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Career Information for a Degree in Human and Social Services

Human services programs can cover counselors, social workers or policy makers. Find out about the degree requirements of these programs, and learn about career options, job growth and salary info for human service graduates.

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A degree in human and social services can prepare community service managers, addiction counselors, and social and human service assistants for their career. Those who pursue graduate studies may also opt to become a policy analyst.

Essential Information

Human and social services careers open the door to help individuals or entire communities. Human service graduates may sit in a room one on one with a drug addict or stand on the steps of Congress engaging policymakers. Learn about job duties, education requirements and career prospects to make an informed decision about obtaining a career in human and social services.

Career Community Service Managers Addiction Counselor Social and Human Service Assistants
Education Requirements Bachelor's degree High school diploma, but a college degree is more commonly required Associate's degree
Other Requirements May require master's degree Credentialing Exam May require bachelor's or master's degree
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 10% 22% 11%
Median Salary (2015)* $63,530 $39,980 $30,830

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

There are several fields available in human services. Human service graduates have an opportunity to help people in several ways. Whether it's working in the private sector as a counselor or engaging legislators with policy issues, this field has something for anyone interested at every education level. Continue reading to learn more about choices in the human services field.

Social and Human Services Assistant

With an associate's degree in human and social services, graduates may qualify for entry-level jobs as social and human services assistants, although some on-the-job training may also be required. These jobs are typically performed under the supervision and guidance of professionals like licensed social workers or psychologists.

Social and human service assistants help clients arrange for or receive care and services. They may provide personal care tasks or crisis intervention. Other tasks can include helping clients with completing paperwork and documentation necessary for benefits, employment, mental health or housing assistance. Social and human services assistants may also help clients develop job readiness skills. Typically, additional education is required for career advancement.

Career Outlook and Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported social and human service assistant jobs were expected to increase 11% from 2014 to 2024, which may be fueled in large part by an increase in the population of the aged who need services. This career is characterized by heavy job responsibilities for comparatively little pay, which can lead to high turnover. As of May 2015, the BLS reported that the median annual salary for these professionals was $30,830.

Over a quarter of those employed in this career work for individual and family services agencies, with the remainder employed by community and vocational rehabilitation agencies, nursing and residential care settings, local or state government social service agencies, or other organizations in the community.

Addiction Counselor

Addiction counselors generally work for places like mental health centers or social service agencies, providing support to people with addiction issues like alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling, anorexia or bulimia. Some counselors are able to enter the field with a high school diploma, but most require a college degree. Those with an associate's degree in human and social services may qualify for entry-level jobs with social service agencies. Career advancement generally requires additional education up to and including a master's degree and state licensing for private practice.

The IC&RC offers the Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ADC) credential, and those with a minimum education and work experience may be eligible to sit for the exam. Additional credentials are available to addiction counselors with advanced degrees and state licensing.

Frequently working in collaboration with more experienced human and social services professionals like social workers, nurses or doctors, addiction counselors help clients establish and work toward treatment goals. They may help clients learn coping skills and tools for managing addiction. Some perform crisis intervention, while others work with teens, the disabled or veterans.

Career Outlook and Salary

According to the BLS, workers in this field can expect an employment growth of 22% from 2014 to 2024, due partly to an increase in the number of people seeking help for addiction issues voluntarily, as well as an increase in the number of people facing drug-related criminal charges being sentenced to treatment. The median annual salary earned by people in this career was about $39,980 as of May 2015, according to the BLS.

Social and Community Service Manager

Social and community service managers may also be known as program directors, program managers or directors of social services. They utilize leadership and managerial skills to coordinate and oversee the provision of programs, including collecting information about what programs are needed and how existing programs are performing. Social and community service managers are also typically responsible for budgeting and fundraising. According to the BLS, graduates of bachelor's degree programs with relevant work experience may find employment, although many employers prefer to hire candidates with a master's degree in human and social services.

Career Outlook and Salary

The BLS projected that employment in this career would grow 10% from 2014 to 2024. The influence of a growing aging population, more referrals to treatment from the criminal justice system and a general increased demand for services are also expected to have an impact on social and community service managers. However, job growth may be threatened by cuts to public funding that often provides a significant part of these agencies' budgets. Social and community service managers, according to the BLS, earned a median annual salary of approximately $63,530 as of May 2015.

Policy Analyst

Human and social services professionals with a doctoral degree - social work is a common degree field for this occupational area - may work as policy analysts. Policy analysts collect data related to a particular issue - either through original research or through others' studies - and consider how this information can be used to identify what causes a particular problem and possible solutions to mitigate or resolve it. They may also assess the cost or effectiveness of an existing policy or program.

Salary

PayScale.com reported in 2016 that most policy analysts earned between $39,172 and $79,741 with the median salary being $54,485. The website also reported that government, government contractors, advocacy and human rights organizations, consultancy and postsecondary schools were common employers of policy analysts.

Community service managers are required to have a bachelor's degree and must be able to assume a leadership role, which involves overseeing staff and managing programs for the community. Social and human service assistants, who need an associate's degree, work directly with individuals who have a specific need. Addiction counselors are not required to have a degree, but those with degrees will have more job opportunities in their field.

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