An Introduction to the Most Common Careers in Addiction Treatment

Published On: March 18, 2021|Categories: Addiction Treatment|
Focused African American female real estate agent or architect talk with young couple at meeting, concentrated biracial woman consultant speak discuss ideas with clients spouses at office briefing

So you’re interested in a job in addiction treatment? Working with individuals struggling with substance use and abuse is a noble and rewarding career. Like every job, it comes with hard work and challenges, but this is a great field to translate your passion and people skills into a profession.

There are many avenues to pursue a career in addiction treatment. Potential jobs include addiction counseling, social work, psychology, psychiatry or nursing. Addiction treatment specialists are needed in a variety of settings as well, including hospital, inpatient and outpatient treatment programs, schools and correctional facilities. The field also calls for professors to teach future addiction specialists, policy advocates and managers of treatment facilities.

If you’re searching for addiction treatment jobs, this article will offer an introduction to the field itself, and an overview of the most common positions. Working in rehab has the potential to save lives, so know that your endeavors can have a lasting impact.

Addiction counseling

Job duties: Addiction counselor or addiction specialist positions provide one-on-one, group and family counseling services to individuals in need. Much of this work will revolve around learning coping skills to help clients avoid substances, changing thinking patterns, mitigate stress and manage relationships. Often, educational components are incorporated into their work.

Education and certification: Addiction counselors hold bachelor’s and master’s degrees in counseling. The education is followed by certification through the National Board for Certified Counselors.

Social work

Job duties: Clinical social workers can offer counseling and support at various stages in the addiction treatment process. The profession of social work employs a holistic lens when working in addiction recovery, helping an individual to address other life factors, such as career, housing, finances and relationships. Managing external factors makes mental health treatment easier, and this is the goal of any social worker.

Education and certification: Social workers obtain bachelor’s degrees or master’s degrees. Social workers are also licensed professionals, receiving full licensure after passing an exam and completing supervised practice hours. The Association of Social Work Boards administers the test, where more specific licensure requirements differ according to state guidelines.


Job duties: Psychologists primarily operate using talk-therapy when it comes to treating substance abuse. Therapists are often psychologists, and may have specialized degrees or training in certain areas. Psychologists can also assess and diagnose mental health disorders and create treatment plans. 

Education and certification: Psychologists obtain a bachelor’s degree and a doctorate degree in psychology. After completing the required education, psychologists take an exam called the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. It is administered by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards. Supervised hours in the field are also required.


Job duties: A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions. A psychiatrist is unique from other mental health professionals, because he or she can prescribe medication as a part of treatment. Psychiatrists also use psychotherapy (talk-therapy) to treat patients.

Education and certification: Psychiatrists complete medical school, graduating with a doctoral degree, and then are required to complete a four-year medical residency program that involves a variety of settings and patient populations. Psychiatrists seek a certification through the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology


Job duties: Medication management is a big part of addiction recovery. Whether this portion of rehab takes place in a hospital or substance use recovery center, detoxing from substances often requires the use of medication to minimize the harmful effects of withdrawal from drugs and alcohol. 

The risks associated with detox can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening, and include side effects like seizures, dehydration, nausea or vomiting, muscle spasms, tremors and hallucinations. Having medical professionals available to help people through the hardest part of addiction recovery is crucial to safety and sustained sobriety. Often, the pain of detox is enough to drive someone back to substance usage, so having staff equipped to minimize the danger and discomfort of detox can make all the difference.

Education and certification: In order to become a nurse, an associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing is required. After obtaining a degree, nurses take an exam called the National Council Licensure Examination, or the NCLEX. Like most professions, full requirements differ by state.

In all of the career options detailed above, you’ll be working one-on-one with clients, offering support based on your knowledge and skill set to assist people in achieving the freedom of sobriety. This is not an exhaustive list of careers in addiction treatment, but rather an introduction into the most common professions in the field. If you’re passionate about helping people and curious about more options, consider looking into careers in policy writing, recovery center administration, motivational speaking, nutrition, research or pharmacology.

If you feel you have a calling to help those struggling with addiction and mental health, consider Pyramid Healthcare. We offer numerous career opportunities in addiction treatment jobs. Check out current openings to explore employment opportunities in the substance use field today.

A father with his two daughters sitting by a campfire in the woods roasting marshmallows7 Activities You’ll Enjoy More Sober
Elementary schoolchildren wearing a protective face masks in the classroom. Education during epidemic.Proactively Handling Warning Signs of Suicide in Children