Pennsylvania Substance Abuse and Behavioral Counselors: Schools and Careers

Career Information for Substance Abuse And Behavioral Counselors in Pennsylvania

Substance abuse counselors help individuals suffering from addiction and other disorders. Through counseling, assessment, and evaluations, they help them break free from conditions such as alcoholism or addiction to damaging behaviors, food or drugs. Common tasks performed by these professionals include:

  • Assessing and evaluating clients and their mental health
  • Helping clients formulate and meet goals
  • Listening to clients as they explain their symptoms and condition
  • Helping clients learn behaviors that can help them escape addiction
  • Helping foster healthy coping mechanisms
  • Referring clients to other resources and professionals, as necessary

Pennsylvania substance abuse counselors who work in private practice need to become certified. The Pennsylvania Certification Board offers several options in this field, including Associate Addiction Counselor, Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor, Certified Associate Addiction Counselor, and Certified Criminal Justice Addictions Professional. While some beginning certifications in this field require only a high school diploma and on-the-job training and experience, higher level positions require a Master's degree and 2,000 hours or more of on-the-job experience.

Fast Facts for Substance Abuse Counselors in Pennsylvania

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 7,800 substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors were employed in Pennsylvania in 2014. Together, they earned an annual mean wage of $41,320. The following regions employed the bulk of these workers that year:

  • Philadelphia: 2,800
  • Pittsburgh: 1,330
  • Harrisburg - Carlisle: 430
  • Allentown - Bethlehem - Easton, PA-NJ: 410
  • Scranton - Wilkes - Barre: 400
  • Erie: 310
  • Reading: 290
  • Youngstown - Warren - Boardman: 250
  • Lancaster: 200
  • York - Hanover: 140

Although employment is already high in this profession in the state, it appears more jobs may be on the way. According to U.S. Department of Labor figures from Projections Central, job openings for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors could increase by as much as 20.7 percent in Pennsylvania through 2022.

Substance Abuse Counselor Salaries in Pennsylvania

As the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes, substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors in Pennsylvania earned an annual mean wage of $41,320 in 2014. That figure lines up nicely with the national average wage for this profession which was $41,870 in 2014.

Certain industries paid higher than average wages for these workers in 2014 on a national level, however. Here are the highest paying industries for this profession that year:

  • Junior Colleges: $63,860
  • Educational Support Services: $56,150
  • Elementary and Secondary Schools: $53,920
  • Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools: $53,110
  • Insurance Carriers: $52,090

Metro Areas Rated for Salary and Popularity


Employment per 1,000 Residents

Annual Mean Wage in 2014







Harrisburg - Carlisle



Allentown - Bethlehem - Easton, PA-NJ



Scranton - Wilkes - Barre:






Youngstown - Warren - Boardman






York - Hanover






Expert Q&A

To learn more about Pennsylvania substance abuse counseling programs and the industry in general, we reached out to Travis W. Schermer, PhD, LPC, ACS, Assistant Professor and Program Director of Psychology and Counseling at Carlow University.

What are some of the unique issues that substance abuse and behavioral counselors face in the state of Pennsylvania?

There has been an increase in heroin use in our region that has impacted many communities. Anecdotally, we are seeing more students coming into the program because their lives have been touched by heroin. We also see a disparity in access to treatment for poor and working class communities. Our institution has a long history of engagement with our local community, working to enhance the lives of underserved populations. Therefore, we challenge students to consider how they can make a difference, both in the lives of clients and their communities.

What is the greatest benefit of practicing this field within the state of Pennsylvania?

I think the greatest benefit is in the impact that counselors have on both clients and the local community. It is a great honor to be invited into the lives of others and to empower them to create change. Counseling is also a growing field nationally, with new opportunities emerging in our region. With the benefit of the Affordable Care Act, we are seeing more and more people who have insurance. This means that more people are able to seek out mental health treatment, which is a great boon to employment in the field.

How will the job of a substance abuse counselor change in the next 10 to 20 years?

I think we will see an increase in the treatment of behavioral disorders (e.g., gambling, internet), which is expanding the scope of what we have traditionally seen in the field. This change is already happening today, which is exciting to see, along with new models of treatment. Substance abuse counseling is not a static field, but continues to grow and evolve. The old model of the confrontational counselor has gone by the wayside, replaced today by a more flexible and receptive style. I conjecture that we will continue to see innovations that will enhance our work with clients, as well as enliven our careers.

