What Are Common Careers in Social Services?

Learn more about three typical social services careers. Find out about the education requirements, job duties, employment prospects, and earning potential for these positions. Schools offering Human Services degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overviews

If you're a hard worker who's passionate about helping those in need and fighting social injustice, then a career in social services could be for you. Some of the most common careers in social services include mental health counselor, family therapist, and social worker. For any of these professions, you'll need a minimum of a bachelor's degree to practice professionally and often a master's degree, as well.

Mental Health CounselorFamily TherapistSocial Worker
Median Salary (2018) $44,630/year or $21.46/hour (for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors)$50,090/year or $24.08/hour (for marriage and family therapists) $49,470/year or $23.79/hour
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 23% 23% (for marriage and family therapists)16%
Required Education Master's degree in counselling, psychology, social work, or a related mental health fieldMaster's degree is requiredMinimum of a bachelor's degree
Key SkillsCompassion, organizational skills, communicationPatience, listening skills, organizational skills, and speaking skillsCompassion, interpersonal skills, time management

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics

Mental Health Counselor

Many people interested in careers in social services find gainful employment as mental health counselors. This type of counselor helps with those afflicted with mental disabilities, emotional disorders, or addictions, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov). Mental health counselors provide emotional counseling for patients and their families. The mental health counselor may also work with organizations who coordinate with the patient's medical doctor and psychiatrist in assisting the patient to find a place to live and work. Counselors may work as part of a team in a hospital, rehabilitation facility, school, or shelter.

Family Therapist

Another common career in social services is family therapist. Family therapists provide counseling for individuals with a turbulent marriage, a family that is grieving after the loss of a loved one, or children and adolescents dealing with emotional disorders. Family therapists need to have a good understanding of psychology and multicultural relations and should be good listeners and communicators, says the College Board. family therapists administer psychological tests, make diagnoses, and provide counseling. If therapists determine that medication is necessary, the may refer the patient to a licensed psychiatrist. Family therapists often have their own private practice but may also work for a social services agency, a rehabilitation facility, a hospital, or a prison.

Social Worker

Social workers assist the terminally ill, patients with emotional problems or addictions, or those who victims of abuse, says the BLS. They differ from counselors or therapists in that they are often involved in the administrative aspects of a patient's case, such as coordinating living arrangements and facilitating entry into rehab programs. A typical day in the life of a social worker might include conducting a therapy session, staging an intervention, and keeping patient records, says the College Board. Social workers are also responsible for providing basic living skills and job training, helping patients enter rehabilitation facilities, and finding employment. Social workers often work for the state, a hospital, or non-profit agencies.

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