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Social Services Administrator: How to Start a Career in Social Services

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a social services administrator. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

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Social services administrators provide guidance in social services programs to ensure the needs of the population served are met. They are required to have a bachelor's degree, master's degree, and licensure.

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Essential Information

Social services administrators manage social workers and case managers. They develop and oversee social services plans to address people affected by homelessness, child abuse, poverty, violence or other major life challenges.

Required Education Bachelor's and master's degrees
Other Requirements Licensure (state-specific)
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 12% for all social workers
Average Salary (2015)* $58,560 (all social workers not otherwise designated)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step One: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

A bachelor's degree is required for entry-level social work jobs. As licensing requirements in all states include an advanced degree, the bachelor's degree should prepare the student to enter an appropriate graduate program. Students interested in becoming social services administrators commonly pursue a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) or a bachelor's in psychology or sociology with a broad liberal arts education.

Step Two: Earn an Advanced Degree in Social Work

A master's degree in social work generally takes two years of full-time study to complete. Master of Social Work (MSW) programs typically cover human behavior, diversity, social welfare policy, family dynamics and social justice. Specializations in specific areas are often offered. These might include gerontology, children and families, mental health and economic development. Master's degree programs often require students to complete a thesis that reports on their research findings.

Step Three: Become Licensed as a Clinical Social Worker

All states in the U.S. and the District of Columbia have licensing, certification or registration guidelines regarding social work practice, the use of professional titles and qualifying for insurance company reimbursements. Most states in the require 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience before the individual can be licensed as a clinical social worker. In some states, continuing education is required to maintain a license.

Step Four: Develop Further Work Experience

Social workers often rise to administrative positions based on work experience. Workers looking to grow within the career field can pursue leadership positions that present themselves, such as opportunities to work as a case manager.

Step Five: Gain Professional Certifications and Further Education

Professional certifications might help aspiring social services administrators advance to higher positions. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) offers credentials to professionals as they gain experience (socialworkers.org). In addition, some schools have programs available that are tailored to administrative and management positions. Workshops in social service management and other professional development opportunities are also available through schools and professional organizations. Some leaders within the social services field have doctoral degrees, but these programs are often geared towards those who wish to conduct research or teach at a university.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) noted that jobs for all social workers are expected to grow 12% from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). As of May 2015, the average annual salary for all social workers (not otherwise designated) was $58,560, according to the BLS. Child, family and school social workers earned an average annual salary of $42,350, and the average for healthcare social workers was $52,380, per the BLS.

Social services administrators oversee social workers and case managers to ensure program objectives are achieved. Educational requirements for social services administrators includes a bachelor's degree, master's degree, and licensure. Professional certification and continuing education may help with job performance and career advancement.

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