So, you’re considering a career as a peer support specialist. You get to help others, while also continually growing and working on yourself. It all sounds great but there is one question left.
How much do peer support workers get paid?
Don’t worry, you’ve come to the right place! We’re going to dive into the nitty-gritty details of peer specialist salaries and give you all the inside scoop. We have gathered data from all over and every state to bring you a complete picture.
This includes salaries as well as hourly rates.
Throughout this article, we’ll break down all the different factors that influence peer specialist salaries. We’ll explore the salary ranges across different industries and locations, and discuss advancement opportunities, and even share some insider tips for negotiating a competitive salary.
Table of Contents
Common Titles In Peer Support
We have to mention something before we get started. Depending on where you live, the title for a peer support professional may be different.
- Peer specialist
- Peer support worker
- Recovery coach
- Peer recovery specialist
In most cases, these titles are fairly interchangeable.
The data we have collected in our research applies to the broader spectrum of peer support as a whole. Not to mention, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, they all fall under the same category of community mental health worker.
So, with that in mind, we will be using the title peer specialist in this article just to make things simple.
Now that everything is clear, let’s dive in.
What is a Peer Specialist?
Before we talk money, let’s take a moment to understand what a peer specialist actually is. If you are already familiar with the role, feel free to skip to the next section.
In a nutshell, a peer specialist is someone who provides support and assistance to individuals facing mental health or substance abuse challenges, drawing from their own personal experiences.
Moreover, they have completed specialized training in order to provide that support.
Unlike other professionals in the field, peer specialists bring a unique perspective to their work. They have walked a similar path and overcome similar challenges to those they serve. This is what is called lived experience.
It gives them an invaluable understanding of the struggles, triumphs, and complexities that individuals with mental health or substance abuse issues face.
Where Do They Work?
Typically, peer specialists work in settings such as hospitals, clinics, community centers, and support groups. They work closely with individuals, providing empathy, guidance, and a little practical assistance along the way.
All that said, peer support professionals are starting to find their place in non traditional settings such as colleges, high schools, recovery fitness centers, and even research departments. As the field continues to grow, there is no telling the options that will be available in the future.
Do Peer Specialists need a degree?
As mentioned before, peer specialists usually have to complete specialized training programs that equip them with the necessary skills and knowledge. Depending on where you live, formal education requirements may vary.
However, a high school diploma or equivalent is generally the minimum educational qualification.
While formal education is not often a requirement, it does play a part in how much a peer specialist makes, which we will get into in a minute.
Overall, peer support is an amazing career. It is super rewarding and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Ok, yes, I may be a little biased but I defend my self in another post, Is Peer Support A Good Career Choice?
I stick by my argument.
Peer Specialist Salary
Ok, now that we know what a peer specialist does, it’s time to talk dollars. We will start of by looking at the salary range for peer support specialists in different settings. Afterwards, we will shift perspectives and check out hourly rates.
Examining the Salary Range for Peer Specialists
When it comes to peer specialist salaries, there’s a wide range of earnings based on the various factors we’ve discussed. Let’s take a closer look at the salary landscape across different stages of a peer specialist’s career.
As with many professions, entry-level peer specialists often start at the lower end of the salary spectrum. These salaries typically range from around $25,000 to $35,000 per year. However, keep in mind that these figures can vary based on location, industry, and qualifications.
As peer specialists gain more experience and expertise, their salaries tend to increase. Mid-career peer specialists can expect to earn anywhere from $35,000 to $45,000 per year. Factors such as certifications, additional education, and specialized skills may contribute to higher salaries within this range.
Peer specialists who have established themselves as leaders in the field and have extensive experience can earn even higher salaries. Senior-level peer specialists may earn between $50,000 and $62,000 per year. These professionals often take on supervisory roles, mentor junior staff, and contribute to program development.
Just the other day I saw a listing in my area for a peer support specialist paying $59,000 per year. Not to mention, this job was with the state, so you know it came with benefits as well.
Remember, these salary ranges are approximate and can vary based on factors such as location, industry demand, and the organization’s funding.
Comparing Salaries Across Different Industries
The salary potential for peer specialists can also depend on the industry and work setting in which they are employed. Let’s break down things by sector:
Peer specialists working in mental health services, including hospitals, clinics, and counseling centers, can generally expect higher salaries. The average salary in this sector falls within the range of $30,000 to $50,000 per year, with differences based on experience and geographical location.
The field of substance abuse treatment also offers opportunities for peer specialists to make a difference. Salaries in this sector typically align with those in mental health services, ranging from $30,000 to $50,000 per year.
Peer specialists working in community organizations, such as non-profit agencies or grassroots initiatives, may experience variations in salaries based on funding and resources. Salaries in this sector generally range from $25,000 to $40,000 per year.