How does your school prepare substance abuse counselors for the challenges they will face?

We have a strong emphasis on clinical conceptualization in all of our substance abuse counseling courses. This entails applying a theoretical lens to understand the client's difficulties, both in origin and prognosis. In other words, we ask students to see the problem in the context of the client's life; thereby, understanding that problems don't exist in isolation. This enhances the treatment that counselors can offer because it is not solely focused on the manifestation of the problem, but the core issues that they are experiencing.


  1. Certifications, Pennsylvania Certification Board, https://www.pacertboard.org/certifications
  2. Interview with Travis W. Schermer, PhD, LPC, ACS, Assistant Professor and Program Director of Psychology and Counseling at Carlow University,
  3. Long Term Occupational Projections, Projections Central, http://projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
  4. May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Pennsylvania, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_pa.htm
  5. Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2014, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211011.htm
  6. Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/substance-abuse-and-behavioral-disorder-counselors.htm

Schools for Substance Abuse Counselors in Pennsylvania are listed below.

Selected Schools in Pennsylvania

quickinfoThese schools offer particularly quick info upon request, and we have written detailed profiles for each (click school names to see the profiles).

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This list also contains online schools that accept students from Pennsylvania.

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More Pennsylvania Schools

School Name Campus Highest Award Enrolled
Albright College Reading Masters 2,233
Allegheny College Meadville Bachelor 2,193
Arcadia University Glenside Doctorate 3,592
Baptist Bible College and Seminary Clarks Summit Doctorate 1,016
Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania Bloomsburg Doctorate 8,745
Bryn Mawr College Bryn Mawr Doctorate 1,790
Bucknell University Lewisburg Masters 3,677
Bucks County Community College Newtown Associate 9,649
Butler County Community College Butler Associate 3,656
Cabrini College Radnor Masters 3,108
California University of Pennsylvania California Masters 8,206
Carlow University Pittsburgh Doctorate 2,178
Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh Doctorate 10,326
Cedar Crest College Allentown Masters 1,888
Chestnut Hill College Philadelphia Doctorate 2,062
Cheyney University of Pennsylvania Cheyney Masters 1,438
Clarion University of Pennsylvania Clarion Masters 6,795
Community College of Allegheny County Pittsburgh Associate 18,525
Community College of Beaver County Monaca Associate 3,194
Community College of Philadelphia Philadelphia Associate 17,334
DeSales University Center Valley Masters 2,898
Delaware County Community College Media Associate 10,816
Dickinson College Carlisle Bachelor 2,381
Drexel University Philadelphia Doctorate 20,682
Duquesne University Pittsburgh Doctorate & First Professional 10,296
East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania East Stroudsburg Masters 7,053
Eastern University Saint Davids Doctorate & First Professional 4,291
Edinboro University of Pennsylvania Edinboro Masters 7,686
Elizabethtown College Elizabethtown Masters 2,360
Franklin and Marshall College Lancaster Bachelor 2,104
Gannon University Erie Doctorate 4,134
Geneva College Beaver Falls Masters 1,891
Gettysburg College Gettysburg Bachelor 2,503
Grove City College Grove City Bachelor 2,504
Harcum College Bryn Mawr Associate 947
Harrisburg Area Community College-Harrisburg Harrisburg Associate 9,774
Haverford College Haverford Bachelor 1,169
Holy Family University Philadelphia Masters 3,487
Immaculata University Immaculata Doctorate 4,057
Indiana University of Pennsylvania-Main Campus Indiana Doctorate 14,018
Juniata College Huntingdon Bachelor 1,506
Kutztown University of Pennsylvania Kutztown Masters 10,295
La Roche College Pittsburgh Masters 1,499
La Salle University Philadelphia Doctorate 5,994
Lafayette College Easton Bachelor 2,403
Lebanon Valley College Annville Doctorate 1,936
Lehigh Carbon Community College Schnecksville Associate 7,184
Lehigh University Bethlehem Doctorate 6,845
Lincoln University of Pennsylvania Lincoln University Masters 2,449
Lock Haven University Lock Haven Masters 5,241
Lycoming College Williamsport Bachelor 1,429
Manor College Jenkintown Associate 982
