Research Summary. Here are some key points about hiring program counselors in the United States:

  • There are a total of 155,634 program counselors in the US, and there are currently 133,491 job openings in this field.
  • The median cost to hire a program counselor is $1,633.
  • Small businesses spend $1,105 per program counselor on training each year, while large companies spend $658.
  • It takes between 36 and 42 days to fill the average role in the US.
  • It takes approximately 12 weeks for a new employee to reach full productivity levels.
  • HR departments typically allocate 15% of their budget towards recruitment efforts.
  • Burnsville, MN, has the highest demand for program counselors, with 21 job openings.

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How Much Does it Cost to Hire a Program Counselor

There are different types of costs for hiring program counselors. One-time cost per hire for the recruitment process. Ongoing costs include employee salary, training, onboarding, benefits, insurance, and equipment. It is essential to consider all of these costs when evaluating hiring a new program counselor employee.

You can expect to pay around $43,820 per year for a program counselor, as this is the median yearly salary nationally. This can vary depending on what state or city you're hiring in. If you're hiring for contract work or on a per-project basis, hourly rates for program counselors in the US typically range between $15 and $27 an hour.

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How to hire a Program Counselor, step by step

To hire a program counselor, consider the skills and experience you are looking for in a candidate, allocate a budget for the position, and post and promote the job opening to reach potential candidates. Follow these steps to hire a program counselor:

  • Step 1: Identify your needs
  • Step 2: Create an ideal candidate profile
  • Step 3: Make a budget
  • Step 4: Writing a program counselor job description
  • Step 5: Post the job
  • Step 6: Interview process
  • Step 7: Send a job offer and onboard your new program counselor
  • Step 8: Go through the checklist for the hiring process

Identify Your Needs

The first step in the program counselor hiring process is determining what type of worker you actually need. For example, certain roles might require a full-time employee, whereas others can be done by part-time workers or contractors.

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Before you hire a program counselor, you should also consider the ideal background you'd like them to have. For example, what industry or field they have experience in, what level of seniority or education the job requires, and how much it'll cost to hire a candidate that fits the bill.

Here's a comparison of the average salaries of common program counselor roles:

Type Of Program CounselorDescriptionHourly Rate
Program CounselorMental health counselors and marriage and family therapists help people manage and overcome mental and emotional disorders and problems with family and other relationships. They listen to clients and ask questions to help the clients understand their problems and develop strategies to improve their lives.$15-27
Counselor InternshipWhen it comes to Counselor Internship, among the primary responsibilities is to assist in dealing with various activities such as preparing and verifying necessary documentation, observing consultations and outreach programs, guide clients and help develop multiple helpful strategies, and provide assessments. Furthermore, one can conduct counseling and consultation only under supervision... Show More$14-31
Student Support CounselorA student support counselor is responsible for identifying the students' strengths and challenges through one-on-one counseling and establishing solutions to help them overcome difficulties and achieve their educational goals and aspirations. Student support counselors assist the faculty in determining appropriate programs and activities to develop the students' capabilities, especially as a way of preparing them with their career objectives... Show More$13-27

Create An Ideal Candidate Profile

Before you draft a program counselor job description, imagine the ideal employee for the role and begin creating a profile. What are they proficient in and what sort of background do they have?

Program counselors typically have the following skills:

Common Skills:
  • Developmental Disabilities
  • Patients
  • Community Integration
  • CPR
  • Social Work
  • Medication Administration
  • Crisis Intervention
  • Substance Abuse
  • Behavioral Interventions
  • Behavioral Issues
  • Compassion
  • Direct Care
  • Physical Disabilities
  • Relapse Prevention
Check All Skills

Here is a list of common responsibilities that program counselors may be expected to fulfill:

  • Lead recreational activities for adolescents with ADHD and other behavior disorders.
  • Provide education, within hospital setting, to adolescent psychiatric patients regarding substance abuse and dependency issues.
  • Receive CPR and first aid certifications.
  • Attend and receive CPR and basic restraint technique certifications.
  • Assist each client with compassion to encourage them on their journey to recovery.
  • Encourage and mentore residents during their recovery and rehabilitation process.
Check all Duties

Cultural fit is also an essential factor that you shouldn't overlook. Consider how your perfect program counselor will contribute to the team dynamic and help grow the team's culture in a positive way. If you can include a clear vision of this in your program counselor job description, it'll help attract candidates who are better suited for the position.

Most Common States For Program Counselors In The US

Rank #State# Of Jobs% of PopulationAvg. Salary

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Make A Budget

Including a salary range in the job description is a good way to get more applicants. A program counselor salary can be affected by several factors, such as the location of the job, their level of experience, education and certifications, and the prestige of the employer. For example, the average salary for a program counselor in Alaska may be lower than in New York, and an entry-level engineer typically earns less than a senior-level program counselor. Additionally, a program counselor with lots of experience in the field may command a higher salary as a result.

Updated March 16, 2023

Average Program Counselor Salary


$21.07 hourly

Entry level Salary
$33,000 yearly

Program Counselor Average Salary By Location

RankStateAvg. SalaryHourly RateJob Count
1New York$53,266$261
4District of Columbia$50,940$24

Program Counselor Average Salary By Company

Writing a Program Counselor Job Description

A program counselor job description should include a summary of the role, required skills, and a list of responsibilities. It's also good to include a salary range and the first name of the hiring manager. To help get you started, here's an example of a program counselor job description:

Example of Full Job Description

Want to make a difference? Join an organization that has been transforming lives for over 40 years!

