What Is the Average Salary for a Drug and Alcohol Addiction Counselor?

Drug and alcohol addiction counselors work in outpatient or residential facilities, hospitals or schools to help people overcome their dependencies. Find out about education and licensing requirements, employment options and salary ranges. Schools offering Addiction Counseling degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Drug and Alcohol Addiction Counselor?

Drug and alcohol addiction counselors work closely with people who suffer from addiction. While their responsibilities may differ depending on what kind of facility they work in, they generally assess an addict's mental and physical state and provide counseling services to them as they try to treat their addiction. They may work with the individual, as well as family members and close friends, in developing a treatment plan and course of action. Counselors may also provide the individual with resources to seek new employment, living circumstances, and addiction support groups. The table below provides some additional details about a career as a drug and alcohol addiction counselor:

Degree Required Bachelor's degree at minimum; master's degree for some positions
Education Required Psychology; Substance and Drug Abuse
Key Responsibilities Providing counseling, creating treatment plans, working with family members and friends, assessing progress
Licensure Requirements Licensure requirements vary by state
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 22%*
Median Salary (2015) $39,980*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

How Much Can I Make as a Drug and Alcohol Addiction Counselor?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the median salary for substance abuse and behavior counselors, as of May 2015, was $39,980. The 10th percentile earned $25,860 or less and the 90th percentile earned $63,030 or more. The highest-paying location for addiction counselors was New Hampshire with an average annual wage of $56,070. New Mexico, North Dakota, District of Columbia, and New Jersey were also among the top five highest-paying states.

Where Should I Look for Work?

The BLS reported, as of May 2015, outpatient rehab centers have the highest concentration of counselors in the country. Other industries with high employment numbers for addiction counselors included residential mental health and substance abuse facilities, individual and family services, local government, and psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals. States with the highest employment levels for this career include California, New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Massachusetts.

The top-paying industry was junior colleges with an average annual wage of $72,520. The other top paying industries included scientific research and development services, elementary and secondary schools, ambulatory healthcare services, and insurance carriers.

How Can I Become a Counselor?

Each state has different licensing and credentialing requirements, which may include earning a master's degree in substance abuse or drug and alcohol abuse counseling. These programs cover topics related to mental health and substance abuse. You may learn how to understand through psychology and anatomy how drugs and addiction affect a person. You may also study drug and alcohol use in relation to family structures, violence, ethnicity and economic standing. You may also learn counseling strategies for working with addicts and their families. A master's program includes a clinical, which prepares you for certification and for working with real patients.

The National Counselor Examination, offered through the National Board for Certified Counselors, is sometimes used by state agencies for credentialing. This exam also prepares you to take the Examination for Master Addictions Counselors. The Association for Addiction Professionals offers additional certifications.

What Is the Career Outlook?

The BLS estimates from 2014-2024, a growth of 22% in the employment opportunities for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors. This increase means an estimated 21,200 additional positions in this field. This may be due to the increase in court rulings mandating drug rehabilitation in lieu of jail.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

You may also be interested in being an addiction counselor for other issues outside of drug and alcohol abuse. This may include a variety of behavioral disorders or eating disorders. Depending on the specific focus of the degree you achieve, you may also be able to work in general psychology as a counselor for people who are having other problems with their personal, social, and family lives. Clinical psychology positions require a doctoral degree and professional licensure.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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