Salary Outlook for Addiction Counselors

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An addiction counselor helps patients to overcome drug and alcohol dependence. They also help them to get over other destructive behaviors, such as gambling and video games.

Addiction counselors usually intervene when a patient is at his lowest point in the struggle with addiction. An addiction counselor may also work with the family to help the healing process. These counselors can work in outpatient care facilities, hospitals, inpatient rehabilitation centers, and halfway houses.

Succeeding with patients as an addiction counselor requires you to develop strong bonds with the patient. This relationship is called a therapeutic alliance. The therapeutic alliance lets the patient feel trust for the counselor, which allows them to be vulnerable as they sort out problems and work with you. (

In your master’s or Ph.D. work, you will learn how to develop strong therapeutic alliances in these ways:

  • Making sure patients know you want what is in their best interest
  • Being attentive during sessions
  • Telling patients that you empathize with their problems
  • Understanding and discussing the significant issues for the recovery

An addiction counselor must be passionate about their work because it takes years to become one. You usually need a master’s degree in addiction counseling. Higher positions may require a doctoral degree. Below is detailed information about what you can earn as an addiction counselor.

Addiction Counselor Salary Information

Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the median salary for substance abuse counselors was $44,600 in May 2018. The top 10% earned more than $72,900. Addiction counselors with more education and experience will earn higher salaries. (

The top industries, in terms of pay for addiction counselors, are:

  • Government: $51,690
  • Hospitals: $48,300
  • Individual and family services: $44,100
  • Outpatient mental health and substance abuse centers: $43,100
  • Residential mental health and substance abuse facilities: $38,190

A related field to addiction counseling is rehabilitation counseling. These professionals help patients with physical, mental, and emotional disabilities to live independent lives. They work with the patient to manage any social, personal, or psychological effects of disabilities on living independently or on employment.

The median wage for rehabilitation counselors in May 2018 was $35,600, and the top 10% earned $63,800. Top industries in terms of pay were: (

  • State government, excluding education and hospitals: $51,300
  • Individual and family services: $33,300
  • Nursing and residential care facilities: $31,600
  • Community and vocational rehabilitation services: $31,200 reports the average salary for addiction counselors is $40,050, with a range between $30,000 and $54,000. (

Pay for addiction counselors varies by years of experience. A first-year addiction counselor will earn approximately $39,000, while a counselor with 20 years of experience will make $50,000.

Your income also can vary based on the city in which you live:

  • Dayton: +3%
  • Cleveland: 0%
  • Milwaukee: -1%
  • Charlotte: -1%
  • Baltimore: -1%
  • Austin: -1%
  • Jacksonville: -9% reports the average salary for addiction counselors is $41,100 per year, with a range between $26,000 and $53,500. (

Average Addiction Counselor Salary by State

StateHourly WageAnnual Salary
New York$21.95$45,648
New Hampshire$21.16$44,006
North Dakota$20.01$41,617
Rhode Island$19.98$41,551
South Dakota$19.14$39,818
New Jersey$19.10$39,732
West Virginia$19.08$39,683
South Carolina$18.89$39,287
New Mexico$17.69$36,794
North Carolina$16.10$33,478 June, 2020

Job Outlook for Addiction Counselors

The job outlook for addiction counselors is outstanding. There will be 22% job growth in the field through 2028, according to BLS. Employment growth will occur as more people want addiction and mental health treatments.

Also, the demand for addiction counselors should rise because states are trying to get more treatment and counseling for drug offenders instead of years in jail.

The criminal justice system has seen that substance abuse addictions are not as likely to re-offend if they get treatment for their addictions. Many drug sentences require the offender to get therapy and counseling for their problem. If they do not, they can be sent back to jail. Research has shown that addiction treatment programs can be more cost-effective than putting people in jail. States may use substance abuse treatment programs as a way to prevent people from re-offending. (

Rehabilitation counselors will see 10% job growth through 2028, which is faster than average. Demand for these counseling professionals will grow with the growing elderly population, and with the additional rehabilitation needs of many groups, such as war veterans and people with various disabilities. (


A career as an addiction counselor offers a solid payscale and the ability to help other people. As more state governments are requiring substance abuse treatment for drug offenders, there will be greater demand for these counselors for many years. The best way to earn the highest income as an addiction counselor is to earn a Ph.D. and work in private practice, or for the government. In these situations, you could earn $75,000 per year or more.