Substance Abuse Counselors in the United States are not likely to strike it rich; they only make around $37K annually on average. Residence is the biggest factor affecting pay for this group, followed by career length and the specific company. Most workers in this position report high levels of job satisfaction. While some workers in this profession — around one in four — do not have any health coverage, the larger part do receive medical benefits and more than half have dental insurance. Female Substance Abuse Counselors survey participants are more prevalent than men — 68 percent of professionals. This report is based on responses to the PayScale salary survey.

$28,440 - $50,237
(Median)
$28K
$37K
$50K
MEDIAN: $37,404
10%
50%
90%

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$11.91 - $22.59
(Median)
$12
$16
$23
MEDIAN: $15.00
10%
50%
90%

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National Salary Data (?
XAll compensation data shown are gross 10th to 90th percentile ranges. Take the PayScale Survey to find out how location influences pay for this job.
)
$0$17K$34K$51K
Salary
$28,440 - $50,237  
   
Bonus
$117.45 - $3,064  
Profit Sharing
$3,000  
Total Pay (?
XTotal Pay combines base annual salary or hourly wage, bonuses, profit sharing, tips, commissions, overtime pay and other forms of cash earnings, as applicable for this job. It does not include equity (stock) compensation, cash value of retirement benefits, or the value of other non-cash benefits (e.g. healthcare).
)
$26,305 - $49,517  
Country: United States | Currency: USD | Updated: 28 Oct 2016 | Individuals Reporting: 1,051
National Hourly Rate Data (?
XAll compensation data shown are gross 10th to 90th percentile ranges. Take the PayScale Survey to find out how location influences pay for this job.
)
$0$12$24$36
Hourly Rate
$11.91 - $22.59  
   
Overtime
$15.11 - $34.20  
National Annualized Data (?
XAll compensation data shown are gross 10th to 90th percentile ranges. Take the PayScale Survey to find out how location influences pay for this job.
)
$0$24K$48K$72K
Bonus
$117.45 - $3,064  
   
Profit Sharing
$3,000  
Total Pay (?
XTotal Pay combines base annual salary or hourly wage, bonuses, profit sharing, tips, commissions, overtime pay and other forms of cash earnings, as applicable for this job. It does not include equity (stock) compensation, cash value of retirement benefits, or the value of other non-cash benefits (e.g. healthcare).
)
$26,305 - $49,517  
Country: United States | Currency: USD | Updated: 28 Oct 2016 | Individuals Reporting: 833
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Job Description for Substance Abuse Counselor

Substance abuse counselors provide therapy to individuals struggling with issues related to alcohol and/or drug use. They may lead group counseling and support groups, as well as conduct one-on-one sessions with patients; employers may include nonprofit and for-profit healthcare providers, government entities and nonprofit organizations that provide counseling services. These counselors must have an excellent understanding of how to work with individuals dealing with substance abuse issues, including common issues for this population and established therapeutic techniques. It is important for the counselor to be able to work with people who come from a variety of age groups and cultures.

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Substance Abuse Counselor Tasks

  • Gather information about patients using interviews, case histories, observations and assessments.
  • Facilitate and lead group and education sessions.
  • Manage caseload and documentation.
  • Develop individual intervention, treatment and recovery plans.
  • Perform substance abuse or other disorder evaluations for patients.

Common Career Paths for Substance Abuse Counselor


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Though it's uncommon, some Substance Abuse Counselors move into roles as Clinical Directors, where pay is an average $71K per year. Given that the median pay is $35K, it may be surprising to find that a Certified Drug and Alcohol Addiction Counselor is the most common role for Substance Abuse Counselors to subsequently assume on their way up the ladder. Transitioning into a Mental Health Counselor role — which pays $38K — is also typical for Substance Abuse Counselors, though less common by comparison.

Substance Abuse Counselor Job Listings

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Popular Employer Salaries for Substance Abuse Counselor


Dominating the field, Colonial Management Group, LLC, CRC Health Group Corporation, Behavioral Health Group, Mental Health Systems, Inc., and Gateway Foundation, Inc. are top firms with a reputation for hiring a great number of Substance Abuse Counselors. Substance Abuse Counselors flock to Hina Mauka for generous paychecks, where average earnings of $37K lead the pack in compensation. Other leaders in compensation levels are The Phoenix House at $35K, The Salvation Army at $35K, and Turning Point, Inc., where Substance Abuse Counselors annually earn $33K.

Also sliding in at the lower end of the scale are CRC Health Group Corporation ($30K), Pyramid Healthcare, Inc. ($31K), and Gateway Foundation, Inc. ($31K).

