Spotlights

Job Description

Everyone can use a helping hand sometimes. It is the job of Social and Human Service Assistants to provide help to a wide range of citizen populations in times of need. They provide or connect people to services related to mental wellness, substance abuse treatment, job assistance, social welfare benefits, and much more. This work involves determining the best resources for each specific customer and their unique situation, then helping them apply to the best matches. 
 
There’s a great deal of record keeping involved, with workers in this field having access to highly sensitive personal information such as criminal and drug histories. Social and Human Service Assistants are responsible for client progress tracking and use data to generate reports for state and local use. Tracking can include making follow-ups calls or appointments in or outside of the office. Additionally, there are community outreach efforts, such as attending meetings to share information about services an agency offers. Employees in this sector may work under job titles such as family service assistant, case work aide, clinical social work aide, or others. 

Rewarding Aspects of Career
  • Providing direct, often life-changing assistance to persons from all walks of life
  • Making an impact on families and helping to improve outcomes for children
  • Interacting with multiple state and local agencies and learning how they operate
  • Becoming a valued member of the community
2018 Employment
413,700
2028 Projected Employment
466,000
The Inside Scoop
Job Responsibilities

Working Schedule
 
Social and Human Service Assistants typically work 40 hour weeks, Monday through Friday, with occasional night or weekend commitments. Depending on your specific job, there is potential for unexpected or urgent calls requiring work after normal hours. Travel is required from time to time.

Typical Duties
 

  • Working with individuals, families, and organizations in the local community
  • Ensuring child welfare and safety, and enabling parents with resources they need
  • Coordinating daily living assistance services for elderly or disabled customers, such as cooking, meal delivery, bathing, and general errands
  • Helping military veterans transition into civilian routines again; finding suitable housing and employment opportunities, and directing them to veteran services
  • Placing clients with substance abuse needs into support groups or rehab centers
  • Connecting immigrated persons to job and housing resources, English language learning services, or free legal clinics who help prepare documents
  • Aiding clients suffering from mental health issues to access support networks, counseling services, and housing if needed
  • Working with former inmates struggling with daily life after periods of incarceration
  • Helping homeless populations locate essential services offering food and shelter, as well as job training and other resources aimed at reducing homelessness
  • Additional Responsibilities
  • Collaborating with local employers, promoting equal access to job opportunities and accommodations for disabled persons 
  • Potentially operating within in a variety of locations outside of the office, such as residences, medical clinics or hospitals, shelters, and other buildings
Skills Needed on the Job

Soft Skills

  • Ability to “troubleshoot” human problems and find realistic solutions
  • Awareness of sociology issues and trends
  • Basic counseling skills
  • Understanding the rules of mandatory reporting
  • Ability to safeguard sensitive information
  • Commitment to diversity and respect for other ethnicities and cultures 
  • Compassion and empathy, with the ability to be objective 
  • Excellent communication skills, including active listening
  • Good time management; highly organized
  • Above-average interpersonal skills
  • Comfortable operating independently 
  • Patience, resilience, and composure under stress
  • Good writing ability 
  • Perceptiveness; ability to discern when customers may be hiding problems
  • Resourcefulness and leadership
  • Sound judgment and decision-making, sometimes under pressure
  • Strong commitment to providing personal service 
  • Understanding of human psychology 

Technical Skills

  • General familiarity with computers (PC or Apple)
  • Familiarity with databases and query software applications 
  • Excellent email protocol and etiquette
  • Spreadsheet and presentation apps 
  • Use of electronic medical record software
  • Potentially voice recognition software usage
Different Types of Organizations
  • State and local government-managed human services offices    
  • Nonprofit organizations
  • For-profit social service agencies
  • Residential care facilities    
  • Rehabilitation centers
Expectations and Sacrifices

Social and Human Service Assistants may work with several cases each day. Often, any given case can require getting involved with serious or even life-threatening problems a client is coping with. This can take an emotional toll on the worker, who must be able to maintain their composure and objectivity throughout the day as they move from case to case. It is important to give every customer a high degree of attention and focus. This can be challenging at times if the worker finds themselves dwelling on a particular case that troubles them. 
 
Employees in this field are asked to write objective reports and evaluations. This can also be difficult when personal feelings are involved, so it is crucial to be aware of biases. Workers need to keep diligent records and stay organized, which requires methodical work practices. They must stay aware of continuous changes and updates to policies and resources. 
 
At times, they’re expected to venture out of the office and meet customers in homes or other areas. Social and Human Service Assistants collaborate with several other agencies, including law enforcement and legal professionals. Every day they are tasked to clearly articulate important messages, sometimes regarding volatile situations. There are times when public speaking engagements are needed to advertise services. 

Current Trends

The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic altered the daily lives of most Americans. Many faced employment challenges; some were cut off from much-needed services. Others encountered health and substance abuse problems. Statistics revealed an alarming spike in domestic violence and suicide, as well. As states ease back on restrictions, Social and Human Service Assistants may count on influxes of new cases. People who are struggling to re-normalize their lives will need to seek out help, potentially putting a temporary strain on current workers. 
 
Longer-term, the US expects a rise in the number of older citizens as life expectancy increases. Social and human services agencies will need to prepare for extra demand on services. It’s also anticipated that governmental policy shifts will aim to divert substance abusers into treatment options versus sentences of incarceration. This, too, will require added help from the social services sector. 

What kinds of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were young...

Most people who enter these careers have always had a desire to help others. This could come from simply being raised in a family environment where such actions were the norm. It could also come from the opposite — from situations where a person didn’t grow up with that type of love or affection, spurring them to find ways to offer it themselves through service to people in their community.
 
