How to Find a Job Working in Recovery

Black man interviewing for a job

There’s a saying in the recovery world:

“Treatment is short, but recovery is long.”

It’s one of the first things people hear when they’re in treatment, and it’s one thing virtually everyone can agree on. Recovery is a lifestyle, and recovery is for life. Once you enter recovery, you’re in recovery for life. That’s true even if you slip or relapse, as long as you get back on your program as soon as possible. With few exceptions, slipping up or having a short relapse doesn’t mean you have so start over completely, because you can use everything you learned before your slip or relapse to support your renewed recovery.

Sure, some 12-step programs will make you restart counting sober or recovery days back at zero, but that’s how they do it. You know your recovery better than anyone, and you get to decide how long you’ve been in recovery: no one else gets to decide that for you.,

Now, back to this idea of recovery being long. We say that because it’s true: recovery is a lifelong journey. We know one thing that contributes to successful, long-term, sustainable recovery is having a sense of purpose and hope for the future. And we know one way to find a sense of purpose and hope for the future is to find gainful employment doing something meaningful.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), work is a reliable predictor of a successful recovery for people diagnosed with an alcohol or substance use disorder (AUD/SUD). Research shows the following benefits of employment for people in recovery.

The Benefits of Employment During Recovery

Compared to people in recovery without steady employment, people in recovery with steady employment show:

  • Reduced alcohol and substance use
  • Reduced rates of relapse
  • Higher rates of abstinence
  • Reduced criminal behavior
  • Fewer parole violations
  • Reduced involvement with the criminal justice system
  • Significant improvement in family and social functioning
  • Success in transition from treatment to daily community life

That’s what having work can do for a person in recovery. Work not only improves their chances of staying in recovery, but also improves their well-being and practical functioning across almost all areas of life.

Work is Good for Recovery, Working in Recovery May Be Even Better for Recovery

A job can give a person in recovery a purpose and hope for the future. A job in recovery for a person in recovery can give a person a purpose, hope for the future, and add meaning to life. Many people in recovery derive both satisfaction and meaning from helping and supporting other people on their recovery journey.

If you’re interested in working in recovery, then the first question on your mind is probably this:

What kind of jobs can I get?

We’ll answer that question now, with a list of jobs in recovery, from entry level, which require the least amount of education and training, to the highest levels, which require the most education, training, and experience. First, we’ll list the jobs and their basic duties. Next, we’ll review your current options, based on your current level of education and experience.

First, the jobs.

Working in Recovery: What Are the Jobs?

Jobs available in the field of recovery include, but are not limited to the following:

Peer Support Specialist/Peer Recovery Guide (PRSS/PRG)

Peer recovery support specialists or guides are a good way for people with no formal training in counseling to help people in recovery. In most cases, the only educational requirement is a high school degree or general equivalency diploma (GED). PRSSs or PRGs are people in recovery from substance use or co-occurring mental health disorders, themselves, which is their primary job requirement and credential. Their direct experience with recovery allows them to help others who face challenges similar to those they faced, and continue to face, on their recovery journey.

Behavioral Health Technicians

These technicians support doctors and nurses with the hands-on care patients require. They may assist doctors and nurses with basic duties, and help patients with common daily tasks. Other names for this job include paraprofessionals, psychiatric technician, or mental health technician.


Dieticians support patients in recovery in several ways. They may create a special diet for people with health problems associated with substance use, design daily and weekly menus for people in residential treatment, or oversee any cooking and/or food preparation for patients at any level of care.


In recovery facilities, administrative positions may include admissions experts, insurance experts, operations specialists, marketing professionals, human resource employees, administrative assistants, financial expert/bookkeepers, and compliance experts.

Maintenance Workers

These essential workers ensure treatment facilities are kept in safe, clean, working order.

Day/Evening Monitors

In residential treatment facilities, counselors and therapists have their hands full. Facility monitors oversee the non-treatment components of residential treatment. They perform bed checks, check attendance in mandatory group sessions, and are on-call to identify and respond to any medical or behavioral health emergency that may arise during regular working hours, or emergencies that occur over night, during off-hours.

Recovery Housing Monitor

When people step down from residential treatment to a less immersive level of care, they often move from a treatment center to a sober living home before returning to their original home or living situation. Sober living homes are what they sound like: homes where people in recovery live with other people in recovery, and support one another through the daily challenges associated with stepping down and making the transition to independent living.


Counselors work one-on-one with people in recovery and help them build skills that promote recovery and reduce risk of relapse.

