2020 Most Affordable Online Substance Abuse Counseling Degrees

By the OnlineU team | Updated 9/30/2021
2020 Most Affordable Substance Abuse Counseling Bachelors Degrees Badge
By the OnlineU team | Updated 9/30/2021

A bachelor’s in substance use counseling, also known as substance abuse counseling, prepares students to work with people suffering from chemical dependencies. Employment opportunities for counselors in the fields of substance use, behavioral disorders, and mental health are projected to grow by 23% through 2030, which is significantly faster than the average growth rate across occupations. The following list highlights 23 schools that offer affordable online bachelor's degrees in substance use counseling, with annual tuition rates ranging from $4,500 to $17,760. Below this, we provide additional insight into online bachelor’s degrees in this subject, including financial aid options, accreditation, and some potential advantages and drawbacks to pursuing this degree.

You can read more about our ranked schools below or see our Overall Most Affordable Colleges. View our methodology or learn more about OnlineU.

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Rank School Annual Tuition
# 1 #1 Aspen University $4,500
# 2 #2 Fort Hays State University $6,560
# 3 #3 Union College - KY $6,750
# 4 #4 University of Central Arkansas $8,550
# 5 #5 University of Maine at Augusta $9,269
# 6 #6 Southern New Hampshire University Online $9,600
# 7 #7 East Central University $9,672
# 8 #8 University of Cincinnati $10,342
# 9 #9 University of South Dakota $10,537
# 10 #10 SUNY Empire State College $10,943
# 11 #11 Liberty University $11,700
# 12 #12 Indiana Wesleyan University Online $11,760
# 13 #13 Ottawa University Online $11,970
# 14 #14 Bay Path University $12,000
# 15 #15 Eastern Kentucky University $12,270
# 16 #16 Ohio Christian University $12,480
# 17 #17 Bethel University - IN $13,365
# 18 #18 Mercer University $14,250
# 19 #19 Crown College $14,720
# 20 #20 Western New Mexico University $15,231
# 21 #21 University of Holy Cross $16,200
# 22 #22 Purdue University Global $16,695
# 23 #23 Elizabethtown College $17,760
#1
#1

Aspen University

Denver (CO)
Annual Tuition: $4,500
Annual Tuition: $4,500
Annual Tuition: $4,500

Aspen University’s online Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Addiction Counseling can be completed in less than three years. The program is designed to provide students with an understanding of addiction theory, sociology, and psychology as they prepare to work in the addiction treatment field. However, the program does not fulfill state licensure requirements. Electives are offered to satisfy students’ particular interests.

All courses in this program are conducted online through the Brightspace... learning management system. Coursework is asynchronous, and students can contact their professors or academic counselor at any time for assistance. Students will also receive written feedback from professors on their assignments. Students may opt to make monthly interest-free tuition payments instead of paying the full cost upfront. Transfer credits from previous college courses may be applied to program requirements.

The 40 courses offered for this online substance abuse counseling degree have rolling start dates, allowing maximum flexibility. Prospective students should submit an application, high school transcripts, and official transcripts for all previous college credit. Students must have at least a 2.0 GPA to qualify.

  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 0%
  • Graduation Rate: 0%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 4,413
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 2,356
  • School Type: For-Profit
  • School Accreditation: DEAC
  • Phone #: (303) 333-4224

Example Classes: Crisis Intervention and Prevention, Medical Terminology, Pharmacology

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Addiction Studies
#2
#2
Annual Tuition: $6,560
Annual Tuition: $6,560
Annual Tuition: $6,560

Fort Hays State University (FHSU) offers a bachelor’s degree in substance abuse counseling online through the sociology department. Students can choose whether to earn a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science in Sociology; both offer an Addiction Counseling Track and require a total of 120 credit hours. Twenty-one of the credit hours come from core sociology courses, while the remaining 30 are specific to the focus on addiction counseling. Electives and general education courses are also required... to complete the degree. This program aims to provide a pathway for students who want to become licensed addiction counselors in Kansas.

This online bachelor’s degree is designed to be flexible and affordable, offering the same quality of education as the on-campus version. FHSU offers financial aid in the form of loans, grants, scholarships, and military education benefits. Students may also earn credit for prior learning. Distance learners receive support through a dedicated online sociology resource portal, library services, academic resources, and more. All coursework is delivered through the Blackboard learning platform, and courses may include a combination of presentations, videos, discussion boards, individual and group projects, lab work, and exams.

