How to Become a Professional Recovery Coach:
The Definitive Guide

Interested in being a recovery coach?

Perhaps helping clients through one of the toughest times in their lives appeals to you, or perhaps you enjoy the challenge and flexibility this career brings.

If you are empathetic, have good communication skills, and have strong interpersonal relationship skills, you have what it takes to be a recovery coach.

You’ll witness your clients’ lives changing for the better, and know you played a critical role in the turnaround.

There are no national requirements to become a recovery coach.

However, to prepare yourself for success in this career, there are some steps you should follow.

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Job Description

To understand what a recovery coach does, it’s important to know what they don’t do.

A recovery coach is not a therapist.

They don’t help to heal past trauma or understand the underlying psychological issues that contribute to the client’s addiction.

Instead of offering therapy or a clinical diagnosis, a recovery coach offers support.

They help their clients take actions that improve their lives and work to overcome their addiction.

Instead of focusing on the past, coaches work with clients to create action plans for the present to help them meet their goals for the future.

When you think of a recovery coach, you may imagine someone who helps people with drug addictions.

In addition to substances, coaches can work with clients who have food or behavioral addictions.

These can include sex or relationship, gambling, shopping, and internet addictions.


  • Perform intake assessments
  • Teach clients life skills, like cooking and cleaning
  • Teach life management skills, including balancing a checkbook and phone etiquette
  • Discuss the client’s goals and create an action plan
  • Monitor progress and provide accountability
  • Complete safety and wellness checks
  • Meet with clients and family members
  • Maintain privacy and meet HIPAA guidelines
  • Provide access to other recovery resources


Recovery coach salaries vary based on your location, experience, and specialization.

However, the average salary in the U.S. is $37,918.

The lowest salaries are around $35,554, and the highest earners receive up to $43,021 per year.

As a recovery coach, you can choose to work with a recovery organization or run your own recovery coaching business.

If you work for a company, you’ll be paid a set salary.

If you choose your own business, your salary will depend on your profit.

This provides more financial opportunity, as well as more risk.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

Annually National Average Salary: $50,550


Average Annual Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$72,260
New Hampshire$47,500
New Jersey$66,200
New Mexico$48,710
New York$58,470
North Carolina$49,940
North Dakota$41,350
Rhode Island$53,680
South Carolina$51,810
South Dakota$41,310
West Virginia$53,480
Puerto Rico$35,400

Annual Average Salary: Top 5 States

The top earning state in the field is District of Columbia, where the average salary is $72,260.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

District of Columbia - $72,260
New Jersey - $66,200
Massachusetts - $63,160
Hawaii - $60,370
Vermont - $60,280
*Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey.
Conducted by: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Labor.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

How to Become a Recovery Coach

Step 1Be Clean and Sober

Many people choose to become recovery coaches because they have fought their own battle with addiction.

If this is the case for you, you’ll need to have at least 1 year of clean time, preferably 2 years.

If you don’t have an addiction issue, it’s still wise to live up to the same standards that you expect your clients to meet.

This typically includes refraining from illegal drug use.

You may also choose to avoid alcohol and tobacco.

Step 2Get Experience in the Field

If you don’t have experience in the recovery field, this is a great time to develop this.

You may be able to find an internship.

In most cases, you’ll find the best option is simply to volunteer at a recovery organization.

Becoming a sponsor is another great way to get valuable experience.

You’ll need to be in recovery yourself, and have at least 1 year clean, to become a sponsor.

Step 3Complete a Training Program

We’ll take an in-depth look at recovery coach training programs in a moment.

Most states don’t require you to complete recovery education, but it will certainly help you in your career.

You may be required to complete training to earn a certification.

It also shows potential clients or employers that you have the knowledge and skills necessary to do your job effectively.

Training programs can vary greatly in depth and length, from a few months to years.

If you have education or experience in a related field, you may be able to skip this step or take fewer classes.

