Substance Abuse Counselor Salary

Substance Abuse Counselors in the United States are not likely to strike it rich; they only make around $36K per year on average. Earnings sit near $26K on the lower side but can approach $48K per year on the higher side. Earnings for this group are mostly affected by geographic location, followed by career duration and the individual firm. The majority of Substance Abuse Counselors (68 percent) who took the survey are women. Health benefits are not claimed by all — about one in four lack any form of coverage — but a fair number have medical insurance, and more than half have dental, too. Most workers in this position report high levels of job satisfaction. The information for this rundown comes from respondents who completed PayScale's salary questionnaire.

$26,848 - $48,930
(Median)
$27K
$36K
$49K
MEDIAN: $35,534
10%
50%
90%

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$11.56 - $22.06
(Median)
$12
$16
$22
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
$26,848 - $48,930  
   
Bonus
$0.00 - $1,072  
Profit Sharing
$2,440  
Commission
$0.00  
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).
)
$25,746 - $48,292  
Country: United States | Currency: USD | Updated: 12 Jan 2016 | Individuals Reporting: 1,354
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$11$22$33
Hourly Rate
$11.56 - $22.06  
   
Hourly Tips
$0.00  
Overtime
$1.36 - $30.26  
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$22K$44K$66K
Bonus
$0.00 - $1,072  
   
Commission
$0.00  
Profit Sharing
$2,440  
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).
)
$25,746 - $48,292  
Country: United States | Currency: USD | Updated: 12 Jan 2016 | Individuals Reporting: 954
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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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There are some Substance Abuse Counselors — though it's uncommon — that transition into Clinical Directors, where earnings are an average $71K annually. More often, however, Substance Abuse Counselors go on to become Certified Addiction Drug and Alcohol Counselors or Mental Health Counselors.

Substance Abuse Counselor Job Listings

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Popular Employer Salaries for Substance Abuse Counselor


Known for taking on a considerable number of Substance Abuse Counselors, Colonial Management Group, LLC, Gateway Foundation, Inc., CRC Health Group Corporation, The Salvation Army, and Mental Health Systems, Inc. are leading firms in the industry. The biggest paychecks can be found at Gateway Foundation, Inc. — the median salary there is $34K; however, employees are subject to a wide range in pay, with the lowest salaries sitting near $23K and highest ones in the neighborhood of $47K. Other leaders in compensation levels are Mental Health Systems, Inc. at $33K, The Salvation Army at $33K, and Colonial Management Group, LLC, where Substance Abuse Counselors annually earn $32K.

Workers also receive paychecks lighter than average at CRC Health Group Corporation ($30K), CRC Healthcare ($32K), and Colonial Management Group, LLC ($32K).

Popular Skills for Substance Abuse Counselor


Substance Abuse Counselors seem to require a number of specific skills. Most notably, skills in Assessment, Group Therapy, Diagnosis and Treatment Planning, and Facilitator are correlated to pay that is above average. Skills that pay less than market rate include Writing Procedures & Documentation. The majority of those 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.


For Substance Abuse Counselors, more experience in the field does not usually mean bigger paychecks. Salaries of relatively inexperienced workers fall in the neighborhood of $33K, but folks who have racked up five to 10 years see a notably higher median of $37K. Substance Abuse Counselors claiming one to two decades of experience make an estimated median of $40K. Substance Abuse Counselors who have stuck around for more than two decades see earnings that are only slightly higher than those of folks who have worked for 10 to 20 years; the more senior group makes around $42K on average.

Pay Difference by Location

National Average: $34,690

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

For Substance Abuse Counselors, Philadelphia provides a pay rate that is 11 percent greater than the national average. Substance Abuse Counselors will also find cushy salaries in New York (+8 percent), Atlanta (+8 percent), Charlotte (+5 percent), and Houston (+4 percent). With compensation 20 percent below the national average, Tampa is not known for hefty paychecks and actually represents the lowest-paying market. Employers in Los Angeles and Chicago also lean toward paying below-median salaries (8 percent less).

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
$35,000


Skills That Affect Substance Abuse Counselor Salaries

Assessment
up arrow 9%

Group Therapy
up arrow 4%

Diagnosis and Treatment Planning
up arrow 1%

Counseling
0%

Facilitator
0%

National Average
$35,000

Case Management
up arrow 1%

Writing Procedures & Documentation
up arrow 12%

Job Satisfaction

Extremely satisfied
Rated 5 out of 5
based on 300 votes.

Gender

Female
68 %
Male
32 %

Years of Experience

Less than 1 year
7%
1-4 years
51%
5-9 years
19%
10-19 years
17%
20 years or more
6%

Common Health Benefits

medical benefits
Medical: 71%
dental benefits
Dental: 58%
medical benefits
Vision: 44%
dental benefits
None: 26%
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