It takes a strong commitment to social change and improvement to work with those in need. Many workers may have been politically active during high school, perhaps running for student offices. They could also have been exposed to social issues during college and may have enjoyed organizing activities and events. Multicultural projects and organizations are often a passion for those in this field. It’s also not uncommon for many Social and Human Service Assistants to have grown up in other countries or to have experienced discrimination or financial hardship in their lifetimes. 

Education and Training Needed
  • A high school diploma (or GED) is the minimum necessary to get started in this field
  • Employers may seek workers with demonstrated experience performing relevant duties
  • Expect duties and pay to be linked to education and experience levels
  • Any volunteer work related to helping others or providing direct care is beneficial
  • Experience assisting older adults is increasingly sought after
  • Bilingual expertise can be a major career asset in many areas
  • On-the-Job Training is offered for those without any college background
  • Internships are available in many areas and look great on a resume
  • Certificate or two-year degree options include courses on counseling, human development and behavior, sociology, psychology, gerontology, and social welfare
  • Advanced positions require a bachelor’s or master’s with a major in human services, counseling, social work, or similar topics
Things to look for in a program
  • Per O-Net Online, 27% of workers hold a bachelor’s degree; 18% hold a master’s
  • Certification and state licensure may be required for some jobs. These involve passing an exam. Certifications include, but are not limited to: 
    • Certified Advanced Children, Youth & Family Social Worker (C-ACYFSW)
    • Certified Clinical Alcohol, Tobacco & Other Drugs Social Worker (C-CATODSW)
    • Certified Social Work Case Manager (C-SWCM)
    • Clinical Social Worker in Gerontology (CSW-G)
    • Diplomate in Clinical Social Work (DCSW)
    • Licensed Bachelor of Social Work (LBSW)    
    • Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
    • Military Service Members, Veterans & Their Families – Social Worker (MVF-SW)
    • Qualified Clinical Social Worker (QCSW)
  • Review accredited online programs if you don’t live near a campus
  • Consider the cost of tuition, discounts, and local scholarship opportunities (in addition to federal aid such as FAFSA or Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act benefits)
  • Think about your schedule and flexibility, when deciding whether to enroll in an on-campus, online, or hybrid program
  • Study in specialization areas such as rehabilitation, gerontology, or child welfare
Things to do in High School and College
  • Visit local social services agencies and request opportunities to volunteer or intern
  • If you have friends or relatives who require direct living assistance, help them so you can also gain hands-on experience
  • Take elective classes such in high school, related to sociology, psychology, foreign languages, writing, public speaking, or other skill-building topics
  • Think carefully about what niche area you might want to specialize in, and plan your long term goals with that in mind
  • Look for apprenticeships that offer paid experiences
  • Read magazines such as Social Work Today and watch videos on YouTube related to what social workers do and what impact they have on the lives of others
  • Apply to community college programs that accept high school students
  • Get involved! Work with local shelters, food banks, at-risk youth programs, or cultural programs and organizations to learn more about issues people are facing 
Typical Roadmap
Social and Human Services Assistant Roadmap
How to land your 1st job
  • Keep goods records of your informal experiences, with notes of all duties performed
  • List all formal training, including any classes taken in high school, vocational/trade schools, community colleges, or universities
  • Be specific and target jobs that you’re qualified for. Social and Human Service Assistants roles can vary a lot, so craft your resume for the exact job you’re trying to get
  • Put yourself in the hiring manager’s shoes and objectively identify any weak areas 
  • Ask or hire someone with resume writing experience to assist with your application
  • Leverage the power of your personal network to gain insights into job openings and volunteer opportunities
  • Request prior supervisors or teachers to write recommendations or serve as references
  • Use mock interviews to practice and polish your answers
  • Learn how to dress for an interview 
  • Look for jobs posted on employment portals such as Indeed or Monster
  • Call specific agencies you are enthusiastic to work for, and ask for any tips they can offer 
How to Climb the Ladder
  • Demonstrate compassion and efficiency in your duties with clients 
  • Be on time for work, and go the extra mile when the situation calls for it
  • Keep a positive, goal-oriented outlook even during tough times
  • Offer solutions instead of excuses
  • Stay professional and courteous, even when customers are venting frustrations
  • Start working on advanced education and training as soon as you can
  • Keep a sharp eye on trends, and work towards in-demand certifications
  • Become a policy expert by reading and keeping up with changes
  • Step up to the plate and demonstrate your desire to lead 
  • Be a role model employee. Offer to mentor new workers and organize activities
  • Join professional organizations for social workers
  • Get published! Write peer-reviewed magazine articles  or op-eds for online media
  • Volunteer to do as many community engagement events as you can
Recommended Resources
  • Websites
    • American Clinical Social Work Association
    • American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children
    • International Federation of Social Workers
    • National Association of Black Social Workers
    • National Association of Social Workers
    • National Organization for Human Services
    • National Rural Social Work Caucus
    • School Social Work Association of America
    • Society for Social Work and Research
    • Society for Social Work Leadership in Health Care
  • Books
    • Becoming a Helper, 6th Edition, by Marianne Schneider Corey and Gerald Corey 
    • Social Problems and Social Movements, by James DeFronzo and Jungyun Gill 
    • Homeless Narratives & Pretreatment Pathways: From Words to Housing, by Jay Levy
Plan B

The Bureau of Labor Statics lists several similar occupations to explore:

  • Childcare Workers
  • Health Educators and Community Health Workers
  • Home Health Aides and Personal Care Aides
  • Marriage and Family Therapists
  • Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists
  • Rehabilitation Counselors
  • Social and Community Service Managers
  • Social Workers
  • Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

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Source: Interviews, Bureau of Labor Statistics

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