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Career & salary outlook

Local employers have identified a significant shortage in substance use disorder professionals, as well as a significant lack in cross-training between mental health and chemical dependency.

Starting wages for substance use disorder professional trainees are in the range of $17.25 to $18.11 per hour, based on June 2019 actual job postings in the North Sound area. In Whatcom county, the median wage for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors is $27.43 per hour and local demand is projected to grow by 32.7% over the next ten years. (source: WOIS/The Career Information System)

Regarding the national outlook, WOIS ( notes:

Demand is expected to be strong for addictions counselors. New health care laws require that insurance providers cover more mental health services. This will lead to more jobs for addictions counselors.

Several states have passed laws that require counseling instead of jail for people caught with drugs. This shift requires more addictions counselors in those states. Treatment centers are also believed to be more cost effective than prisons to run.