analysis, to name a few.
Georgian Court University (Georgian Court) was founded in 1908 as a women’s college by the Sisters of Mercy. Georgian Court University now operates as a space-grant and sea-grant school with a student enrollment that exceeds 1,500 students each year.
What We Like: The campus is the former estate owned by the son of a railroad tycoon. The name of the estate was Georgian Court.
Degree: B.S. in Psychiatric Rehabilitation and Psychology (collab w/ Rutgers School of Health Professions)
22. Life Pacific University
Life Pacific University offers a BA in Human Development and Psychology that is among California’s most innovative Christ-centered addiction counseling degrees. Graduates of Life Pacific University’s addictions counseling degree program enter the workforce as case managers, school counselors, or substance abuse counselors, to name a few. Coursework for Life Pacific University’s degrees in addiction counseling program includes ethics in the helping professions, human sexuality, child welfare, research methods, plus an internship, to name a few.
Life Pacific University (LPU) was founded as a private bible college in 1923. The university is the flagship school for the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. More than 500 students attend classes offered each year.
What We Like: Life Pacific University’s faculty to student ratio is t to 11.
Degree: B.A. in Counseling Psychology
23. Mid-Atlantic Christian University
Mid-Atlantic Christian University offers two of the best addictions counseling degree programs with its Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree programs in Counseling with an academic major in psychology. Mid-Atlantic Christian University’s addictions counseling degree program includes coursework in counseling theories, ethics and legal issues, marriage/family counseling, and cross-cultural counseling, plus a counseling internship, to name a few. Students enrolled in Mid-Atlantic Christian University’s degrees in addiction counseling program have nine electives to complete the addiction studies and psychology degree.
Mid-Atlantic Christian University was founded in the late 1940s by the Churches of Christ – a part of the Restoration Movement. The school’s campus is home to about 200 students.
What We Like: Mid-Atlantic Christian University operates a second campus in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Degree: Counseling and Psychology Major – BA or BS
24. Johnson & Wales University
Johnson & Wales University offers a 3 + 2 BS/MS in addiction counseling that is one of the best accelerated addictions counseling degree programs in the market. Johnson & Wales’s BS/MS addictions counseling degree program offers an accelerated program that helps reduce tuition costs by reducing one year of studying. Students enrolled in Johnson & Wales’s degrees in addiction counseling program enter the program during their junior year and follow a cohort throughout their studies until graduation.
Johnson & Wales began as a business school in 1914. Its name is derived from its founders – Gertrude Johnson and Mary Wales. More than 12,650 students attend classes across Johnson and Wales’s multiple campuses in North Carolina and Rhode Island.
What We Like: The founding campus of Johnson and Wales is in Providence, Rhode Island.
Degree: Counseling Psychology
25. Curry College
Curry College offers a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a substance use counseling concentration that is among the top addictions counseling degree programs in New England. Curry College’s addictions counseling degree program meets part of the state’s requirements for an MBSACC certification. Students enrolled in Curry College’s degrees in addiction counseling program must complete a minimum of fifteen credit units to meet Curry College’s psychology concentration requirements.
Curry College (Curry) was founded as an elocution/expression school in the late 1870s. The school was originally located on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston but now operates from its 125+ acre campus near the state’s Blue Hills Reservation. Curry College serves more than 4,550 students each year online and on-campus.
What We Like: The Boston-based TMZ often includes students in its production as it has an office on Curry College’s campus.
Degree: Substance Use Counseling
Why Should I Get a Degree in Addiction Counseling?
Here are a few facts and considerations regarding careers in substance abuse counseling that may help answer some of the questions.
- The median pay in 2020 for addiction counselors was $47,660 per year
- Job growth in the addiction and mental health field is estimated at 25% (far higher than most fields)
- Most entry-level positions for substance abuse and mental health counselors require certification and or a bachelor’s degree
- Tools like the State Board Directory from the NBCC (National Board for Certified Counselors) can help with the process of becoming a counselor or with finding accredited and approved certification exam sites in your state
These answers, as discussed earlier, will also lead to the question, how to get a degree in addiction counseling. Once you have answered the question for yourself, should I get a degree in substance abuse counseling, the next step will be all about where to begin.
Is There Accreditation for Addiction and Substance Abuse Counseling Degrees?
Addiction counseling accreditation should always be confirmed with any program attended, including approved and accredited addiction counseling certification exams.
Addiction counseling accreditation simply verifies the authority and legitimacy of the programs, schools, and certification sites that train, teach, and develop new counselors and accredited addiction counseling programs. Once the field of options has been narrowed to the best accredited substance abuse counseling programs for you, it is time to evaluate each program.
Beyond verifying program accreditation for substance abuse counseling, each program should be evaluated from a practical standpoint. Are the class schedules workable? Does the program offer evening or online class options? Along with these considerations are the standard aspects of every program such as tuition costs, materials, and financial assistance options among other important factors.
Finally, after confirming accreditations, evaluating each program and the intangibles, and weighing personal considerations and needs, it is time to select a program. On the other end of this journey is a world of opportunities to help others, to make an excellent income, and to make a difference.
What Can I Do with a Bachelor’s in Addiction Counseling?
There is great news for graduates who have earned an accredited addiction counseling bachelor’s degree and who have passed the addiction counselor certification exam. A substance abuse counseling job can look very different depending on the roles, responsibilities, and details of the position, and there are plenty of substance abuse counseling jobs to choose from.
Jobs in substance abuse counseling can also be found in a variety of settings and scenarios. There are substance abuse counseling jobs in hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation centers, and even private practices. Anyone who is considering pursuing an addiction counseling bachelor’s degree, now may be the time because this is an opportune time for anyone seeking a substance abuse counseling job.
The projections for future jobs in substance abuse counseling are equally as strong as the current job market, if not stronger, and that is only one more reason to consider a career as an addiction counselor. There is also the unseen and unspoken benefits of being a substance abuse counselor, that can’t be measured by dollars and cents, or even the time, hours, and effort invested to become a counselor.
Substance abuse counselors get a first-row seat, and often play an intricate and vital role in turning lives around, restoring families, and hope. Addiction counselors are compensated well, but they may be rewarded even more handsomely with the joy and knowledge of providing a service and doing a job that counts.
Those with a bachelor’s degree in addiction counseling can work in the roles of family and court liaison, crisis intervention specialists, addiction counseling therapists, and more. Good luck in your educational pursuits and with all your career endeavors.