Hourly Wages For Peer Support Specialists
Ok, let’s take this one step further and organize the pay rates by state and see how things stack up. The following are the averages I found according to my own research.
While I definitely did my homework, they may vary due to a lack of up to date information at the time I was writing this article.
Hourly Wages By State
New Hampshire: $17.30
New Jersey: $17.67
New Mexico: $15.36
New York: $18.93
North Carolina: $14.60
North Dakota: $15.08
Rhode Island: $18.93
South Carolina: $12.72
South Dakota: $14.46
West Virginia: $12.41
These figures are based on the available date and may not reflect the exact wage for peer support specialists in each state.
Potential For Growth In The Peer Support Field
I hope this gives you a better idea of the earning potential for peer support specialists. It’s worth noting that peer support as a career field is expected to continue to grow through the year 2030. Some estimates put this number as high as 15%.
Plus, I’ll let you in on a little secret.
I have been speaking with other peer support specialists around the country and things are looking up! There are plenty of people are reporting wages higher than what is listed above.
All The Way To The Top
Not to mention, I recently spoke with a group here in New Mexico that is having conversations with congress.
Part of those conversations have to do with higher wages for mental health and peer support professionals.
So, depending on how the current economy plays out, these wages could continue to climb here in the near future. For now, let’s continue on and look at a few other factors to consider when it comes to money in the peer support field.
Determining Peer Specialist Salaries
Ok, stick with me because this next section is all about the different factors that play into how much peer support workers get paid. After that, we will check out some advancement opportunities and give you some tips for negotiating a better salary.
Lets start with what determines a peer specialist salary.
Education and Certifications
While a high school diploma or equivalent is typically the minimum requirement to become a peer specialist, additional education and certifications are always a plus. Advanced degrees, such as an associate or bachelor’s degree in a related field, can open doors to higher-paying positions within the field.
Years of Experience
As with many professions, experience plays a crucial role in determining salary. Peer specialists who have been in the field for a longer duration often pull in higher salaries simply due to their expertise and track record.
Industry and Work Setting
The industry and work setting is going to play a big role in how much can be earned.
The good news is, there are opportunities in mental health services, substance abuse treatment facilities, rehabilitation centers, and community organizations.
That’s just to name a few.
The bad news, how much they get paid can vary quite a bit. Depending on the demand, funding, and resources available in each area, it could be as little as minimum wage. On the other hand, there are some more prominent positions that can climb as high as $30+ per hour.
It’s no secret that the cost of living and economic factors can affect salaries across different locations. Peer specialists tend to make more in areas with a higher cost of living, such as major cities and metropolitan areas.
This is simply because the demand for mental health and substance abuse services is often greater.
While these factors provide a general framework, it’s important to note that peer specialist salaries can vary significantly.
It’s always advisable to ask around and research specific salary ranges in your location and industry. This way you get a clear idea of what to expect
Advancement Opportunities for Peer Specialists
Peer specialists, like any other professionals, have various opportunities for career growth and advancement. Let’s explore the potential paths for advancement within the field and the steps one can take to lock in those higher-paying positions.
Career Growth Prospects for Peer Specialists:
As peer specialists gain experience and develop their skills, they can explore avenues for advancement. Opportunities may include taking on leadership roles, pursuing specialized areas of expertise, or transitioning into supervisory or managerial positions.
Additional Training and Certifications
Continuing education and acquiring additional certifications are usually required as part of the gig. However, there is a plus side to it.
Advanced certifications, such as the Certified Prevention Specialist (CPS) credential, can lead to higher-paying positions and specialized roles within organizations.
You can also obtain specialized certifications in certain programs such as
- SMART Recovery
- Motivational Interviewing
- Mental Health First Aid
- MBRP (Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention)
Honestly, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to additional certifications. Also, check with your local certification board to see if there are any local opportunities in your area.
Transitioning to Supervisory or Managerial Roles
Peer specialists can easily transition into leadership positions with enough experience and training. In fact, I personally know a peer support professional who is currently the director of a treatment center here in New Mexico.
Leadership Roles and Beyond
Leadership positions obviously come with a lot more responsibilities. However, along with those responsibilities comes higher salaries.
Building a strong track record of success, seeking professional development opportunities, and demonstrating leadership skills can pave the way for a bright career in this field.
It’s also worth noting that career advancement for peer specialists may also involve expanding their scope of practice beyond direct client support.
This can include involvement in program development, policy advocacy, training, and consultation.
Remember the group I mentioned earlier who was in conversations with congress? You guessed it, they are all peer specialists themselves who are now working to influence public policy in a big way.
Building a Network
Networking and building connections within the field can make it easier to find advancement opportunities. Getting involved in professional organizations, attending conferences, and seeking mentorship can provide guidance and open doors to incredible new possibilities.