Case Managers

Many treatment centers assign patients a case manager upon intake. A case manager helps a patient navigate the details of the recovery process that are hard to manage while doing the work of recovery. They may help a patient with insurance issues, vocational training, or support them as the seek access to various forms of social support.

Clinical Therapists

Therapists in clinical practice generally have more training than counselors, and work with people in recovery to learn how their emotions and past personal experiences influence and impact their use of alcohol or substances. Clinical therapists are trained in techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and other psychotherapeutic techniques that help people in recovery manage stress, increase self-efficacy, and develop the emotional and psychological skills to successfully manage the challenges of recovery.


In health care, nurses fill a variety of roles that are impossible to list in one place. They’re considered the NCOs of medicine (non-commissioned officers, think sergeants in the Army) and do the behind the scenes work that holds everything together. Nurses do everything from taking vital signs to assisting with medical procedures to managing paperwork to making patients feel comfortable, taken care of, and at ease. There are several levels of nursing credentials, from those who perform  basic tasks to those with the authority to write prescriptions.

Physicians Assistants (PA)

Physician’s assistants, practically speaking, occupy a position between nurses and doctors. They perform essential tasks that require extensive training and can prescribe medication, perform medical examinations, and formulate a treatment plan. By law, PAs must perform their duties under the general supervision of a medical doctor, but they’re independent clinicians, and do not require direct supervision for their daily clinical tasks.


Psychiatrists are medical doctors who complete a residency, a fellowship, or advanced training in behavioral health or mental health. They have the highest level of training in behavioral health care. They can assess and diagnose mental health disorders and prescribe medication. Psychiatrists can create treatment plans, and deliver treatment of various forms, including standard psychotherapy. As medical doctors, they’re trained in the underlying biology and physiology of mental health disorders, which is essential for the safe and effective treatment of patients at risk of medical complications associated with chronic or severe addiction.

Leadership Roles

People with extensive experience in mental/behavioral health and/or addiction may move into executive leadership roles. They may become a medical director, a clinical supervisor, or operate in some other oversight capacity. In some cases, a person in recovery might become the CEO of a treatment center or group of treatment centers, like our CEO, Joe Pritchard, or the Chief Medical Officer of a treatment center or group of treatment centers, like our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Chris Johnston.

That’s a basic list of the types of jobs available in the field of addiction recovery. We’ll now review take a different angle, and list the jobs available by the level of education and training required.

Working In Recovery: Jobs by Level of Education and Training

We’ll begin at the beginning – jobs that require a high school diploma or general equivalency degree (GED) – and move through to jobs that require medical school and years of additional specialty training. If you’re in recovery and interested in working in the recovery field, you can use this information to learn which jobs are available to you today, based on your level of education and experience.

High School Diploma:

  • Requirement: four years of standard education, or a general equivalency diploma (GED)
  • Potential jobs in recovery:
    • Counselor: with additional training, a person with a high school diploma or GED can become a National Certified Addiction Counselor, Level 1 (NCAC I)
    • National Certified Peer Recovery Support Specialist (NCPRSS). To learn more about becoming a NCPRSS, click here.
    • Support roles: dieticians, maintenance, administration, security, technicians
    • Day or evening monitor in residential facilities
    • Recovery housing monitor in sober living facilities

Associate’s Degree:

  • Requirement: two years as full-time student
  • Potential jobs in recovery:

There are various levels of counseling certification available to people with an associate’s degree. Licensure and job titles vary by state. To learn more about counseling positions available to people with an associate’s degree, click here.

Bachelor’s Degree:

  • Requirement: four years as a full-time student after high school
  • Potential jobs in recovery:
  • Attaining a bachelor’s degree of any sort fulfills requirements to apply for a master’s degree. For people interested in a job in recovery, a psychology or science related degree is preferred, but not strictly necessary.

Master’s Degree:

  • Requirement: in most cases, at least two years of coursework after receiving a bachelor’s degree
  • Potential jobs in recovery:
    • All positions available to a person with a high school diploma or GED, associate’s degree, and/or a bachelor’s degree
    • Addiction/Substance Use Counselor: with additional training, a person with a bachelor’s degree can become a National Certified Addiction Counselor, Level 2 (NCAC II)
    • Registered Nurse. There are a number of nursing specialties related to recovery. To learn more about nursing jobs in recovery, visit the website maintained by the American Society of Addiction Nursing (ASAN)
    • Licensed Nurse Practitioner (NP). To learn more about nurse practitioners, please visit the website maintained by the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP)
    • Physician’s Assistant (PA).
    • Social Worker. At the master’s in social work degree level (MSW), there are various degrees and certifications that enable employment in recovery. These begin with the MSW degree itself, and include positions such as licensed clinical social workers (LCSW) and others.
    • In most cases, gaining licensure at the MS level requires several hundred hours of clinical experience under the supervision of senior clinicians. For specific information on the requirements for each type of certification, please visit the website maintained by the licensing body, the National Association for Addiction Professionals (NAADAC)
  • Attaining a master’s degree of any sort fulfills requirements to apply for a doctoral degree. For people interested in advanced clinical degrees related to recovery, a psychology or science related master’s degree is necessary.

