Become a Community Resource Specialist: Education and Career Roadmap

Mar 03, 2020

Research the requirements to become a community resource specialist. Learn about the job description and duties and read the step-by-step process to start a career in community resources.

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Community Resource Specialists

Community resource specialists improve the lives of people and families by connecting them with resources like academic assistance, healthcare, and counseling. Some of these professionals work as government specialists and help refugees and families on public assistance. Others are employed by nonprofit organizations, such as those that address domestic violence issues. Community resource specialists may also work at colleges and universities to advocate for students and assist them with obtaining academic assistance, housing, and healthcare.

A community resource specialist may be obligated to document occurrences and results of programs, outreach efforts, and assistance granted so that he or she can demonstrate the effectiveness of the organization to a management team, board, or other governing or funding agency. There can be some stress involved with this job because of budget issues. Depending on the organization and how it's funded, organizations and agencies that rely on public funding can see their job opportunities ebb and flow with the local economy, which can affect the job prospects of aspiring community resource specialists.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Varies; bachelor's degree most common
Degree Field Related fields include human services, counseling, or social work
Experience Varies; several years of related experience common
Key Skills Analytical, written and verbal communication, interpersonal, and supervisory skills; knowledge of community policies and regulations as well as the available community resources
Salary (2018)* $42,620 (annual median salary for community and social service specialists)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics

Be a Community Resource Specialist

Step 1: Obtain a Bachelor's Degree

In general, employers require a bachelor's degree for entry-level positions. However, applicants who have an associate's degree or college-level credits combined with additional training and experience may also meet some position requirements. Programs that offer the necessary training can be found in areas that include human services, social work, psychology, and behavioral science. Coursework will vary by major, but students can expect required or elective courses in human behavior, communication strategies, human services policies, and psychology.

Aspiring community resource specialists should be sure to attend an accredited program. Some employers require applicants to have degrees from accredited programs, which can also be particularly important for government and government-sponsored programs.

Working clinical hours or summer internships can help specialists determine the area in which they want to work. For example, some people may enjoy helping adults but feel uncomfortable working with abused children. Gaining field experience while still in school allows students to better align their education with their career goals.

Step 2: Obtain Professional Experience

The amount of training required for a specialist positions tends to vary and can range from 1-5 years of professional experience. Since community resource specialists may work in a variety of environments, from colleges and universities to government agencies, it's important to obtain relevant experience. For example, prospective resource specialists who want to work in social services may consider gaining their experience in residential care facilities, community rehabilitation agencies, or with family services organizations.

Additionally, specialists need to be able to identify the social needs and resources available in each community. Someone working with adults suffering from mental illnesses, for example, must know about programs that offer empowerment training, counseling services, crisis intervention, and financial assistance. Specialists also need to understand government eligibility requirements and program restrictions to best match each client with an appropriate program.

Employers need workers capable of communicating on multiple and diverse levels. While gaining experience, future specialists can learn how to interact with professionals at all levels, as well as their clients. Future employers may also look for applicants who are able to build strong business relationships with program coordinators and government agencies.

Step 3: Consider Earning a Master's Degree

For specialists who want to advance to supervisory positions, a master's degree in a related field, such as public health, public administration, or social work, can be beneficial. In these programs, students can further develop leadership training and learn about advanced topics in policy analysis and program management, as well as other related topics. In addition, the experience and training that takes place during the master's degree program may aid in advancing the student's career and increasing his or her pay check.

Community resource specialists need at least a bachelor's degree in human services, counseling, or social work, although a master's degree can be helpful for career advancement.

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