Community and Family Services

Explore some of your job options in the community and family services field, such as social work or counseling. Learn about educational and licensure requirements, degree programs, career prospects and salary info for related professions.

Are Community and Family Services Right for Me?

Career Overview

Community and family services professionals focus on improving the quality of life for families and individuals. They provide members of the community with the tools and resources they need to cope with various challenges. The field encompasses human services, social work, family counseling, rehabilitation, social service case work, mental health, substance abuse counseling, youth services and gerontology counseling. Helping people deal with natural or man-made emergencies is another aspect of community and family services.

You can find work as a social or human services assistant, social worker or counselor. Career prospects exist in state and local government, schools, hospitals, family service organizations, charities, substance abuse facilities and private practice. You can also choose a specialty, such as family counselor, public health social worker or mental health aide. To work in this field, you need to enjoy working with people, possess solid communication skills and make difficult decisions quickly.

Job Duties

Social and human service assistants often help determine which benefits, such as medical or food assistance, a client can receive. In this job, you may also communicate with family members, facilitate group discussions, perform crisis intervention and manage case files.

If you become a counselor, you could help people deal with substance abuse, trauma, unemployment or mental health concerns. If you work as an employment counselor, you would assess each client's education and skills. You would then help clients with developing job search, interview and job location skills. You can find work in education, rehabilitation and family counseling.

Many social workers manage case loads, develop resources and provide counseling services. Some social workers work in policy and advocacy to develop improved services. In this position, you would implement support groups, teach workshops, coordinate resources and perform follow-up monitoring. Social workers provide services in a range of categories, including child and family welfare, mental health, substance abuse and public health.

Salaries and Employment Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that social workers, counselors and social service assistants can expect faster than average or much faster than average job growth from 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov). Social workers could expect job growth of 19%. Mental health counselors should see growth of 29%, while social and human service assistants could experience 22% growth.

Social and human service assistants earned a median annual salary of $28,850 as of May 2012, according to the BLS. Educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors earned a median annual salary of $53,610. Marriage and family therapists earned $46,670, and rehabilitation counselors earned $33,880. Healthcare social workers reported median annual earnings of $49,830; mental and substance abuse social workers reported earnings of $39,980; and child, family, and school social workers earned a median of $41,530.

How Can I Work in Community and Family Services?

Education Requirements

Entry-level positions in the community and family services field have varying education requirements. Social work opportunities require a bachelor's degree, at minimum, and some require an advanced degree in addition to state licensure.

Employers prefer social and human service assistants with a postsecondary education. Many colleges and universities offer human services associate's degree programs. Associate's degree programs typically include courses in information technology, sociology, first aid, counseling theories, marriage and families, cultural sensitivity and psychology. Some opportunities, such as those in counseling, require at least a bachelor's degree.

Entry-level licensed or certified counselor positions require a master's degree. If you want to become a rehabilitation counselor, you can earn a master's degree in that field. Some of the basic requirements for a counseling degree include counseling techniques, mediation skills, verbal communication and collaboration.

Topics of Study

Social workers must have a bachelor's degree. Many colleges and universities offer online and campus-based social work bachelor's degrees. Most candidates pursue a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW). BSW programs usually offer courses in human behavior, cultural understanding, sociology, psychology, applied statistics and research. You would also select an elective, such as family, substance abuse or child welfare, to further focus your studies and complete a practicum, which provides real-world experience.

Licensing

Each state and the District of Columbia enforce some form of regulation of social work practices. For example, if you plan to enter clinical social work, you would need to meet the minimum registration requirements. Licensed or registered social workers are required to have a Master of Social Work (MSW). MSW programs offer coursework in advanced practice and law, policy and research. Counselors are also required to obtain a license in 49 states and the District of Columbia, according to the BLS. Licensing typically requires a master's degree, an exam and work experience.

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