To be admitted to this program, students must have graduated high school with at least a 2.0 GPA. Students must also have attained a minimum score on the ACT or SAT, unless over 21. Required materials include a completed application, all previous transcripts, and SAT or ACT scores. Fort Hays State University’s online program follows a traditional semester-based schedule.

  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 96%
  • Graduation Rate: 43%
  • Acceptance Rate: 89%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 4,411
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 2,453
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (785) 628-4000

Example Classes: Feminist Theory, Grant Writing, Popular Culture, Social Inequality, Sociology Through Cinema, Workshop in Sociology: Pharmacology & High Risk Medical Issues, Workshop in Sociology: Psychopathology & Addictions

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Arts in Sociology - Addictions Counseling
  • Bachelor of Science in Sociology - Addictions Counseling
#3
#3

Union College - KY

Barbourville (KY)
Annual Tuition: $6,750
Annual Tuition: $6,750
Annual Tuition: $6,750

The Bachelor of Science in Substance Abuse Counseling degree available from Union College consists of 120 credit hours conducted entirely online. The program requires 24 hours of core courses, eight hours of electives, and nine hours of supporting electives. A substance abuse internship is included in the core curriculum to give students real-world experience. Graduates may choose to pursue an advanced degree to obtain licensure or seek employment in the substance abuse counseling field. The program... is approved for veterans and active duty military.

Online coursework is delivered through uLearn, powered by the Moodle learning management system. Learning is asynchronous, and coursework may include quizzes, class discussions, and other assignments. Union College offers distance learners 24/7 technical support, academic advising, and career services. Financial aid and payment plans are also available. There is no fee to apply.

This program follows convenient eight-week schedules, with six start dates each year. Students must submit an application to apply for the program, provide copies of official transcripts, and show proof of high school graduation or GED.

  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
  • Graduation Rate: 39%
  • Acceptance Rate: 63%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 153
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 133
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (606) 546-4151

Example Classes: Deviance and Criminology, Drugs and Society, Principles of Microeconomics

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Science in Substance Abuse Counseling
#4
#4
Annual Tuition: $8,550
Annual Tuition: $8,550
Annual Tuition: $8,550
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 98%
  • Graduation Rate: 43%
  • Acceptance Rate: 90%
  • Average SATs: 960 -1160
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 348
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 850
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (501) 450-5000

Example Classes: Drug Education, Etiology and Epidemiology of Addiction, First Aid, Theory and Practice of Prevention

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Science in Addiction Studies - Treatment
#5
#5
Annual Tuition: $9,269
Annual Tuition: $9,269
Annual Tuition: $9,269
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 90%
  • Graduation Rate: 13%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 2,342
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: NECHE
  • Phone #: (207) 621-3000

Example Classes: Adolescence, Substance Abuse & Criminality, Case Management, Community Mental Health, Family Violence, Offender Rehabilitation

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • BS in Mental Health and Human Services - Addiction Counseling
#6
#6
Annual Tuition: $9,600
Annual Tuition: $9,600
Annual Tuition: $9,600
  • Online Degrees: 3
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 77%
  • Graduation Rate: 44%
  • Acceptance Rate: 78%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 86,849
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 19,526
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: NECHE
  • Phone #: (603) 668-2211

Example Classes: Abnormal Psychology, Biopsychology, Cognitive Psychology, Contemporary Health, Contemporary Issues in Addictions, Counseling Process and Techniques, Health Psychology, Psychology of Personality, Sociology of Deviant Behavior, The American Legal Tradition

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • BA Human Services - Substance Abuse
  • BA Psychology - Addictions
  • BS Criminal Justice - Substance Abuse
#7
#7
Annual Tuition: $9,672
Annual Tuition: $9,672
Annual Tuition: $9,672
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 88%
  • Graduation Rate: 37%
  • Acceptance Rate: 48%
  • Average SATs: 930 -1140
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 276
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 387
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (580) 332-8000

Example Classes: Employment and Placement Techniques, Group Processes and Practice, Intervention Techniques, Medical, Social and Psychological Aspects of Disability, Vocational Testing and Evaluation

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Arts in Human Services Counseling - Rehabilitation
#8
#8

