Behavioral health encompasses a wide range of services, including mental health promotion, substance use disorder prevention and treatment, and recovery support. It is inclusive of all people and their unique needs.

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, ~650,000 Washingtonians were receiving treatment for behavioral health needs. This number has only increased due to pandemic-related stress.1

The COVID pandemic disproportionately affected Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities, increasing the need for behavioral health services in their communities.2

Choosing a behavioral health career

Learn about educational options, opportunities for financial support, and behavioral health careers.

There are many benefits to a behavioral health career, including:

Variety: Pursue career opportunities within a wide range of occupations, populations, and professional settings

Growth: Continue to build your skills and experience through a variety of educational pathways and career choices

Community: Help your community thrive, while joining a field of dedicated professionals

Passion: Work to create positive outcomes and make a difference every day

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Exploring career options

The behavioral health field includes mental health and substance use disorder opportunities, and offers a variety of career paths with endless opportunities for growth.

  • Jobs in Mental Health Services: Prevention, Promotion, Treatment and Recovery Support Services, including Peer Counselors
  • Jobs in Substance Use Disorder Services: Prevention, Treatment and Recovery Support Services, including Peer Counselors

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused long-term impacts on behavioral health needs. As a result, we need more trained behavioral health workers to serve our communities.3

Getting started

One of the benefits of a behavioral health career is that there are several entry points. You can enter the field through special training courses and/or you can build upon degrees and credentials, meaning you can work, while pursuing additional education if you choose.

The following career overviews represent some of the career paths that are most needed in Washington state right now. Learn how to get started.

    • What you do: You work with families and youth to build supportive connections and relationships; work in communities to create healthy workplaces, schools, and communities; focus on the wellbeing of individuals and communities; and create positive connections and protective factors for communities to thrive.

      What does it take to become a prevention specialist: You can begin with a high school diploma or equivalent and advance depending on education and experience. You can get your certification after a year of full time prevention related experience, 120 contact hours of prevention education, and a nationally approved credentialing exam.

      Additional resources and information: Join one of the fastest-growing credentials in the field of substance use disorder behavioral health care! Learn more about what substance use prevention specialists do and how to become certified.

    • What you do: You focus on providing addiction and substance use disorder treatment, helping patients on the path to recovery.

      What does it take to become a substance use disorder professional: You can begin with an associate degree, or while your degree is in progress.

      Not sure if it’s for you but curious: Your local substance use treatment center might have positions that aren’t clinical where you can get some experience to see if it’s a match for you!

      Additional resources and information: Learn more about what substance use disorder professionals do, how to get started, and licensed.

    • What you do: You will partner with individuals in recovery to share your life experiences and provide hope and support.

      What does it take to become a peer counselor: You do not need a degree. You must complete an online prerequisite course, submit an application, complete an approved training, and pass a state oral and written exam.

      Additional resources and information: Learn more about what peer counselors do and how to become certified. For questions or additional information, contact Peer Support Program at

    • What you do: Support patients with their mental health needs, including children, families and those with behavioral disorders.

      What does it take to become a mental health counselor: There are several career paths available depending on areas of interest and levels of education. Becoming a mental health counselor requires a master’s degree in behavioral health studies or counseling, as well as additional hours of supervision to receive a full license. Other roles offer a variety of credential and degrees options depending on your interests, including a bachelor’s degree.

      Additional resources and information: There are many different paths to choose from to support individuals with their mental health needs—start exploring your options.

Are you interested in finding out more about Behavioral Health Careers?

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