Mansfield University of Pennsylvania Mansfield Masters 3,338
Marywood University Scranton Doctorate 3,316
Mercyhurst College Erie Masters 4,253
Messiah College Grantham Bachelor 2,837
Millersville University of Pennsylvania Millersville Masters 8,306
Misericordia University Dallas Doctorate 2,355
Montgomery County Community College-Central Campus Blue Bell Associate 9,184
Moravian College and Moravian Theological Seminary Bethlehem Masters & First Professional 1,989
Mount Aloysius College Cresson Masters 1,595
Muhlenberg College Allentown Bachelor 2,457
Neumann College Aston Doctorate 3,084
Northampton County Area Community College Bethlehem Associate 7,912
Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus University Park Doctorate 43,252
Pennsylvania State University-Penn State Altoona Altoona Bachelor 4,034
Pennsylvania State University-Penn State Beaver Monaca Bachelor 793
Pennsylvania State University-Penn State Berks Reading Bachelor 2,824
Pennsylvania State University-Penn State Erie-Behrend College Erie Masters 4,171
Pennsylvania State University-Penn State Greater Allegheny McKeesport Bachelor 783
Pennsylvania State University-Penn State Harrisburg Middletown Doctorate 3,907
Pennsylvania State University-Penn State Lehigh Valley Fogelsville Bachelor 801
Pennsylvania State University-Penn State New Kensington Upper Burrell Bachelor 912
Pennsylvania State University-Penn State Schuylkill Schuylkill Haven Bachelor 940
Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine Philadelphia Doctorate & First Professional 2,073
Philadelphia University Philadelphia Doctorate 3,349
Point Park University Pittsburgh Masters 3,591
Reading Area Community College Reading Associate 4,682
Robert Morris University Moon Township Doctorate 5,055
Rosemont College Rosemont Masters 940
Saint Francis University Loretto Doctorate 2,125
Saint Joseph's University Philadelphia Doctorate 7,542
Saint Vincent College Latrobe Masters 1,924
Seton Hill University Greensburg Masters 1,991
Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania Shippensburg Masters 7,765
Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania Slippery Rock Doctorate 8,325
Susquehanna University Selinsgrove Bachelor 2,039
Swarthmore College Swarthmore Bachelor 1,491
Temple University Philadelphia Doctorate & First Professional 34,696
Thiel College Greenville Bachelor 1,219
University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia Doctorate & First Professional 23,980
University of Pittsburgh-Bradford Bradford Bachelor 1,407
University of Pittsburgh-Greensburg Greensburg Bachelor 1,777
University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown Johnstown Bachelor 3,121
University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus Pittsburgh Doctorate 27,020
University of Scranton Scranton Doctorate 5,612
University of the Sciences in Philadelphia Philadelphia Doctorate 2,969
Ursinus College Collegeville Bachelor 1,583
Valley Forge Christian College Phoenixville Masters 929
Villanova University Villanova Doctorate & First Professional 10,470
Washington & Jefferson College Washington Bachelor 1,531
Waynesburg University Waynesburg Doctorate 2,462
West Chester University of Pennsylvania West Chester Masters 13,219
Westminster College New Wilmington New Wilmington Masters 1,455
Widener University-Main Campus Chester Doctorate 4,866
Wilkes University Wilkes-Barre Doctorate 5,114
Wilson College Chambersburg Masters 724
York College Pennsylvania York Masters 5,720

Job Popularity in Metro Areas for Substance Abuse Counselors

The map below shows job statistics for the career type by metro area, for Pennsylvania. A table below the map shows job popularity and salaries across the state.

Metro Areas Rated for Popularity for:
Substance Abuse Counselors

Listed below are metro areas ranked by the popularity of jobs for Substance Abuse Counselors relative to the population of the city, as of 2008. Salary data was obtained from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A Relative Popularity of 1.0 means that the city has an average number of the particular job, for its population, compared to the rest of the US. Higher numbers mean proportionally more jobs of that type.

Metro Area Jobs Salary


Altoona 0 $36890 0
Harrisburg 320 $37240 1.64
Carlisle 320 $37240 1.64
Johnstown 70 $40980 2.17
Erie 240 $32640 3.02
Pittsburgh 1660 $34680 2.32
Reading 280 $47000 2.64
Lancaster 100 $46440 0.71
Scranton 320 $43820 2
Wilkes 320 $43820 2
Barre 320 $43820 2
Hazleton 320 $43820 2
State College 50 $43890 1.22
Williamsport 50 $35160 1.54
York 130 $41640 1.14
Hanover 130 $41640 1.14
Employment For:

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