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Online Degrees for Drug and Alcohol Counselors: Program Options

Get info about online programs in drug and alcohol counseling. Read about program requirements, course topics and degree levels, as well as career and continuing education options.

Essential Information

Bachelor's degree programs in alcohol and drug abuse counseling (also known as addiction studies) are available online. Students access courses and communicate with classmates and instructors through the Internet, but they must complete clinical work in person at a substance abuse facility in their area. Lab work and attendance at counseling sessions may be required. Courses include legal and ethical issues, working with families, group counseling and preventing substance abuse in communities.

A master's degree is required to be licensed for private practice. State regulations vary for counseling work outside of private practice. Some have education requirements, and others mandate passing an exam. A student should check state requirements for practice before choosing an online program.

Online Availability Fully online
Degree Levels Available Bachelor's
Important Prerequisites Students should check state-specific licensure details before applying
In-Person Requirements Clinical work at a local substance abuse facility; lab work and attendance at counseling sessions may be required

Drug and Alcohol Counseling Bachelor's Degree

In an online alcohol and drug abuse counseling bachelor's degree programs students examine intervention, prevention and treatment options in counseling. Programs are designed to meet state licensure requirements. Applicants must typically submit proof of a high school diploma or its equivalent, and ACT or SAT scores.

Program Information and Requirements

Students in online programs complete about four years of coursework consisting of approximately 128 credit hours. The classes are all available online and they provide the same education as on-campus programs using the Internet and virtual learning tools.

Some schools use an educational delivery system such as Blackboard. These systems provide access to class announcements, course documents, staff information, discussion boards, assignments, grades, resources and virtual classrooms. Students should have access to a modern computer with a high-speed Internet connection.

Common Courses

Bachelor's degree-level coursework in alcohol and drug counseling includes studies in the assessment, prevention, dynamics, family systems and cultural issues related to addiction. General education and elective coursework are also required. Some of the typical classes are listed below.

Study of Alcoholism

This class focuses on the use and abuse of alcohol. Topics include sociological, moral, behavioral, medical, psychological and physiological effects of the disease. Students also learn current diagnostic tools and therapeutic care methods to treat this addiction.

Drug Abuse

This class focuses on facts, studies, treatment approaches and prevention methods related to legal and illegal drug use and abuse. Causes, predispositions and effects of chemical dependency on both the user and their family are topics of examination.

Counseling the Family

Participants in this class learn about family dynamics, roles and dysfunctions related to alcohol and drug abuse. The class concentrates on effective methods of counseling all family members in the progression, prevention and treatment of chemical dependency.


Career Information

A bachelor's degree program in alcohol and drug abuse counseling prepares students for entry-level jobs in the field or for master's degree studies. Graduates with a bachelor's degree in alcohol and drug abuse counseling may be limited in their career opportunities. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported substance abuse and behavioral disorder counseling employment was expected to grow by 31% between 2012 and 2022. The projected rise is due to increased awareness about addiction, and the fact that drug offenders are increasingly being sentenced to treatment programs instead of jail time (www.bls.gov).

Continuing Education and Certification Information

Master's degree and Ph.D. programs are available in counseling for those who wish to pursue further education. These programs are primarily offered on-campus and include hours of supervised practicum in a counseling setting.

The National Board for Certified Counselors offers voluntary certification in the addiction counseling specialty. To achieve the Master Addictions Counselor (MAC) designation, counselors must have 12 semester hours of graduate-level coursework, three years of experience in the field and pass the MAC examination.

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