Workers in other occupations that require skills similar to those of social
and human service assistants include social workers; counselors; childcare
workers; occupational therapist assistants and aides; physical therapist
assistants and aides; and nursing, psychiatric, and home health aides.
Social and human service assistant is a generic term for people with a wide
array of job titles, including human service worker, case management aide,
social work assistant, community support worker, mental health aide, community
outreach worker, life skill counselor, or gerontology aide. They usually work
under the direction of workers from a variety of fields, such as nursing,
psychiatry, psychology, rehabilitative or physical therapy, or social work. The
amount of responsibility and supervision they are given varies a great deal.
Some have little direct supervision; others work under close direction.
Social and human service assistants provide direct and indirect client services
to ensure that individuals in their care reach their maximum level of
functioning. They assess clients’ needs, establish their eligibility for
benefits and services such as food stamps, Medicaid, or welfare, and help to
obtain them. They also arrange for transportation and escorts, if necessary, and
provide emotional support. Social and human service assistants monitor and keep
case records on clients and report progress to supervisors and case managers.
Social and human service assistants play a variety of roles in a community. They
may organize and lead group activities, assist clients in need of counseling or
crisis intervention, or administer a food bank or emergency fuel program. In
halfway houses, group homes, and government-supported housing programs, they
assist adults who need supervision with personal hygiene and daily living
skills. They review clients’ records, ensure that they take correct doses of
medication, talk with family members, and confer with medical personnel and
other caregivers to gain better insight into clients’ backgrounds and needs.
Social and human service assistants also provide emotional support and help
clients become involved in their own well-being, in community recreation
programs, and in other activities.
In psychiatric hospitals, rehabilitation programs, and outpatient clinics,
social and human service assistants work with professional care providers, such
as psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers, to help clients master
everyday living skills, communicate more effectively, and get along better with
others. They support the client’s participation in a treatment plan, such as
individual or group counseling or occu-pational therapy.
Working conditions of social and human service assistants vary. Some work in
offices, clinics, and hospitals, while others work in group homes, shelters,
sheltered workshops, and day programs. Many work under close supervision, while
others work much of the time on their own, such as those who spend their time in
the field visiting clients. Sometimes visiting clients can be dangerous even
though most agencies do everything they can to ensure their workers’ safety.
Most work a 40-hour week, although some work in the evening and on weekends.
The work, while satisfying, can be emotionally draining. Under-staffing and
relatively low pay may add to the pressure. Turnover is reported to be high,
especially among workers without academic preparation for this field.
Social and human service assistants held about 352,000 jobs in 2004. More
than half worked in the health care and social assistance industries. One in
three were employed by state and local governments, primarily in public welfare
agencies and facilities for mentally disabled and developmentally challenged
While a bachelor’s degree usually is not required for entry into this
occupation, employers increasingly seek individuals with relevant work
experience or education beyond high school. Certificates or associate degrees in
subjects such as social work, human services, gerontology, or one of the social
or behavioral sciences meet most employers’ requirements. Some jobs may require
a bachelor’s or master’s degree in human services or a related field such as
counseling, rehabilitation, or social work.
Human services degree programs have a core curriculum that trains students to
observe patients and record information, conduct patient interviews, implement
treatment plans, employ problem-solving techniques, handle crisis intervention
matters, and use proper case manage-ment and referral procedures. General
education courses in liberal arts, sciences, and the humanities also are part of
the curriculum. Most programs offer the opportunity to take specialized courses
related to addictions, gerontology, child protection, and other areas. Many
degree programs require completion of a supervised internship.
Educational attainment often influences the kind of work employees may be
assigned and the degree of responsibility that may be entrusted to them. For
example, workers with no more than a high school education are likely to receive
extensive on-the-job training to work in direct-care services, while employees
with a college degree might be assigned to do supportive counseling, coordinate
program activities, or manage a group home. Social and human service assistants
with proven leadership ability, either from previous experience or as a
volunteer in the field, often have greater autonomy in their work. Regardless of
the academic or work background of employees, most employers provide some form
of in service training, such as seminars and workshops, to their employees.
There may be additional hiring requirements in group homes. For example,
employers may require employees to have a valid driver’s license or to submit to
a criminal background investigation.
Employers try to select applicants who have a strong desire to help others, have
effective communication skills, a strong sense of responsibility, and the
ability to manage time effectively. Many human services jobs involve direct
contact with people who are vulnerable to exploitation or mistreatment;
therefore, patience, understanding, and a strong desire to help others are
highly valued characteristics.