University of Cincinnati

Cincinnati (OH) (and 1 other)
Annual Tuition: $10,342
Annual Tuition: $10,342
Annual Tuition: $10,342
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 75%
  • Graduation Rate: 71%
  • Acceptance Rate: 76%
  • Average SATs: 1120 -1350
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 2,455
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 3,731
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC

Example Classes: Advanced Cultural Competence in Substance Abuse Counseling, Alcoholism, Co-Occurring Disorders in Treatment, Group Skills in Substance Abuse Counseling, Maintenance Strategies for Long-Term Substance Abuse Recovery, Substance Abuse Counseling for Families and Other Relationships

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Science in Substance Abuse Counseling
#9
#9

University of South Dakota

Vermillion (SD)
Annual Tuition: $10,537
Annual Tuition: $10,537
Annual Tuition: $10,537
  • Online Degrees: 3
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 94%
  • Graduation Rate: 59%
  • Acceptance Rate: 87%
  • Average SATs: 990 -1180
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,921
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 983
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (605) 658-6200

Example Classes: Alcohol & Drug Group Interactions, Alcohol & Drug Individual Helping Skills Interaction Laboratory, Alcohol and Drug Helping Skills, Ethical & Legal Issues in the Substance Abuse Profession, Study of Alcohol Use & Abuse, Study of Drug Use and Abuse, Working with Families on Alcohol/Drug Issues

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Science in Addiction Counseling and Prevention
  • Bachelor of Science in Addiction Counseling and Prevention - Prevention
  • Bachelor of Science in Addiction Counseling and Prevention - Treatment
#10
#10

SUNY Empire State College

Saratoga Springs (NY)
Annual Tuition: $10,943
Annual Tuition: $10,943
Annual Tuition: $10,943
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 89%
  • Graduation Rate: 24%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 3,754
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,145
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: MSCHE
  • Phone #: (518) 587-2100

Example Classes: Addiction and Dependency: Introduction, Adolescence and Addictions, Interventions for Addiction Disorders, Social Science Research Methods

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • BS Addiction Studies
#11
#11

Liberty University

Lynchburg (VA)
Annual Tuition: $11,700
Annual Tuition: $11,700
Annual Tuition: $11,700
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 99%
  • Graduation Rate: 47%
  • Acceptance Rate: 30%
  • Average SATs: 1040 -1260
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 34,092
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 36,337
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (434) 582-2000

Example Classes: Behavioral Modification, Psychological Measurement, Psychology & Christianity, Social Psychology

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • BS: Psychology: Addiction & Recovery
#12
#12
Annual Tuition: $11,760
Annual Tuition: $11,760
Annual Tuition: $11,760
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 93%
  • Graduation Rate: 53%
  • Average SATs: 1020 -1230
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 6,185
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 3,637
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (765) 677-2870

Example Classes: Addictions Counseling Skills, Addictions Theory, Counseling Addicted and Dysfunctional Family Systems, Minority Group Relations, Physiological Psychology, Principles of Addictions Counseling, Psychology of Abnormal Behavior, Psychopharmacology, Theories of Personality

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • B.S. Addictions Counseling
#13
#13
Annual Tuition: $11,970
Annual Tuition: $11,970
Annual Tuition: $11,970
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Graduation Rate: 34%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 205
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 56
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (785) 242-5200

Example Classes: Group Counseling in Addiction, Multi-Cultural Competencies in Addiction Counseling, Psychopathological and Co-Occurring Disorders, Psychopharmacology and Addiction, Theories of Personality and Addiction

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Science in Addiction Counseling
#14
#14

Bay Path University

Longmeadow (MA) (and 1 other)
Annual Tuition: $12,000
Annual Tuition: $12,000
Annual Tuition: $12,000
  • Online Degrees: 3
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 95%
  • Graduation Rate: 54%
  • Acceptance Rate: 63%
  • Average SATs: 960 -1170
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 870
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 523
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: NECHE

Example Classes: Critical Reading and Response, Health Psychology, Individual & Family Treatment of Substance Abuse Disorders, Literary Genres, Women as Empowered Learners and Leaders

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Arts in Psychology - Foundations of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counseling
  • Bachelor of Arts in Psychology - Human Services & Rehabilitation
  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice - Offender Rehabilitation & Victim Advocacy
#15
#15
Annual Tuition: $12,270
Annual Tuition: $12,270
Annual Tuition: $12,270
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 98%
  • Graduation Rate: 45%
  • Acceptance Rate: 87%
  • Average SATs: 990 -1170
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 2,187
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,386
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (859) 622-1000

Example Classes: Abnormal Psychology, Clinical Psychology, Physiological Psychology, Psychological Interviewing and Reporting, Psychological Perspectives on Substance Abuse, Psychology of Personality, Statistical-Experimental, Tests and Measurements

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • BS in Psychology - Substance Abuse
#16
#16

Ohio Christian University

Circleville (OH)
Annual Tuition: $12,480
Annual Tuition: $12,480
Annual Tuition: $12,480
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 94%
  • Graduation Rate: 32%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 1,264
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 246
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (740) 474-8896

Example Classes: Diagnostic Evaluation and Personal Assessment, Ethical and Legal Issues in Counseling, Family Dynamics in Substance Abuse, Individual Chemical Dependency Counseling, Prevention Strategies, Psychopharmacology, Spiritual Dimensions of Illness and Recovery, Transformed Worldview

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Arts in Substance Abuse Counseling
#17
#17

Bethel University - IN

Mishawaka (IN)
Annual Tuition: $13,365
Annual Tuition: $13,365
Annual Tuition: $13,365
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
  • Graduation Rate: 67%
  • Acceptance Rate: 90%
  • Average SATs: 950 -1170
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 116
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 119
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (574) 807-7000

Example Classes: Assessments, Treatment Planning and Outcomes, Interviewing and People Helping Skills, Motivational Interviewing and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Principles of Addiction, Professional Identity, Function & Ethics, Psychopharmacology, Racial and Cultural Minorities, Theories of Addiction Treatment

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Science in Behavioral and Social Science - Addictions
#18
#18

Mercer University

Macon (GA)
Annual Tuition: $14,250
Annual Tuition: $14,250
Annual Tuition: $14,250
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
  • Graduation Rate: 65%
  • Acceptance Rate: 73%
  • Average SATs: 1170 -1340
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 612
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 498
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (478) 301-2700

Example Classes: Conflict Resolution, Group Process and Practice, Lifespan Development, Methods of Substance Abuse Treatment, Social Problems

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Science in Human Services - Substance Abuse Services
#19
#19

Crown College

Saint Bonifacius (MN)
Annual Tuition: $14,720
Annual Tuition: $14,720
Annual Tuition: $14,720
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 97%
  • Graduation Rate: 49%
  • Acceptance Rate: 51%
  • Average SATs: 980 -1200
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 601
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 362
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (952) 446-4100

Example Classes: Assessment and Treatment Planning, Case Management for Alcohol and Drug Counseling, Diversity Issues in Counseling, Psychopharmacology, Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Science in Alcohol and Drug Counseling
#20
#20
Annual Tuition: $15,231
Annual Tuition: $15,231
Annual Tuition: $15,231
  • Online Degrees: 2
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 95%
  • Graduation Rate: 34%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 487
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 625
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (505) 538-6336

Example Classes: Chemical Dependency and the Family, Codependency, Dual Diagnosis, Helping Skills in Chemical Dependency, Special Populations in Chem Dependancy, Substance Abuse & Crime

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Arts in Chemical Dependency Counseling
  • Bachelor of Science in Chemical Dependency Counseling
#21
#21

University of Holy Cross

New Orleans (LA)
Annual Tuition: $16,200
Annual Tuition: $16,200
Annual Tuition: $16,200
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 79%
  • Graduation Rate: 40%
  • Acceptance Rate: 46%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 7
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 3
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: SACS COC
  • Phone #: (504) 394-7744

Example Classes: Advanced Interviewing and Counseling, Crisis Intervention, Juvenile Delinquency, Psychology of Human Sexuality, Recovery Counseling, Sexual Trauma

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • BS in Addiction Counseling
#22
#22

Purdue University Global

Indianapolis (IN)
Annual Tuition: $16,695
Annual Tuition: $16,695
Annual Tuition: $16,695
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 76%
  • Graduation Rate: 27%
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 28,447
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 9,331
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: HLC
  • Phone #: (317) 208-5311

Example Classes: Abnormal Psychology, Child and Adolescent Psychology, Ethical Practice in a Diverse World, Psychology of Addiction, Psychopharmacology of Alcohol and Drugs, Stress - Critical Issues in Management and Prevention

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • BS in Psychology - Addictions
#23
#23