Medical professionals, therapists, psychologists, counselors, and life coaches already have many of the skills needed to be a recovery coach.

However, you have an ethical duty to provide a high standard of care.

This means you should pursue any classes needed to shore up any gaps in your knowledge.

For example, if you are a nurse, you are likely familiar with the physical effects of addiction.

However, you may need to take classes on the recovery process and how to provide the support clients need.

Step 4Get Certified

Lastly, it’s a great idea to become certified as a recovery coach.

Whether certification is required, and the specific requirements, will depend on your location.

However, no matter where you live, certification will help you in your career.


Education is necessary to become a successful recovery coach.

Most training programs will take between 1 and 2 years to complete, but shorter programs can be completed in just weeks.

If you have experience in the medical or therapy field, a shorter program may be ideal.

However, if you are starting from scratch, or only have personal experience with recovery, a more in-depth program is best.

When choosing a program, you have a few options.

The first is to find a training program in your local area.

This allows you to attend a local school, and receive hands-on training.

The second option is to find an online training program.

These are more common than in-person programs.

They offer flexibility and are often self-paced.

You can also expect to work with other students, with one person acting as the coach, and the other as the client.

This gives you practice in life coaching, so you can put the skills you’ve learned into use.

Students will study many aspects of recovery and coaching, including the stages of addiction recovery, conducting interviews, co-occurring disorders, ethics, and how to create an action plan.

Education programs typically prepare you to take one or more certification exams once the program is completed.

Video About The Career

Licensing and Certification

When it comes to choosing a certification, there are several options to choose from.

These include CCAR, CARC, NAADAC, and NCPRSS certifications.

There are also other certifications, which are state specific.

Before getting a certification, check with local recovery organizations to learn if the certification meets their requirements.

CCAR Certification

The CCAR certification is a popular choice.

To get the certification, you’ll need to complete the CCAR Recovery Coach Academy, which is 30 hours.

You’ll also need to complete the CCAR Ethical Considerations for Recovery Coaches, which is a 16-hour course.

Lastly, you’ll need to complete an additional 14 hours of recovery training classes.

This can be accomplished by purchasing a webinar membership or attending another approved course.

National Certified Peer Recovery Support Specialist (NCPRSS)

The NCPRSS program is created and managed by the Association for Addiction Professionals, or NAADAC.

The training courses for the CCAR certification are also approved for this certification.

You’ll need to achieve a total of 60 hours and meet the specifications for each category of class.

You’ll need to spend at least 200 hours in a peer recovery environment.

This doesn’t have to be paid employment, volunteer work also applies.

In addition, you’ll need to be clean and sober for 2 years or longer if you have an addiction.

2 references, with one being a professional, and signing a code of ethics contract is also required.

State Certifications

State certifications vary.

However, the majority require you to take the CCAR Recovery Coach Academy and the CCAR Ethical Concerns for Recovery Coaches program.

You may need to meet other requirements as well, depending on the state you live in.

Average Training Program Duration: 0-6 Months

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Job Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t track the job growth of recovery coaches.

However, they do include data for a few related careers.

Social and Human Service Assistants work in a variety of areas to provide assistance to other professionals, including recovery specialists.

This field is projected to grow by 12% in the next decade, which is twice as fast as average.

They also monitor the job growth of community health workers.

Recovery coaching falls into this category, along with some other professions.

This career is also expected to grow by 12% in the next 10 years.

Employment Growth Projection: 12%


That's a higher than average projected growth of 15,200 jobs.

Professional Recovery Coach: Interest Over Time

Should You Become a Recovery Coach?

Overall Satisfaction: High

Overall Satisfaction

When deciding if you want to be a recovery coach, there are several things you should consider.

These include how satisfied people currently in the role are, the average salary and job growth, and the personal skills you need for success.

To understand the overall satisfaction of personal recovery coaches, it’s important to take a look at the entire process.

