Online Schools for Addiction Counseling: How to Choose

Learn about important considerations when selecting an online addiction counseling school. Read more to get an overview of the program options, degree requirements, and common topics offered for the field of study.

State requirements and internship requirements are two major considerations for students looking to apply to an online undergraduate or graduate degree program in addiction counseling. Here we discuss how these considerations apply to the different available degrees.

How to Select an Online Addiction Counseling Program

Online addiction counseling programs are available through community colleges and 4-year colleges and universities. Many factors can influence an individual's choice of an online addiction counseling educational program, such as courses offered, state licensure requirements and practicability of attending the internship. Addiction counseling programs are offered at the graduate certificate, bachelor's and master's levels.

State Requirements

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( states that licensure for addiction counselors varies widely depending on the state. Some states may require just a high school diploma, while other states specify a master's and certification. When choosing an addictions program, a student needs to determine if the program conforms to state requirements and is a state-approved program.


An addiction counseling program may include an internship. Internships cannot be completed online, but must be completed in-person. If students are required to complete internships on-campus, they must consider if it is practical to travel to the school and put in the required hours. Other institutions may ask students to arrange their internship themselves with school approval.

List of Addiction Counseling Programs

Certificate Programs

Applicants to a certificate program must have earned a previous degree at the bachelor's, master's or doctoral level. Sometimes a program is directed towards a specific group, such as behavioral health specialists. Some programs require or provide an opportunity for participation in a practicum or internship. Courses typically encountered in a certificate program include:

  • Intervention and treatment
  • Individual, group and family counseling
  • Legal and ethical issues
  • Counseling theory and special populations

Bachelor's Degrees

Some programs may offer addiction counseling training from a Christian perspective. Others may focus on a specialty area, such as substance abuse. Students are also typically required to complete an in-person practicum. General course topics may include:

  • Pharmacology
  • Abnormal behavior
  • Stress management in clinical and community settings
  • Alcoholism
  • Cultural competency foundations

Master's Degrees

An online master's program in addiction counseling may require the student to complete a residency requirement (i.e., spend a determined amount of time on campus). Students gain the knowledge and skills needed to treat and prevent addictions. Graduates may be eligible to seek licensure or certification, but they should check their state's requirements before starting any program. In addition, most programs include clinical practicums and internships, and students may have the option to complete a thesis. Master's degree students take courses such as:

  • Career counseling theory and techniques
  • Individual appraisals
  • Issues in addiction recovery
  • Research and program evaluation

Schools With Online Programs in Addiction Counseling

The University of South Dakota offers an online undergraduate or graduate certificate program in addiction studies. The undergraduate program consists of 27 credits, while the graduate certificate program is composed of 15 credits. The Addiction Studies Department is accredited through the National Addiction Studies Accreditation Commission (NASAC).

Aspen University has an online Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Addiction Counseling program comprised of 40 courses for a total of 120 credits. Course topics include addiction counseling theories, pharmacology, ethical issues in the field and more. Students complete a senior capstone course and three proctored exams throughout the program. Aspen also offers an online master's program in psychology and addiction counseling.

Walden University offers students an online Master of Science in Addiction Counseling program. Students in the program can choose a general course of study or one of six specializations that includes forensic counseling, child and adolescent counseling, addictions and public health and more. The general program consists of 90 to 96 quarter credits, 100 hours of practicum and 600 hours of internship.

Students need to investigate the state and internship requirements for the online addiction counseling programs that they wish to apply to. These programs are available at the certificate, bachelor's and master's degree levels and vary greatly in their specializations and requirements.

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