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Online Substance Abuse Counseling Degree BA in Human Services Concentration

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Register By: August 28 Classes Start: August 30

Help with a Substance Abuse Degree

  • $320/credit (120 credits)
  • Transfer up to 90 credits
  • Receive credit for prior learning
  • Experiential-learning opportunities
  • Make a difference in your community
  • Start on the path toward licensure

Online Substance Abuse Degree Concentration Overview

Are you seeking a meaningful career path centered on making a positive impact in your community? Do you want to help motivate people to change their lives for the better? Let compassion evolve into action by earning your Bachelor's in Human Services with a concentration in Substance Abuse online at SNHU.

If you're passionate about helping those with substance use disorder on the road to recovery, this online substance abuse counseling program serves as an important educational first step toward becoming a drug and alcohol counselor. Throughout the program, you'll receive specialized training and tools you need to support sufferers of alcoholism, drug addiction and other substance use disorders as they endeavor to restore their lives and relationships.

In this program, you'll learn how to:

  • Analyze social, political and historical events and trends as they relate to your role in advocating for those in need
  • Use culturally responsive strategies across diverse populations
  • Provide comprehensive, well-informed care while applying knowledge of law and ethics
  • Demonstrate professional communications in both formal and informal networks
  • Evaluate policy development, strategic communications and coalition-building opportunities
  • Build a skill set in inquiry, critical and creative thinking, and decision-making

Note: This program does not directly lead to licensure since the licensure process and educational requirements for drug and alcohol counselors vary by state. To learn more about licensure, see the Career Outlook section on this page.

Career Outlook

With addiction taking a toll on individuals, families and communities across the country, substance abuse has become a topic at the forefront of American politics. As the conversation has shifted away from punishment of drug offenses and toward prioritizing effective prevention and intervention methods, the need for highly educated community workers with a background in substance abuse has increased.

In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that positions for substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors are projected to increase 22% from 2018 to 2028 – much faster than the national average for all occupations.1

Seth Matthews with the text Seth Matthews"Recent increases in federal and state resources designed to combat the opioid epidemic, such as the 2018 SUPPORT Act, will likely increase these opportunities even further," said Seth Matthews, associate dean of social sciences at SNHU.

By earning your online substance abuse counseling degree, you'll put yourself in a great position to provide entry-level services. Working with individuals, groups or families, you might find employment in places like residential addiction treatment facilities, outpatient addiction programs, state drug courts, prisons, mental health centers, community health centers and private practices.

Most jobs in this area are full-time positions, and since your work may be with clients in crisis, some require that you work hours outside of a regular 9-to-5 schedule. Potential job titles include:

  • Community outreach specialist. Establish rapport with community members to provide information on addiction. You’ll help connect people to local services, provide referrals, distribute materials and give presentations related to alcohol and drug prevention and intervention strategies.
  • Residential counselor. Support people in recovery in a residential living setting. Working with clients, their families, friends, employers and other support staff, you’ll help to foster independence by assisting people with activities of daily living, such as household chores and cooking.
  • Support advocate. Help clients in outpatient addiction programs rebuild their lives in order to become self-sufficient. Through home visits or phone calls, you'll work with clients to set personal and career goals, coordinate services and complete paperwork.
  • Support group facilitator. Lead group discussions for people and families affected by substance use disorder. Using recovery-oriented, trauma-informed, culturally competent, strengths-based approaches, you'll give people a safe space to share their stories.
  • Licensed alcohol and drug counselor (LADC). Evaluate the mental and physical health of clients and assess if they are ready for treatment. Recommending personalized treatment goals and plans, you’ll help clients develop skills and behaviors vital to their recovery. Along the way, you'll give them methods for coping, repairing relationships and rebuilding their lives. Note: This job title requires credentials not provided by this bachelor's degree alone.

If you want to earn your online substance abuse counseling degree to provide direct services that involve screening, assessment, diagnosis, treatment planning and treatment of substance use disorder, you will likely need to seek state licensure.

While coursework in the substance abuse concentration often covers a state's educational requirement for licensure, you'll likely need to complete supervised practical training, too. If you're interested in becoming a licensed alcohol and drug counselor, you should contact your state board or agency for additional information regarding the licensure process and educational requirements.

Be aware that licensure requirements vary state to state. If you move to another state, you'll need to determine the licensure requirements in the state to which you relocate. Southern New Hampshire University does not guarantee that the completion of this program will result in state licensure or certification. To see how our program fits in with your state’s path to licensure, SNHU has provided a downloadable document with links to the individual state licensure boards.

