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There is a host of workplaces due to the fact that substance and alcohol abuse in America is so pervasive. According to the National Survey of Drug Use and Health in 2015, data for ages 12-17 reported that 25.30% were lifetime users in the illicit drugs category. In the same year, it was reported that 16.60% ages 26 and older were lifetime users of cocaine. There is now an epidemic in opioid abuse, primarily painkillers such as oxycodone-containing drugs.  In 2012, 16 million people reported abusing oxycodone in their lifetime, which is an increase of more than a million individuals compared with the previous year.

Addiction counselors work with individuals in various stages of the recovery process who are addicted to illicit drugs, painkillers and/or alcohol. Counselors begin by completing a thorough evaluation which may include written tests, drug screens, and talk therapy. Once the evaluation is performed, they make recommendations for the course of treatment required to assist the individual in learning to cope with his or her addiction. They also work with the individual to set goals and make plans that will aid in their recovery. Some individuals may only require an educational program while others may require intense intervention which may include detox, inpatient, or outpatient treatment.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the majority of addiction counselors work in Outpatient Care Centers. As of May 2016, there were 22,250 employed in these centers; second place goes to Mental Health and Substance Abuse Facilities who employed 18,240 in 2016. Third place with respect to total numbers are counselors working in Individual and Family Services of which there were 12,650.

Focusing on places to work that pay the best are Elementary and Secondary Schools whose median salary was $56,260 in 2016 with 3,660 employed, per the BLS. There are higher salaries in Junior Colleges ($73,050) and Scientific Research ($67,240), however they employ only 30 and 260 respectively. With respect to research, there are jobs labeled as Substance Abuse Counselor but the duties include:

  • Develops and maintains client service plans that address the needs of each individual served in collaboration with the multidisciplinary team
  • Assists in developing and designing curriculum and facilitates co-occurring disorders groups

These are only two of many duties but the purpose is to expose other avenues that this counseling specialty can take your career.

Another facet of this question is the matter of demographics. As with most jobs in healthcare, the major cities offer the highest employment figures for these counselors. As reported by the BLS, top of the list is New York-New Jersey (5,590), then Los Angeles (1,990), followed closely by Chicago (1,970)-as of 2016.  If city life is not to your liking, then there are non-metropolitan areas, however their employment figures pale in comparison to the metropolises. Northwest Minnesota employs 370, just ahead of Southeast Oklahoma with 310 addiction counselors.

Finally, where can you work and make the most money? According to the BLS, the best annual median wage is Provo-Urem, Utah (120 employed) at $82,300. That exceeds LA by a whopping $40,000! An enticing prospect may be Madison, Wisconsin, that pays an average of $68,020 and employs 340 in this field of counseling. And no doubt has a lower cost of living.

Regardless of where you chose to work, you’ll have more jobs available in more areas with at least a Bachelor’s degree in Counseling. Once settled in your counseling profession, you can always opt to continue your education. In this endeavor, there is a variety of accredited top online Master’s degree programs in Addiction/Substance Abuse Counseling to valuate.