Social and Human Services Assistant

This career is expected to grow 23 percent—much faster than average—through 2018. Many qualified people will be needed to work with growing populations of the elderly, people with disabilities, substance abusers and those in need of job training. Employers can save money by hiring assistants rather than full-fledged social workers. Job growth will be stronger in the private sector than in local and state government.
In 2008, social and human service assistants earned an average salary of $27,280. The middle 50 percent earned $21,860 to $34,590. The highest 10 percent earned more than $43,510. Local and state government employers paid the highest average salaries.
Social and human service assistants help social workers, health care workers and other professionals provide services to people. Actual job titles include human service worker, case management aide, social work assistant and many others. Social and human service assistants work to help clients improve their quality of life. They assess clients’ needs, investigate their eligibility for benefits and services, and help to obtain them. They also arrange for transportation and escorts, if necessary, and provide emotional support.
Social and human service assistants can work in a large variety of environments—nursing homes, psychiatric hospitals and halfway houses, among others—and play many roles in a community. They may organize and lead group activities, counsel clients or run food banks and emergency fuel programs, for example. The work, while satisfying, can be emotionally draining. Understaffing and relatively low pay may add to the pressure.
A bachelor’s degree is not required for most jobs in this occupation, but employers increasingly seek individuals with relevant work experience or education beyond high school. Any degree or specialized certificate in psychology, human services or counseling special populations, such as the elderly, will give your employment chances a boost. Many employers prefer to hire people with some education beyond high school. The level of education workers have often influences the kind of work they are assigned and the degree of responsibility given to them.
None, but many who begin as human services assistants progress to become licensed counselors or family therapists.
Entering the Field:
Many employers offer basic on-the-job training, but most prefer previous experience. Certificates or associate degrees in subjects such as human services, gerontology or one of the social or behavioral sciences meet many employers’ requirements. Employers prefer applicants with some post-secondary education.
Career Changers:
If you have proven leadership ability, especially from paid or volunteer experience in social services, you are a good candidate for a leap into this field and are likely to be given autonomy in your work. Employers prefer applicants with some post-secondary education. Any degree or credential in psychology, human services or counseling special populations will give your employment chances a boost. Many people who previously worked helping customers in sales or retail decide to try this career field.

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Source for salary and growth data is the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For more information on a career as a social or human services assistant, salaries, and job prospects visit: U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition, Social and Human Services Assistants.

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