Prison Fellowship® trains and inspires churches and communities—inside and outside of prison—to support the restoration of those affected by incarceration. We equip correctional leaders, volunteers, and incarcerated men and women to make prisons more rehabilitative places; we advocate for a more restorative criminal justice system; and we collaborate with churches and local service providers to support former prisoners, their families, and their communities.

What we are looking for:

A driven and mission focused men’s prison Program Counselor to provide instruction of the Prison Fellowship Academy curriculum at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Lino Lakes, MN. The successful candidate will have a solid understanding of basic principles of the Christian faith and meet the following job requirements:

  • Proven ability to deliver a classroom curriculum to participating offenders using adult learning techniques
  • Demonstrated ability to provide case planning and management for program participants within the prison
  • College degree in Behavioral Science or 6+ years of experience working with at-risk individuals, people who are incarcerated, or other relevant population
  • Cross cultural sensitivity and experience
  • Training and experience with substance abuse/recovery process
  • Excellent written and oral communication/presentation skills

What we offer:

A team oriented, mission driven, supportive environment with cutting edge technology solutions and tremendous opportunity for growth and development. Our outstanding benefits package includes paid leave starting at 39 days (14 holidays, 15 vacation days, 10 sick days), retirement account funding and much more!

Visit the employment page on our website to learn more about Prison Fellowship.

Check out our YouTube channel to see how Prison Fellowship is transforming lives!

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Post A Job

There are a few common ways to find program counselors for your business:

  • Promoting internally or recruiting from your existing workforce.
  • Ask for referrals from friends, family members, and current employees.
  • Attend job fairs at local colleges to meet candidates with the right educational background.
  • Use social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to recruit passive job-seekers.

Post your job online:

  • Post your program counselor job on Zippia to find and recruit program counselor candidates who meet your exact specifications.
  • Use field-specific websites.
  • Post a job on free websites.

Interview Process

Your first interview with program counselor candidates should focus on their interest in the role and their specific background experience. As the hiring process goes on, you can learn more about how they'd fit into the company culture in later rounds of interviews.

You should also ask about candidates' special skills and talents to see if they match with the ideal candidate profile you came up with earlier. Candidates who are good enough for the next step can then move on to the technical interview.

The right interview questions can help you assess a candidate's hard skills, behavioral intelligence, and soft skills. Explore the top questions to ask program counselors here.

Send A Job Offer And Onboard Your New Program Counselor

Once you've selected the best program counselor candidate for the job, it's time to write an offer letter. In addition to salary, this letter should include details about the benefits and perks that you're offering the candidate. It's essential to ensure that your offer is competitive, as qualified candidates may be considering other job opportunities. The candidate may wish to negotiate the terms of the offer, and it's important to be open to discussion. After you reach an agreement, the final step is formalizing the agreement with a contract.

It's also important to follow up with applicants who do not get the job with an email letting them know that the position is filled.

Once that's done, you can draft an onboarding schedule for the new program counselor. Human Resources should complete Employee Action Forms and ensure that onboarding paperwork is completed, including I-9s, benefits enrollment, federal and state tax forms, etc. They should also ensure that new employee files are created for internal recordkeeping.

Go Through The Checklist For The Hiring Process

  • Determine employee type (full-time, part-time, contractor, etc.)
  • Submit a job requisition form to the HR department
  • Define job responsibilities and requirements
  • Establish budget and timeline
  • Determine hiring decision makers for the role
  • Write job description
  • Post job on job boards, company website, etc.
  • Promote the job internally
  • Process applications through applicant tracking system
  • Review resumes and cover letters
  • Shortlist candidates for screening
  • Hold phone/virtual interview screening with first round of candidates
  • Conduct in-person interviews with top candidates from first round
  • Score candidates based on weighted criteria (e.g., experience, education, background, cultural fit, skill set, etc.)
  • Conduct background checks on top candidates
  • Check references of top candidates
  • Consult with HR and hiring decision makers on job offer specifics
  • Extend offer to top candidate(s)
  • Receive formal job offer acceptance and signed employment contract
  • Inform other candidates that the position has been filled
  • Set and communicate onboarding schedule to new hire(s)
  • Complete new hire paperwork (i9, benefits enrollment, tax forms, etc.)
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Hiring Program Counselors FAQs

How Much Does A Good Program Counselor Cost?

A good program counselor costs $21.07 an hour in the US. However, it can vary based on factors such as the program counselor experience, abilities, industry, and the specific requirements of your business.

What Are The Duties Of A Program Counselor?

The duties of a program counselor are:
  • Lead recreational activities for adolescents with ADHD and other behavior disorders.
  • Provide education, within hospital setting, to adolescent psychiatric patients regarding substance abuse and dependency issues.
  • Receive CPR and first aid certifications.

Should I Hire A Program Counselor With No Experience?

Yes, you should hire a program counselor with no experience. Hiring an entry-level program counselor with no experience offers versatility for your team. They may lack some qualifications, but are adaptable and have not yet formed problematic habits. However, more training may be required compared to experienced.

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