Formal education almost always is necessary for advancement. In general,
advancement requires a bachelor’s or master’s degree in human services,
counseling, rehabilitation, social work, or a related field. Typically,
advancement brings case management, supervision, and administration roles.
Job opportunities for social and human service assistants are expected to be
excellent, particularly for applicants with appropriate post-secondary
education. The number of social and human service assistants is projected to
grow much faster than the average for all occupations between 2004 and
2014—ranking the occupation among the most rapidly growing. Many additional job
opportunities will arise from the need to replace workers who advance into new
positions, retire, or leave the workforce for other reasons. There will be more
competition for jobs in urban areas than in rural areas, but qualified
applicants should have little difficulty finding employment. Faced with rapid
growth in the demand for social and human services, many employers increasingly
rely on social and human service assistants to undertake greater responsibility
for delivering services to clients.
Opportunities are expected to be good in private social service agencies,
which provide such services as adult day care and meal de-livery programs.
Employment in private agencies will grow as state and local governments continue
to contract out services to the private sector in an effort to cut costs. Demand
for social services will expand with the growing elderly population, who are
more likely to need these services. In addition, more social and human service
assistants will be needed to provide services to pregnant teenagers, the
homeless, the mentally disabled and developmentally challenged, and substance
abusers. Some private agencies have been employing more social and human service
assistants in place of social workers, who are more educated and, thus, more
Job training programs also are expected to require additional social and human
service assistants. As social welfare policies shift focus from benefit-based
programs to work-based initiatives there will be more demand for people to teach
job skills to the people who are new to, or returning to, the workforce.
Residential care establishments should face increased pressures to respond to
the needs of the mentally and physically disabled. Many of these patients have
been deinstitutionalized and lack the knowledge or the ability to care for
themselves. Also, more community-based programs and supportive
independent-living sites are expected to be established to house and assist the
homeless and the mentally and physically disabled. As substance abusers are
increasingly being sent to treatment programs instead of prison, employment of
social and human service assistants in substance abuse treatment programs also
The number of jobs for social and human service assistants in local
governments will grow but not as fast as employment for social and human service
assistants in other industries. Employment in the public sector may fluctuate
with the level of funding provided by state and local governments. Also, some
state and local governments are contracting out selected social services to
private agencies in order to save money.
Median annual earnings of social and human service assistants were $24,270 in
May 2004. The middle 50 percent earned between $19,220 and $30,900. The top 10
percent earned more than $39,620, while the lowest 10 percent earned less than
Median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of social
and human service assistants in May 2004 were: State government, $29,270; Local
government, $28,230; Individual and family services, $23,400; Vocational
rehabilitation services, $21,770; Residential mental retardation, mental health
and substance abuse facilities, $20,410.
Additional Social and human Service Assistant job resources are presented in the paperback
Health Care Job Explosion! 4th edition by Dennis V. Damp for this
occupational group. Resources include Job Ads, Job Hotlines, Job Fairs,
Placement services, Associations, Books, Directories and Internet (Web) Sites.
Your local library may have this book in their reference section or you can
purchase a copy for $19.95 plus shipping with all major credit cards from our
toll free service at 1-800-782-7424 (Orders Only). Also available at all major
bookstores. Also explore jobs at VA hospitals and other
federal government employment options.
American Society on Aging - 833 Market Street, Suite 511, San Francisco,
California 94103; 800/537-9728. (http://www.asaging.org,
email@example.com) Members are nurses, doctors, social workers and anyone
providing services to the aging. Job ads online are open to public.
Gerontological Society of America - 1030 15th Street North West, Suite 250,
Washington, DC 20005; 202/842-1275. (http://www.geron.org,
firstname.lastname@example.org) It has ,
in addition to listing of jobs, provision for uploading your résumé, and being
notified by email if a job with your specifications is posted. The student
section, called the Emerging Scholar and Professional Organization accessed from
the Become a Member tab has information on scholarships. To search their
database for educational programs you fill out a 2 page PDF form and fax or mail
it to them. There is a charge for this service.
The Helping Professions : A Careers Sourcebook - by William R. Burger et al,
Wadsworth Publishing, 1999; ISBN: 0534364756. All about helping professions jobs
by a retired Professor of Social Work. A good resource for those who are trying
to decide on a career path.
CW Social Work and Social Services Jobs Online - George Warren Brown School
of Social Work, (http://gwbweb.wustl.edu/jobs).
A re-source listing jobs in diverse areas of social work. Search by state or
Resume Writing Service - Professionally package your health care resume
for entry level, standard, and executive positions.