Addiction counselor salary & career outlook

Addiction counselor salary and job outlook

by Lorna Collier | September 13, 2011

Addiction counselors treat people with a variety of dependencies--drugs, alcohol, and tobacco--as well as those with problems such as gambling or eating disorders.

Counselors may work with people one-on-one, conduct group therapy sessions, work with families, and work in a variety of settings, ranging from inpatient programs to clinics, schools, and other facilities. The ability to work independently as well as in a team is important, as is the desire to help others.

Job growth for addiction counselors

Jobs in this field were expected to grow by 21 percent between 2008 and 2018, much faster than most other occupations. There are several reasons for this growth. More people are seeking treatment as addiction issues become more widely known and less stigmatized. Also, an overburdened criminal justice system is more likely to send drug offenders to treatment rather than jail.

Addiction counselor salaries

As of May 2010, the average salary for addiction counselors was $38,120, with the top 10 percent making $60,400 and the lowest 10 percent earning $24,690, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). reports that chemical dependency counselors earned an average of $46,679.

Earnings for addiction and behavioral disorder counselors vary depending on location, education and experience. Some of the top-paying metropolitan areas, with mean yearly salary data from the BLS and ACCRA cost-of-living state ranking from the Missouri Economic Research Information Center, include:

  • Chattanooga, Tennessee: $59,260, ranks number 2 in cost-of-living affordability
  • St. Cloud, Minnesota: $57,860, ranks number 18
  • Wilmington, North Carolina: $58,620, ranks number 22

The top-paying states, by 2010 yearly mean salary, for addiction counseling jobs are:

  • New Jersey: $57,760
  • Hawaii: $56,150
  • Wisconsin: $47,130

Training and education for addiction counseling careers

To become an addiction counselor, you may need a master's degree, because most states require master's degrees for counseling licensure or certification. However, state requirements vary. In some states, counselors in this field need only a high school diploma and certification. reports that 40 percent of chemical dependency counselors hold a master's degree, while 31 percent have just a bachelor's degree, 16 percent an associate degree and 12 percent only a high school diploma.

Many universities today offer online master's degree programs in substance abuse counseling. Online graduate certificate programs also exist in this field.

Advanced certification in addictions or substance abuse counseling can enhance job prospects and the possibility of advancement within the field. The National Board for Certified Counselors offers a Master Addictions Counselor (MAC) certification, which requires graduate or continuing education in the field as well as significant experience and a passing score on a certifying exam.

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About the Author

Lorna Collier writes often about education, health, and careers for numerous websites and publications.