Back in September, the ACA (American Counseling Association) released a survey they completed to determine average counselor salaries. The results found counselor salaries to be higher than I think they are. I would like to hear from everyone following this blog on their experience with salaries so please leave a comment with your opinion.

I would love to tell you exactly what the survey discovered and how it was conducted but unfortunately the ACA has not published the survey online. They are charging $49 for members and $149 for non-members to get access to the survey. All I can go by is an article written about the survey and some of the graphs published about the results. As I see it, that the survey isn’t available for everyone to see is just part of the problem.

I have been an ACA member for years. The dues are $160 a year. That’s a lot of money for counselors to pay. As I see it, our dues go to pay for such things as this survey yet they want me to pay $49 to see it. I’m not going to waste my money on the survey. I really don’t believe it is an accurate picture of counselor salaries but I’ll be honest with you that I can’t be sure without accessing the whole survey. If I could get access to it, I could see how it was conducted to see if the survey was skewed by how it was conducted.

Results of the Survey

The survey found that the average for counselor salaries range from $40,422 for mental health counselors to $66,405 for counselor educators. The picture below is what was published with the article. The article written about the survey can be found here.

Counselor Salaries from ACA survey

Counselor Salaries from ACA survey

As you can see, the survey found the average salary for a mental health counselor as $40,422. The article also stated that the survey found that, “Eighty-three percent of counselors who responded to the survey reported that they have medical insurance coverage, and 76 percent said they have an employer-sponsored retirement plan.” (Bray, 2014)

My Beliefs about the Survey

I don’t think the results of the survey are accurate. It has been my experience that salaries are lower and don’t offer benefits similar to what they found. This doesn’t mean the survey isn’t accurate. I am only stating that my experience differs from it. It could be that my geographic area has much lower salaries than the average.

The picture above of the results does give a standard deviation which lists a salary for mental health counselors at $27,447. I’m not going to pretend to really understand standard deviation. From what I remember, standard deviation was expressed as a number like 1 or -1. I think that since the standard deviation salary is so far from the average listed, it means the results may not be that accurate. It seems like any results that can vary that much can’t be all that accurate.

When I commented on what I saw as some problems with the survey, whoever runs the Facebook page for Counseling Today (the magazine published by the ACA), defended the results. Their points were that the survey used ACA members and non-members and that the salaries listed were averages with a standard deviation. I understand their points but I still have to disagree with the survey.

My main problem with this survey and ones like it are that many unscrupulous sites will use these statistics to get people to go to their counseling schools. I’ve seen lots of advertisements on Facebook that say things like, “become a counselor in 18 months and make $50,000 a year.” Really? I don’t know anyone who makes nearly that much unless they are in private practice and you can’t be in private practice with an 18 month degree. I think it’s cruel and unethical to make people think that they can make more money than they possible can and then they find out the truth when they go looking for a job.

I’m not saying there isn’t money to be made in social services jobs. I’ve done pretty well in this field. But it took a lot of hard work, many years of schooling and starting a private practice to do it. I want to hear from everyone what they think about the survey and average therapist salaries.

Please leave a comment. What geographical area do you work in? What are the average therapist salaries for your area? Do therapists get benefits in your area? What do you think about the survey?