By: Brian Neese
Human services is a broadly defined field that seeks to improve the overall quality of life of service populations through the prevention and remediation of problems. Human services professionals provide support for a diverse population of clients, including children and families, the elderly, immigrants, veterans, the homeless, people with disabilities, people with criminal records, people with addictions and people with mental illnesses.
Those passionate about helping others can explore the following careers in human services.
1. Social Work Assistant
A social work assistant works with licensed social workers to help people cope with problems.
The social work assistant helps assess clients’ needs and create treatment plans. Tasks might include determining eligibility for services like Medicaid and food stamps, assisting families with getting the proper resources to care for their children, finding treatment and recovery programs for people with addictions and locating jobs for people with disabilities. Responsibilities vary depending on the population served; for instance, a social work assistant may help veterans with housing and transferring their skills to civilian jobs.
The median hourly wage for social and human service assistants is $14.32, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Employment is expected to grow 11 percent by 2024.
2. Community Outreach Worker
A community outreach worker acts as a liaison between community members and community programs and services.
The community outreach worker works with a nonprofit or governmental organization to engage and educate the public about its goals. Responsibilities include developing community events, programs, fundraisers and media campaigns. These and other responsibilities help the organization meet its goal of helping the community. The organization and community outreach worker may focus on a specific field, such as health or education, or on a specific segment of the population or ethnic group.
The median pay for community support workers is $31,124, and the median pay for community outreach coordinators is $39,429, according to PayScale.
3. Substance Abuse Counselor
A substance abuse counselor provides support and strategies for people dealing with alcoholism, drug addiction and other substance abuse issues.
The substance abuse counselor evaluates clients’ problem behaviors and develops treatment plans and goals. Other responsibilities include working with clients to develop coping and recovery skills, teaching families about addiction and problem behaviors, reviewing treatment options with clients and their families and conducting outreach programs. A substance abuse counselor may work with specific populations such as veterans or teenagers. Also, a substance abuse counselor may specialize in an area like crisis intervention.
The median annual wage for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors is $39,270, according to the BLS. Employment is expected to grow 22 percent by 2024.
4. Family Services Advocate
A family services advocate provides support for families in crisis or at risk of crisis.
The family services advocate acts as a liaison between a family and a governing system, such as a school or child welfare agency. Responsibilities include providing access to family services, assisting with conflict resolution and providing support for families that are suffering from the results of traumas. A family services advocate may help local and state agencies and systems develop programs, policies and services that support families.
The median pay for family advocates is $33,125, according to PayScale.
5. Child Welfare Specialist
A child welfare specialist provides assessment, case management and support to children and families.
The child welfare specialist acts as the voice and guardian of a child. Responsibilities include determining whether to remove a child from his or her home, placing the child in a suitable environment, supervising the child’s care through home visits and ensuring the child receives medical care and schooling. The child welfare specialist can arrange for long-term care, which might involve interviewing potential foster and adoptive families, planning visitations and being present for court proceedings.
The median pay for child welfare specialists is $35,233, according to PayScale.
Exploring Human Services Careers
Several jobs in human services offer professionals the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others. Work environments include private nonprofit organizations, public corporations and government agencies.
Southeastern University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Human Services to students interested in this career path. The program takes place in a convenient online format and provides graduates with the knowledge and skills needed to work in human services environments.