Elizabethtown College

Elizabethtown (PA)
Annual Tuition: $17,760
Annual Tuition: $17,760
Annual Tuition: $17,760
  • Online Degrees: 1
  • Financial Aid Recipients: 100%
  • Graduation Rate: 69%
  • Acceptance Rate: 74%
  • Average SATs: 1080 -1290
  • Undergrad Online Enrollment: 170
  • Graduate Online Enrollment: 47
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • School Accreditation: MSCHE
  • Phone #: (717) 361-1000

Example Classes: Biopsychosocial Factors of Substance Use and Abuse, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, Ethical Issues in Human Services, Human Services Delivery, Pharmacology and Substance Use Disorders, Recovery and Relapse Prevention

Online Bachelor's Degrees

  • Bachelor of Science in Human Services - Behavioral and Addictions Counseling

Overview of an Affordable Online Bachelor’s Degree in Substance Use Counseling

Substance use counselors work one-on-one and in groups to help clients understand and address their chemical dependencies. As of 2020, addiction counselors earn a median annual income of $47,660, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While a bachelor’s degree can land applicants an entry-level job, a master's degree, a significant number of clinical hours, and licensure are required in some states and for working at a private practice.

To gain skills in this field, students need to receive training in addiction counseling, which covers subjects such as psychology, addiction theory, human services, human development, and interventions for clients in recovery. While bachelor's degrees in addiction counseling are available both online and in-person, many schools prefer to offer a specialization in substance abuse counseling through psychology or mental health degrees instead.

Pursuing an addiction counseling degree online is a legitimate option with many available programs. Although the majority are designed to be completed in four years or less by full-time students, part-time students may choose to finish the degree more slowly, taking up to six years in some cases. Overall, earning a bachelor’s degree requires students to complete 120-126 credit hours.

Many online programs require students to complete a specific number of practical experience hours in substance use counseling. Depending on the program, students can achieve this through an internship or by taking a practicum at an approved clinic. Before students enroll they should determine whether their chosen online program arranges experience hours in their state of residence. If not, students can contact their state's certification board or licensure agency to determine how to meet this requirement.


Proper Terminology Within This Field

Language is constantly evolving, and terms specific to this field of study are no exception. To reflect growing trends, a combination of familiar and newer terms are utilized throughout this page. The word "abuse" has been steadily shifting toward alternatives — from "use" to "misuse" — that are less accusatory and judgment-laden. Although some institutions continue offering degree programs in substance abuse counseling, others are offering programs in substance use counseling. Meanwhile, practitioners that specialize in addiction are overwhelmingly advocating for terminology updates that help lessen the stigma around mental health issues, including those associated with chemical dependencies.

Practitioners that specialize in addiction are overwhelmingly advocating for terminology updates that help lessen the stigma around mental health issues.


Funding an Online Substance Abuse Counseling Program

Financial aid comes in many forms for students planning to earn an online bachelor's degree in substance abuse counseling.


As long as students attend an accredited online program, they should be eligible for the same types of aid as on-campus students.


The financial aid process typically begins when a student submits a Free Application for Student Financial Aid (FAFSA) form. The information provided determines what types of aid and the amount that each student may receive. Then, the schools notify students regarding how much financial aid they are willing to offer.

Although students must repay their loans with interest, federal student loans typically offer more favorable terms than private loans. Overall, students prefer scholarships and grants because they don't have to repay them at all. To further reduce costs, they may also consider applying for financial assistance programs if they have special circumstances. For example, veterans and active-duty military personnel are often eligible for tuition discounts. Similarly, some schools have set up partnerships with various organizations, so if students are employees or members, they may be eligible for tuition assistance.

Due to a growing need for substance use and addiction counselors, several non-profits provide additional scholarships and grants.

Due to a growing need for substance use and addiction counselors, several non-profits provide additional scholarships and grants for individuals preparing to enter this profession: the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association, the National Institutes of Health, and the Pride Foundation.

Below are some scholarships for undergraduates studying substance use and misuse:

William White Scholarship

The National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC) awards one undergraduate $1,000 every year. Applicants must be current NAADAC members and have a GPA between 2.7-3.0 or higher. They must also have at least one full year of coursework remaining in addiction studies or an addiction-related field.

The Franklin D. Boyce Scholarship

This $2,500 scholarship is available to students located in designated cities in Virginia who demonstrate financial need.

For additional information, students can check out our resources about paying for a college degree, which include details about the popular college savings plans, the student debt crisis, and more.