When it comes to the certification process itself, 30% of respondents found it very easy. 36% found it mostly easy, with some difficult portions. 24% found the process difficult with some parts being easy.

9% found the entire process difficult.

Average Salary: Medium

Average Salary

The average salary for a personal recovery coach in the U.S. is $37,918.

However, the salary that you’ll receive as a personal recovery coach depends on where you are employed.

Most coaches will earn between $35,554 and $43,021.

However, it’s important to note that if you own your own recovery coaching business, you have the potential to earn 6 figures.

If you are self-employed, you set your own salary by how much you charge your clients.

If you are employed by a company, they may have a standard salary for the position.

Some companies will pay based on your knowledge, certifications, and experience in the field.

Your location also factors in.

You’ll make more money if you are working in an area with a high demand for recovery coaches.

Job Growth Outlook: Medium

Job Growth Outlook

The demand for recovery coaches is expected to increase in the next decade by 12%.

More people are seeking addiction treatment today, because there’s less stigma associated with addiction and getting help.

Drugs are becoming more dangerous with the high availability of fentanyl as well.

This may prompt individuals to seek help for drug addictions sooner.

Behavioral addictions like shopping, dating, social media,  and gambling addictions are also becoming more common.

The accessibility of the internet plays a key role in this. Individuals can meet their desire within the comfort of their own home, rather than going out into the public.

The pandemic further increased the frequency of these disorders.

Education Duration: 0-6 Months

Education Duration

Personal recovery coach programs vary greatly in length based on the program, and whether it provides a degree or a certificate.

Courses eligible for the CAAP certification generally take at least 2 weeks, and potentially 1 month, to complete.

More in-depth courses that provide a certificate are often self-paced, and give you 6 months to complete the course.

If you choose a program that offers an associate degree as a recovery coach, or a related field like addiction specialist, you’ll spend between 18 months to 2 years to get your diploma.

Personal Skills Needed

Personal Skills Needed

Training can give you the knowledge you need to be a personal recovery coach, but you’ll also need soft skills to be successful.

The good news is, just like concrete or hard skills, including typing, or digital security, these soft skills can be learned or improved.

If you find yourself lacking some of these skills, don’t give up on coaching.

Simply focus on the skills you need to improve, while completing your training and after you begin your career.

Remember, no one is ever 100% all of the time.

Personal skills needed to be a personal recovery coach include: 

  • Behavioral Analysis
  • Communication Skills
  • Customer Service Skills
  • Scheduling
  • Empathic
  • Analytical and detail-oriented
  • Crisis Management Skills
  • First Aid and CPR
  • Project management

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How long do you have to go to school to become a personal recovery coach? 

While school isn’t required, it is strongly recommended.

Some courses are short and take a month or less.

Associate degree programs can take 18 months to 2 years to complete.

Some certificate courses fall in the middle, taking about 6 months.

Q. What skills do you need to have to be a personal recovery coach? 

You’ll need a strong sense of empathy and a good understanding of how people work to be a recovery coach.

Knowledge of addiction is also necessary.

This may come from education, first-hand experience, or both.

The ability to organize, plan ahead, and communicate effectively are also highly important.

Q. Are personal recovery coaches in high demand? 

Yes, being a personal care coach is considered an in-demand profession, with a projected job growth rate of 12%.

Your location and the number of people in the profession will also impact the demand in your area.

Q. What kind of education do you need?

You can choose a certificate program, an associate’s degree program, or a career-focused training program that gets you started fast.

If you have addiction treatment knowledge or knowledge in a related field, a short course may be adequate.

However, if you have little formal recovery education, consider a certificate or associate’s degree program.

It’s important to note that many of the programs can be completed online, or on campus.

Q. How much money does a personal recovery coach make a year? 

The average salary for a personal recovery coach is between $35,554 and $43,021.

If you choose to own your own coaching business, you may earn more or less than this average.

Professional Recovery Coach Information by State

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