Doctoral Degree:

  • Requirements: a minimum of two years of study after master’s degree
  • Includes degrees up to and including medical doctor (MD) and doctor of osteopathy (D.O.), which both require at least 4 years of additional study after a bachelor’s degree as well as a residency or fellowship. An MD with a specialty in addiction requires additional training and licensure, similar to training in any medical specialty, such as internal medicine or surgery.
  • Potential jobs in recovery:
    • All positions available to a person with a high school diploma or GED, associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, and/or master’s degree
    • Addiction/Substance Use Specialist (Addictionologist): with additional training, a person with an MD or DO can specialize in addiction medicine
    • Psychiatrist
    • Clinical Supervisor
    • Medical Director
    • Chief Medical Officer
  • A doctoral degree – PhD, MD, DO – is the highest level of education possible in the field of recovery. It’s called the terminal degree, which means it’s the end of official school, but not learning or growing. A person who commits the time and effort required to attain a doctoral degree in an addiction-related field has a variety of options available to them. These include administrative roles, clinical roles, executive roles, and perhaps most importantly, a degree at this level can prepare an individual to become a policymaker in public service, or a respected advocate in the mental health/addiction space.

That’s the list: some of those jobs take ten years of training to earn the right to even apply, while others are available to people with a high school diploma and personal experience with recovery.

What Next? How Do You Find a Job Working in Recovery?

The best place to start is the treatment center where you received formal treatment, if you did receive formal treatment. They know you, they know your strengths, and can help you decide if this type of work is right work for you. If it is, then they’ll do their best to find an appropriate position with their treatment center or offer a referral to a position at another center. Next, speak to recovery peers at a 12-step meeting or at recovery-friendly social events. Once you use your personal contacts, we recommend checking the SAMHSA website for career opportunities here, or seek an internship or career opportunity working for the 988 Lifeline, the new national mental health/addiction crisis emergency line.

Finally, if you’ve read this entire article and think working in recovery is for you, we encourage you to make sure this work is a good match – because while it is incredibly rewarding, it’s also incredibly challenging, and you want to make sure you’re making the right choice.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Thinking About Working in Addiction/Recovery

  • Are you committed to helping others?
  • Are you ready? Is your recovery solid? Have you been in recovery for at least one year?
  • Have you researched the roles available to you, and understand what it takes to fulfill these roles?
  • Will a job in recovery meet your financial needs?
  • Are you willing to engage in ongoing professional development, in addition to staying on your own program?
  • Will working with people new to recovery have a negative impact on your recovery?
  • Do you have the psychological and emotional resilience to maintain your recovery while helping others with theirs?
  • Will you be able to separate your vision of recovery from other individuals’ visions of recovery, and accept theirs as equally valid? For instance, if you’re hardcore abstinence only, can you support a person in a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program?
  • Have you checked in with your family, spouse, partner, or friends about you working in recovery? What do they think?

If you can answer these questions with certainty, then we encourage you to pursue a job in recovery. One last thing: if the prospect of going back to school as an adult is intimidating, please understand you are not alone. A study published in 2015 shows this interesting fact:

Close to 75 percent of undergraduate students in the U.S. meet at least one of the three criteria for a non-traditional student: over age 25, employed full-time, and with children.

One final thought: if you’re at the beginning of your educational journey, you can find an entry-level job in recovery, and pursue education and training in the evenings and on weekends. In addition, you may be able to fulfill some clinical requirements while in school, which would help you achieve your long-term employment goals more quickly.

The time is going to pass anyway: why not make the most of it?

We believe in you – and know you can do it.


You’re in recovery, which means you’re strong, resilient, and capable of doing whatever you set your mind to.

The materials provided on the Pinnacle Blog are for information and educational purposes only. No behavioral health or any other professional services are provided through the Blog and the information obtained through the Blog is not a substitute for consultation with a qualified health professional. If you are in need of medical or behavioral health treatment, please contact a qualified health professional directly, and if you are in need of emergency help, please go to your nearest emergency room or dial 911.