Remember, each individual’s career trajectory is going to be unique. Advancement opportunities can depend on a lot of different factors.
It’s important to stay informed about the latest trends, developments, and opportunities within the field to make informed decisions and stay ahead of the curve. Doing so will help you negotiate for the salary you deserve.
Speaking of which, lets move on to the section where we leave with tips for doing just that.
Tips For Negotiating Your Peer Support Salary
Before we leave you, we want to give you some tips to help you negotiate for more money right where you are. Understanding the art of negotiation can help you secure a salary that reflects your experience, skills, and contributions.
Here at MHAPSS, we are all about empowering peer support professionals. So with that in mind, here are a few tips to help you get the salary you deserve.
Research Industry Standards and Local Salary Data:
Before you go rushing in to ask for more money, make sure you do your own research. Look up the latest industry standards and if you can, try to explore local salary ranges for peer specialists in your area.
Armed with this information, you can feel more confident advocating for a fair and competitive salary.
Highlight Relevant Experience and Accomplishments
Once you have this information and you are discussing your current pay, emphasize your expertise, accomplishments, and contributions. This will be what sets you apart and establishes leverage.
Moreover, share specific examples of how your expertise and contributions have impacted the organization and the individuals you serve. Establishing a track record of success and highlighting the value you bring to the organization can strengthen your position when discussing salary.
Emphasize the Value of Lived Experience
As a peer specialist, your lived experience and unique perspective are invaluable assets. Articulate how your personal journey enhances your ability to connect with and support individuals facing similar challenges.
Highlight the empathy, understanding, and insight that you bring to the role, and how it contributes to the overall effectiveness of your work.
Be Clear About Your Skills and Qualifications
Be clear when talking about your skills, qualifications, and professional development that have improved your abilities as a peer specialist. In other words, give specific examples.
This includes any specialized training, certifications, or workshops you have completed.
I am not saying that you should brag, which can easily come off as being arrogant. Rather, that you should be confident and straight forward, while still being respectful.
Remember, negotiation is a two-way process. Active listening and respectful dialogue are required for maintaining a positive and productive negotiation.
Be open to discussion and find a mutually beneficial solution that meets both your salary expectations and the organization’s budget.
Consider the Full Compensation Package:
Your salary as a peer support specialist is just one aspect of the compensation package. Depending on where you work you may have access to additional benefits and perks.
These might include:
- Healthcare coverage
- Supplemental insurance
- Retirement plans
- Compensation for professional development opportunities
While these kind of benefits won’t be available in every organization, take advantage of them if they are offered. In other words, during your negotiations, make sure you are taking into account the full value of what you are being offered.
In all reality, you might discover that your current salary, with the added benefits, is better than you originally thought.
Peer Support Workers Get Paid In More Ways Than One
Choosing a career in peer support is going to be rewarding, regardless of what you are getting paid. Moreover, your value as a peer support specialist extends beyond monetary value. Making a difference in the lives of others is its own form of payment.
That being said, being able to pay your bills is always a good thing.
With the opportunities for advancement and the expected growth of the field, making a decent salary is more than a possibility.
We Wish You The Best In Your Career
We hope you found this article helpful and wish you the best in your career. Making sure you stay up to date on the latest trends and techniques is going to boost your chance for advancement in your role.
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More than anything, we appreciate you engaging with our community and would love to hear from you. Feel free to reach out and start a conversation any time you’d like.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the average salary for a peer support specialist?
According to our data, in 2023 the average salary for a peer support specialist is between $38,000 and $48,000 annually. However, this can vary based on factors such as location, experience, and the organization you work for.
Do Peer Support Specialists Get Benefits?
In some cases, yes, peer support specialists receive benefits. Truthfully, this just depends on where you are working. If you are working for a larger organization or an agency run by the state, then you are more likely to receive benefits such as insurance, 401K, etc. However, if you are employed by a smaller community based agency, they may not offer the same perks.
How do peer support specialist salaries vary by region or country?
Salaries for peer support specialists differ based on region or state, mostly due to the cost of living. Local needs and economic factors can play a part as well. For example, salaries may be higher in areas with a higher cost of living and a larger population, like New York or California, compared to more rural regions with a lower cost of living.
Are there opportunities for career advancement and salary growth in the peer support profession?
Absolutely, as peer support specialists gain experience, they can move into supervisory roles or engage in program development, offering chances for salary growth and greater responsibility. Plus, it can open the door to positions and opportunities outside the typical peer support role. These might include roles in public policy, consulting agencies, and more.
Elijah Meason is a Certified Peer Support Worker in the State of New Mexico. He is a SMART Recovery facilitator and is working toward getting his Masters degree in social work. He is currently working at a dual diagnosis treatment center helping individuals overcome mental health and addiction challenges.