Popular Skills for Substance Abuse Counselor


Survey results imply that Substance Abuse Counselors deploy a substantial tool kit of skills at work. Most notably, skills in Clinical Supervision, Oral / Verbal Communication, Patient Counseling, and Assessment are correlated to pay that is above average. Bilingual and Writing Procedures & Documentation as skills, however, tend to be associated with significantly smaller paychecks. Most people who know Case Management also know Facilitator.

Pay by Experience Level for Substance Abuse Counselor

Median of all compensation (including tips, bonus, and overtime) by years of experience.


More years of relevant experience do not necessarily translate to higher paychecks. Relatively untried employees who have less than five years' experience make $34K, but folks with five to 10 years under their belts enjoy an appreciably larger median of $38K. After working for 10 to 20 years, Substance Abuse Counselors make a median salary of $41K. Survey participants who have spent more than 20 years on the job report a predictably higher median income of $44K, demonstrating that compensation is roughly commensurate with experience in the end.

Pay Difference by Location

National Average: $35,673

Larger city markers indicate a job is popular in that location.

Home to some of the best pay for Substance Abuse Counselors, Minneapolis offers exceptional salaries, 22 percent above the national average. Substance Abuse Counselors can also look forward to large paychecks in cities like Atlanta (+17 percent), Phoenix (+9 percent), San Diego (+9 percent), and Philadelphia (+7 percent). The smallest paychecks in the market, 14 percent south of the national average, can be found in Houston. Employers pay around 8 percent less in Raleigh and 6 percent less in Los Angeles, below-median salaries for those in this field.

Substance Abuse Counselor Reviews

What is it like working as a Substance Abuse Counselor?

Substance Abuse Counselor in New Castle:
"Only if you have a heart for addiction."
Pros: Helping people learn to change their lives. Working independently.
Cons: Massive amounts of paperwork limit your therapeutic efficacy. High stress.

Substance Abuse Counselor in Panama City:
Pros: It is very satisfying to see clients gain skills and beliefs that enable them to live drug or alcohol free lives, with relationships restored and hope regained.
Cons: There is a lot of emotional drama as clients come off their drug of choice and begin to learn to live and work with other women. There has also been a lot of drama with management as they learn the ropes.

Substance Abuse Counselor in Panama City:
Pros: It is a highly challenging position both in meeting clients' needs and in teaching other staff about what is required. It can be very satisfying when client phases up, learns a new skill or insight, or graduates.
Cons: There is constant drama with clients and management.

Substance Abuse Counselor in Grand Rapids:
"I love to help people get clean and sober."
Pros: Helping clients maintain their sobriety once they have and watching them improve self worth, esteem, and self-image.
Cons: Seeing how backwards the "system" ie, CPS, mental health, & DHS are. They tend to set their clients up for failure by not reuniting families once clean and sober status is obtained. They continually hold they past hostage and do not believe they have changed, because reuniting families back together takes money out of the "systems" pockets.

Substance Abuse Counselor in Marshall:
"The Agency."
Pros: The people I work for and with are the best role models and colleagues I could wish for. They accepted me as an intern and were helpful with guidance and suggestions, and most importantly, patient with my progress as I continued to learn from them. I am also very passionate about working with people with substance abuse issues. I have the chance to work with all ages, races and addiction issues. It is very rewarding to have them begin to heal under the care and programs of our agency.
Cons: I don't have anything I don't like about my job.

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Experience Affects Substance Abuse Counselor Salaries




National Average
$36,000


Skills That Affect Substance Abuse Counselor Salaries

Clinical Supervision
up arrow 20%

Oral / Verbal Communication
up arrow 11%

Patient Counseling
up arrow 3%

Group Therapy
up arrow 2%

Assessment
up arrow 2%

Masters degree
up arrow 2%

Facilitator
up arrow 1%

Diagnosis and Treatment Planning
up arrow 1%

Counseling
0%

National Average
$36,000

Case Management
up arrow 1%

Writing Procedures & Documentation
up arrow 3%

Bilingual
up arrow 22%

Job Satisfaction

Extremely satisfied
Rated 5 out of 5
based on 208 votes.

Gender

Female
68 %
Male
32 %

Years of Experience

Less than 1 year
7%
1-4 years
52%
5-9 years
19%
10-19 years
16%
20 years or more
6%

Common Health Benefits

medical benefits
Medical: 69%
dental benefits
Dental: 59%
medical benefits
Vision: 43%
dental benefits
None: 27%
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