A substance abuse counselor works with people who suffer from an addiction to illegal narcotics or alcohol, and sometimes even other types of addictions such as gambling and eating disorders. The counselors conduct evaluations, develop treatment plans and provide clients with the skills and support necessary to overcome their addiction issues. A substance abuse counselor's salary depends in part on the industry in which she works, as well as the part of the country.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 76,600 drug and addiction counselors working nationwide as of May 2011. These counselors earned an average annual salary of $41,030, or $19.73 per hour. The best-paid 10 percent could make $60,220 or more, equal to $28.95 per hour, while the lowest-paid 10 percent made $25,280 or less, the equivalent of $12.16 per hour.
Common Work Locations:
The largest number of substance abuse counselors in the BLS survey worked in outpatient care centers. These 17,700 workers averaged $39,180 per year. The second-largest work site for counselors was residential substance abuse facilities, where 16,140 counselors averaged $36,650 in annual pay. Individual and family services was the third-largest employer, with 11,320 counselors averaging $39,540 per year in salary. Local government was fourth, with 6,520 counselors averaging $47,090 annually. General hospitals ranked fifth, with 5,060 counselors averaging $49,250 per year.
Best-Paying Work Locations:
The best salaries for drug addiction counselors were in higher education, according to the BLS. The 470 counselors at colleges and universities averaged $54,710 per year in pay. Although civic organizations and nursing homes employed only a handful of counselors, they were well-compensated, at $51,900 and $51,600 per year, respectively. Among larger employers, 3,280 elementary and secondary school substance abuse counselors averaged $50,290 per year, while general hospitals again ranked fifth.
Pennsylvania topped the charts in terms of number of substance abuse counselors, with 9,610 employed in the Keystone State at an average annual wage of $38,290. California was second, with 8,660 counselors averaging $37,400 annually. The best-paying state was Hawaii, which had only 310 counselors, but saw them earn an average of $54,490 per year. The largest region for counselors was the New York City area, where 4,470 workers averaged $48,650 yearly. The best-paying region was the Lansing/East Lansing area of Michigan, where 210 counselors earned an annual average of $62,130.