Careers for People Who Want to Give Back

Pair of male friends greeting each other with a handshakeMany people who have struggled with addiction feel grateful for the support that they were given during their recovery process, and want to “pay it forward.” And fortunately, there are several careers that provide an opportunity to give back by helping others.

Whether on an individual, community, or population level, below are three options that allow people to give back through their career.

Individual Level: Substance Abuse Counselor
For individuals who prefer to work on a patient-by-patient basis, a career as a Substance Abuse Counselor allows them to interact on a personal level. A Substance Abuse Counselor advises individuals who may battle a variety of addictions, such as alcoholism, drug addictions, or eating disorders.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), this job entails assessing the client’s problem and level of determination to undergo treatment. It also involves developing, analyzing, and recommending a treatment option to the client and their families. Substance abuse counselors may also perform other duties, such as educating the client and their families about situations or circumstances that can negatively affect recovery, and helping the client find support groups, job placement organizations, and other services.

Some substance abuse counselors may also lead group sessions. Substance abuse counselors may work in a variety of settings, including detox centers, prisons, hospitals, residential treatment centers, juvenile detention centers, or employee assistance programs.

Through 2024, the DOL projects a 22% growth rate for Substance Abuse Counselors. The annual mean wage is $41,870. A bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement; however, many employers prefer a master’s degree – those with this advanced education are able to offer more services with less supervision. Students can expect coursework in such classes as fundamentals of drug abuse, alcohol abuse prevention and treatment, and psychopharmacology. Time management, strong problem-solving skills, along with good interpersonal communications, and analytical skills are needed to be successful at this level.

Community Level: Social and Community Service Managers
Some people may prefer to combat addiction on a community level by creating campaigns to address these issues on a larger scale. Social and community service managers oversee the staff and day-to-day operations, according to the DOL. This includes creating and managing budgets, recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and managing staff. Social and community service managers also evaluate the effectiveness of their programs, and seek ways to be more effective and efficient.

In a large organization, they may only be responsible for a particular area, but in smaller organizations, these managers may also be involved in fund-raising efforts, speak before the public, and serve on committees.
Social and community service managers may work in clinics, hospitals, shelters, and other types of nonprofits, government agencies, and private for-profit organizations.

Demand for these professionals is growing faster than average, and the DOL expects a 10% job growth rate for social and community service managers through 2024. The annual mean wage for social and community service managers is $67,730.

A bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement. Coursework may include classes in policy analysis, statistics, and program management. Also, these managers need analytical and problem-solving skills, in addition to good communication and interpersonal skills. Managerial skills are also important.

Population Level: Research Educators and Epidemiologists
Some individuals may feel led to contribute to the fight against addiction through research and science. Research Educators and Epidemiologists specializing in drug abuse and addictions try to find new ways to prevent and combat addictions. They analyze population data – which may include surveys, interviews and other data sources, to find trends regarding people who are more likely to be susceptible to addictions. They look for links between environmental, social, cultural, and developmental factors.

Some research and epidemiologists may work for governmental agencies such as the National Institutes of Health’s Institute on Drug Abuse, and they may work for colleges, universities, hospitals, and state and local governments.
Regarding the job outlook for research educators and epidemiologists, the DOL projects a 6% job growth rate through 2024, which is as fast as average. The annual mean wage for these professionals is $74,120.

A master’s degree, usually in public health, is the minimum requirement, and some may have a PhD in epidemiology or medicine. Students can expect to take courses in biology, physical sciences, medical informatics, and practical applications of data. Important qualities for research educators and epidemiologists are being detailed-oriented, strong critical thinkers, possess math and statistical skills, plus the ability to express themselves well when speaking and writing.

Roslyn Tate is an editor on the 2U Inc. website. A recent Goddard College MFA, she enjoys helping people achieve their goals through academics and art. 2U partners with leading colleges and universities to offer online master’s degree programs to students around the world.

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