Accreditation

Students should ensure that their chosen online school and/or program are accredited. An accredited school has been evaluated by national or regional authorities to meet the nationally accepted standard of education. Specifically, this means that a school has the appropriate faculty, resources, and other facilities to implement quality academic programs.


This stamp of approval signals a degree’s credibility to potential employers. Furthermore, accreditation is often a requirement to receive financial aid and transfer credits.


Students should check if their school’s accreditation is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council of Higher Education Accreditation. Additionally, some third parties specialize in evaluating specific academic programs rather than entire institutions. The National Addiction Studies Accreditation Commission accredits bachelor’s degrees in substance use counseling — including online programs.


Common Substance Use Counseling Courses

An online bachelor's degree in substance abuse counseling provides students with an in-depth understanding of the negative impacts that substance use and misuse has on individuals, their loved ones, and society. By studying the coursework, students learn about the psychology behind addiction and how drugs and alcohol affect the body. They also gain hands-on experience treating and supporting people with substance use disorder and co-occurring mental health issues during and after recovery.

  • Addiction and the Family: Students learn how to provide substance use and misuse counseling for families, couples, and other close relationships. The courses often cover family counseling theories and the role of family during recovery, treatment, and prevention.
  • Ethics in Addictions Counseling: This class explores the ethical and legal issues counselors may encounter during their clients’ substance use treatment. Class topics may include ethical decision-making, confidentiality, informed consent, and diversity issues.
  • Group Counseling for Substance Abuse: Group therapy is often a technique practitioners use in substance use treatment, especially inpatient treatment. This course establishes the process and theoretical framework behind group therapy, covering addiction, facilitation skills, and effective methods for group counseling.
  • Psychology of Addiction: This class gives an overview of substance use and misuse disorder’s clinical diagnosis and treatment. Students also learn about how addiction occurs in the brain and the psychological factors that impact it.
  • Psychopharmacology and Addiction: In this course, faculty discuss different drug classifications and how each type affects the brain. Courses cover psychoactive properties, neurochemical effects, and withdrawal symptoms for various classes of drugs and alcohol. Students also learn about prescription medications for treating substance use disorder and co-occurring psychological disorders.

Is an Online Degree in Substance Abuse Counseling Worth It?

Since everyone's circumstances differ, nobody can answer this question without considering their familial responsibilities, career goals, and financial situation. But if you're passionate about helping people overcome addiction, then a bachelor's degree in this field might be worth the investment of time and money.

Potential Benefits

  • The addiction studies field is expected to grow at a rapid rate of 23% through 2030.
  • To obtain licensure, some states require a specific degree. So, rather than merely relying on a specialization, earning a bachelor's degree in substance abuse counseling may be an important step to getting licensed. This degree also demonstrates a student's strong dedication to the field. If a student plans to obtain a master's degree next, having such a specific focus could make their application more attractive to schools, especially at this higher level of schooling when a thesis is often required.
  • Many programs require internships that offer practical experience in the field, which students can draw on in their applications as they enter the job market after graduation.
  • Graduates with bachelor’s degrees are eligible for various jobs in their field of study, such as a psychologist's aide or state agency caseworker. They may choose to work in these roles until they earn their master's degree and counseling license.

Potential Drawbacks

  • A bachelor's degree may not be sufficient to specialize in a particular area of substance abuse counseling, and may therefore limit earning potential in this field. Additionally, employment in the private sector requires licensure, so a bachelor's degree alone may limit job prospects.
  • Many counseling jobs require schedules that fall outside of traditional business hours. Not only are counselors often expected to work evenings and weekends, but they also experience heavy caseloads early in their careers. It may be challenging for some to find a suitable work-life balance.
  • Perhaps exacerbated by excessive patient dropout rates, professionals in this field may face high levels of professional burnout due to job-related stress. Some counselors report leaving the field due to the cumulative toll of helping people in emotional and physical distress, while others grow frustrated with the complexities of bureaucracy and insurance.

Earning a bachelor's in substance abuse counseling through an online program has advantages as well as drawbacks that students should consider. The online learning option allows students to complete work on a flexible schedule and study from any location without having to uproot their lives in order to move closer to a school. However, students may miss out on some informal networking opportunities that could benefit their careers. Importantly, colleges don't always provide an adequate level of support to online students, and some distance learners have found it difficult to complete their degree, especially compared to their on-campus counterparts.