While many students pursuing this degree also choose to seek licensure, it’s important to remember that a license is not required for many roles in human services.

“Substance abuse treatment and supports have become foundational within the human services field,” said Matthews. “Agencies and other employers that may not directly treat substance use value the experience and education of those versed in substance abuse treatment, as many of their clients may be dealing with co-occurring substance abuse disorders.”

Because addiction can affect every part of a person's life, people living with substance use disorder often face additional hardships. These could include legal matters, domestic violence, housing insecurity, employment issues, underlying trauma and co-occurring mental illness.

Since the knowledge you'll learn in this substance abuse counselor degree program is valuable to all kinds of employers, it's easy to see how your career could lead you to employment in an organization that doesn't necessarily focus on substance abuse. You could find work in places like community centers, homeless shelters, family resource centers, juvenile detention centers, prisons, schools and more.

Start Your Journey Toward an Online Substance Abuse Degree Concentration

Courses & Curriculum

Coursework for the substance abuse concentration explores the process of diagnosing, treating and reintroducing an individual recovering from substance use disorder to a healthy, sustainable life. You'll learn about screening techniques, prevention strategies, pharmacological factors and more.

"Our courses are designed to empower our graduates with the tools they need to help those in our communities who are struggling with substance abuse," said Seth Matthews, associate dean of social sciences. "From the early stages of helping someone understand they have a problem, through diagnosis, treatment and recovery supports, substance abuse concentration graduates are equipped and prepared to support life changing transformations in their client’s lives."

Core courses in the human services degree online curriculum highlight the importance of law and ethics, confidentiality and case management. The addition of the substance abuse concentration includes new courses that focus on each step of the prevention, intervention and rehabilitation process.

The substance abuse degree concentration has been designed with the International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium (IC&RC) in mind to teach you the 12 Core Functions of a drug and alcohol counselor, including:

  • Developing assessment and diagnosis skills using interviews, case histories and other data
  • Facilitating group discussions and conducting interventions
  • Creating recovery plans and treatment strategies
  • Weighing legal and ethical issues associated with addiction
  • Understanding caseload, evaluation and documentation management

Courses in the substance abuse concentration are taught by practicing professionals who bring years of experience to their teaching. You’ll develop the research and communication skills needed to identify and assess community resources for your clients, conduct assessments and interview and assist clients who need services.

At the end of the substance abuse counselor degree program, you'll have knowledge and skills that will help position you for success in the field of human services. You'll demonstrate your newly gained skill set in a capstone experience that allows you to apply what you've learned to the real world.

Note: While the Bachelor of Arts in Human Services with a concentration in Substance Abuse offered by Southern New Hampshire University does not directly lead to licensure, it does provide a significant portion of the substance abuse coursework most often required for licensure. Students seeking licensure or certification may be required to complete additional coursework and will be required to complete fieldwork as prescribed by each state. Most states also require a passing score on a licensing exam. If you'd like to learn more about becoming licensed in your state, you can download this document for links to individual state licensure boards.

Curriculum Requirements & Resources

  • General education courses: All bachelor's students are required to take general education classes, if not obtained in prior coursework. Through these foundation, exploration and integration courses, students learn to think critically, creatively and collaboratively, giving you the edge employers are looking for.
  • Technology resources: We provide cloud-based virtual environments in some courses to give you access to the technology you need for your degree – and your career. Learn more about our virtual environments.
  • Earn math credits for what you already know: Save time and tuition with our Pathways to Math Success assessments. Show your knowledge of the materials in your program's math courses, and you could earn up to 12 math credits – at less than $50 for each course assessment.

Tuition & Fees

As a private, nonprofit university, we’re committed to making college more accessible by making it more affordable. That’s why we offer some of the lowest online tuition rates in the nation—and haven't raised our costs in a decade.

We also offer financial aid packages to those who qualify, plus a 30% tuition discount for U.S. service members, both full and part time, and the spouses of those on active duty.

Online Undergraduate Programs Per Course Per Credit Hour Annual Cost for 30 credits 
Degree/Certificates $960 $320 $9,600
Degree/Certificates
(U.S. service members, both full and part time, and the spouses of those on active duty)*
$675 $225 $6,750

Tuition Rates are subject to change and are reviewed annually.
*Note: students receiving this rate are not eligible for additional discounts.

Additional Costs
No Application Fee, $150 Graduation Fee, Course Materials ($ varies by course)

Frequently Asked Questions

University Accreditation

Southern New Hampshire University is a private, nonprofit institution accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) as well as several other accrediting bodies.

References