Careers related to substance abuse and addiction healthcare are among the fastest-growing in the United States. No matter what your skills and interests are, there are opportunities available – from counseling to medical science – in a wide range of workplaces. Millions of people in the U.S. struggle with substance abuse: About 2.4 million people abuse prescription drugs each year and many more use illicit drugs, with about 200,000 drug-related fatalities each year. This means there will always be a need for caring people willing to help others achieve a drug-free future.
An addiction counselor, also known as a substance abuse counselor, is someone who specializes in giving advice to people who suffer from chemical dependency – including alcohol addiction, drug abuse, and even eating disorders. This kind of counselor does not require a college degree, but will engage in years of on-the-job training with increasing responsibilities. The field is growing much faster than average and includes a median salary of just under $40,000.
An addiction counselor can work in a wide variety of settings, and is usually part of a team that includes more senior counselors and medical professionals. These counselors could work at mental health facilities, correctional facilities, or private offices. They work with others to develop treatment plans for individual patients and will communicate regularly with patients to help them recognize and overcome challenges on their path to a substance-free life.
- Substance Abuse and Behavior Disorder Counselors
- Substance Abuse Counselor Job Overview
- Substance Abuse Counselor Career
- Summary of Duties, Tools, and Experience for Substance Abuse Counselors
- Learn About a Career in Addictions
- What Can I Do With an Addiction Counseling Major
A social worker helps people cope with a wide variety of issues that impact them and those around them, including substance abuse, mental health issues, and behavioral problems. A social worker must have at least a bachelor’s degree in a related field; however, clinical social workers who are permitted to diagnose and treat mental health issues must have a master’s degree. The field is growing faster than average and offers a median salary of more than $44,000.
Many social workers are employed by state and local governments to help people who might be at risk, including those who have a prior history of addiction, criminal activity, or economic disadvantage. Schools, hospitals, and healthcare offices may also employ them. In addition to advising patients directly, they often work with the people who are closest to the patient, such as family members, to help provide an environment where positive change is possible.
- National Association of Social Workers
- International Federation of Social Workers
- Social Worker Career at Go Army
- Council on Social Work Education
- What is Social Work?
Psychologist or Psychiatrist
Psychologists and psychiatrists are professionals who study the mind. They generally have doctoral degrees, but some psychologists practice as counselors once they achieve a master’s degree. A psychiatrist differs from a psychologist due to medical training. They can prescribe medication to patients, while psychologists focus on non-medical treatments, such as counseling. Psychologists often make $70,000 or more a year and psychiatrists, on average, make more.
Both psychologists and psychiatrists have the option of starting a private practice, once they have met the education and training requirements of their respective field. Psychiatrists are often employed within the staff of a rehab center and may provide direct counseling to patients, as well as prescribing medication and monitoring their responses to it. Psychiatrists are in high demand in a variety of settings, while the psychology field is more crowded and competitive.
- What is a Psychologist?
- What Do Practicing Psychologists Do?
- What is a Psychiatrist?
- Psychologist vs. Psychiatrist – What’s the Difference?
- American Association of Community Psychiatrists
A recovery coach specializes in the mental health issues that someone in recovery from addiction faces. They often work in a private drug rehabilitation facility, but may also act as an independent “sober companion” for individuals who can afford such services. Recovery coaches have a range of backgrounds, and pay is commensurate with education and experience; some may have a conventional psychology Ph.D., while others might be certified counselors who have overcome their own addiction issues.
In concert with the other experts on a team, a recovery coach develops strategies for long-term recovery from substance abuse, which includes helping the patient understand his or her worth, values, and goals, and demonstrating how to develop positive coping mechanisms that make relapse less likely. A recovery coach might be affiliated with a nationwide recovery program. Although demand for this somewhat unconventional position is lower than others, it is growing annually. Pay ranges from $40,000 to as much as $100,000 per year for independent recovery coaches working with the most affluent clientele.
- Recovery Coaching Information from Idaho Department of Health and Welfare
- Recovery Coaches International
- Feature on Recovery Coaching from NPR
- National Association for Addiction Professionals
- Mothers Find a Helping Hand in Sobriety Coaches – The New York Times
- What are Peer Recovery Support Services? (PDF)
Drug Addiction & Detox Specialists
Detox is the process of withdrawing from an addictive substance in order to begin retraining the body to function without it. Detox begins with acute withdrawal and must be overseen by a medical professional, typically referred to as a detox specialist. This is someone with advanced medical training who can oversee the detox process and plan the patient’s course of treatment. An MD degree is typically required, and salaries over $150,000 are common.
Detox specialists are employed at any treatment facility where acute detox occurs under medical supervision. They will typically manage detox for an entire community of patients. These jobs are among the most advanced in the world of addiction healthcare and can be difficult to come by; however, a detox specialist is also one of the most important members of a team. He or she can also qualify as a university lecturer, hospital administrator, and in many other roles.
- What is an Addiction Specialist?
- Addiction Studies Information at East Washington University
- American Academy of Health Care Providers in the Addictive Disorders