Scientist / Researcher

Many types of scientists and researchers are contributing to the recent explosion of knowledge about how the brain works and the physiology and social psychology of addiction, as well as the organization, financing and quality of addiction services.

These include:

  • Neuroscientists
  • Imaging specialists
  • Public health researchers
  • Epidemiologists
  • Social scientists (Psychologists, Sociologists, Economists)
  • Clinicians (Physicians, Psychiatrists, Social Workers, Nurse Practitioners)
  • Health Services Researchers
  • Statisticians

Activities, Skills and Knowledge

Health services research includes research on:

  • How problems evolve and change
  • Access to and quality of care
  • Effectiveness and cost-effectiveness
  • Organization and management aspects of prevention, treatment and payment
  • Policy analysis

Health services researchers need to work in a multidisciplinary team, contributing skills in clinical work, statistics, economics, policy development, organizational behavior, as well as writing and presenting their work

Basic and Clinical scientists use laboratory techniques, imaging, and clinical observation to investigate the basic chemistry and physiology of addiction. They have may inroads in understanding

  • The epigenetics of addiction - how short or long term exposure to substances changes the expression of genes
  • Regions of the brain and different brain systems affected by different types of substances
  • How behavioral and/or medical interventions affect the physiology of the addicted brain, and behavior
  • Emerging trends, patterns, and causes of disease and injury

Educational Requirements

Each of these careers require master's or doctoral level education as well as training in how to do research. Go to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics website's Occupational Outlook Handbook for information about education requirements, salary ranges, and more.

Educators and clinicians must be licensed by the state. Many professions offer certifications. See the Licensure/Certification overview, as well as individual career paths under Counselors/Clinicians and Physicians.

Scientists and Researchers advance by publishing and presenting their research, and taking on greater responsibilities in the academic or business world:

  • Running their own labs/projects
  • Becoming lecturers/assistant/associate professors, even chairs of their Department/division
  • Starting their own company
  • Working for the government
  • Becoming clinician-researchers, continuing to treat people and also doing either basic or clinical research, and translational investigators who focus on bringing new ways to improve human health into practical application.

Science Careers from the Academy for the Advancement of Science provides many resources for your science career.

Harvard Catalyst is a Clinical and Translational Science Awards Consortium sharing tools among Harvard Unversity (and its 10 schools and 17 Academic Healthcare Centers), Boston College School of Nursing, Tufts University, Boston University and the University of Massachusetts Medical Schools. It is one of the 60 CTSA institutions funded by the NIH and with participation by Harvard Medical School and its teaching affiliates, that trains clinical and translational investigators, regardless of what disease they are focused on. Across the country, in 2011 1038 trainees and scholars were supported by CTSAs.

The Intramural Research Program of NIDA also trains the next generation of leaders in basic and clinical drug abuse research and NIDA's Research Training Opportunities for Young Investigators offers awards and training.


Scientists and Researchers may work in universities, for the government, for companies or for treatment providers. Academic centers often collaborate with treatment providers on research or service demonstration projects.


Academic centers of addiction research in Massachusetts include:

National Foundations and Centers include: