Top 10 States for Substance Abuse Counselors

Top 10 States for Substance Abuse Counselors: Ranked by

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a much faster than average national job growth of 31 percent between 2012 and 2022 for substance abuse counselors. That raises the questions of “where is the growth happening?” and “where are the best opportunities?” In its first study of the best states to work as a substance abuse counselor, discovered the answer varies, and isn’t solely determined by job growth alone.

This study’s rankings are based on a Need and Opportunity Quality factor, proprietary metrics based on the following data points:

  • Average income, according to 2013 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
  • Projected employment growth rate, based on 2010-2020 and 2012-2022 data from the BLS and state departments of labor
  • Cost of living, according to 2014 data  from C2ER
  • Alcohol use rates, based on 2014 data from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • Illicit drug use rates, from 2011-2012 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
  • Substance-abuse related arrest statistics, according to 2013 statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)

Best states to work and live for substance abuse counselors

If you’re looking for a place to work as a substance abuse counselor where you can make a difference, enjoy a high quality of life and earn a good living, check out the following states:

1. Colorado

State of Colorado

Colorado earns the top spot due to a powerful combination of Opportunity and Need Factors. Colorado’s strengths include strong earning potential and the second highest job growth projections nationally for the position. Conversely, the state claimed the #2 overall for Need, ranking in the top 5 for drug use rates per capita and top 10 for substance abuse.

2. Nevada

State of Nevada

Nevada ranked #1 overall for Need, driven by some of the highest drug and alcohol use rates in the country. In turn, the state's Opportunity factor certainly meets that need. Nevada offers the fourth highest annual wage nationally for substance abuse counselors and a top 5 ranking for workplace conditions.

3. Montana


Montana lands in third position due to its top 10 ranking in Need factor, as both drug and substance abuse rates were in the top 10 nationally. Substance abuse counselors in the state enjoy salaries greater than the national average, a top 5 workplace quality rank, and employment growth projections are at 25 percent, pacing with national growth projections.

4. Minnesota


Minnesota joins the top 10, largely based on its attractive compensation and quality factor, including a top 5 rank for workplace conditions, and low unemployment rates (4.6 percent). In terms of need, the state is in the top 15 nationally for alcohol use rates and top third for drug abuse rates.

5. Iowa


Although the state ranks in the middle for alcohol abuse, it is in the top 15 for drug abuse rates. The state joins the top 5 powered by its strong projected job growth, a top 10 ranking overall for compensation and Opportunity Quality, as well as a lower-than-average cost-of-living index.

6. Idaho


Idaho makes an appearance in the top 10 driven by a respectable position for both compensation and Opportunity Quality (#16), and the third lowest overall cost-of-living rate in the country. Additionally, need for substance abuse counselors is evidenced by alcohol use rates higher than the national average and substance abuse arrest rate factor in the top-third nationally.

7. Wisconsin


As one of three Midwestern states on the list, Wisconsin ranks #7 overall for Need, including a top 5 rank for alcohol use rates. Although the state ranks in the bottom third for job growth, its overall compensation and quality factor is increased by solid annual earnings that 12 percent higher than the national average.

8. New Hampshire

New Hampshire

The state is first in the nation for alcohol use per capita, leading to New Hampshire’s #2 overall ranking for Need. The state projects solid job growth, and it low unemployment rates (4.4 percent) positions it in the top 10 places for work as a substance abuse counselor.

9. Wyoming


In terms of need, Wyoming holds the top place in the country for our substance abuse arrest factor, and the state mandates drug and alcohol assessment and counseling as conditions of probation. With annual earnings higher than the national average and solid job growth, it appears the state is trying to stay on top of substance abuse problems.

10. Virginia


Virginia rounds out the top ten due to a balanced Need and Opportunity Quality factors. The state ranks #7 overall for opportunity, powered by job growth projections of 25 percent and a higher-than average compensation level for substance abuse counselors. 

Substance abuse counselors have the opportunity to not only make a difference in the lives of others, but in their communities as well. This list demonstrates those opportunities can be found throughout the country.