Community And Social Service

Have you ever wanted to truly make a difference in your community? You can—through an array of opportunities that provide counsel, coordinate services, and supervise behavioral changes in a variety of settings. Career counselors, health educators, social workers, and others work to promote positive changes in communities and individuals.

“Counselors” make up the majority of careers in this category, and as a profession they are dedicated to helping others. For example, there are several different kinds of counseling services available, any of which a counselor-in-training can choose for a specialty. Marriage troubles, addiction, mental health problems, and college and career possibilities are all common services that can be greatly beneficial. Everyone goes through hard times, but they don’t have to do it alone. Health educators also play a large role because they can be of use in so many places—schools and hospitals among them. They help people to understand their own health issues, educate them on basic human biology and necessities, and show them how to make better choices for a healthier lifestyle. 

Duties may include:

  • Providing counseling to people dealing with difficult issues like addiction, marriage and family problems, or mental health disorders.
  • Evaluating an individual to decide what kind of assistance or program he or she would most benefit from
  • Closely monitoring the person over the course of treatment to determine if he or she is making progress in a positive direction, and altering the counseling or treatment if it is not effective
  • Collaborating and coordinating services with other community and social service professionals to make sure they can provide all possible assistance
  • Coaching and counseling people about educational and career opportunities, and providing information, guidance, and direction as people make significant life choices
  • Teaching people learning and coping skills that they can use to deal with difficult situations and help them to make better decisions in the future
  • Advocate for the funding and availability of community services that can benefit people with many different kinds of counseling and service needs 
  • They have real power to improve and change someone's life-how many professionals can say that about what they do?

BECOMING A COMMUNITY AND SOCIAL SERVICE PROFESSIONAL

Education, training, and supervised experience contribute to success in this career category. While the level of education and degree varies, the detailed knowledge, understanding, and responsibility required for these jobs takes real commitment. This is not to say that these careers are not accessible! But, because the work itself deals with people's personal issues and growth, professionals need to take it seriously.

Formal education generally requires a bachelor's degree at minimum, but there are positions that accept less with the addition of state certification or licensing. The qualifications for these change by state, but often demand a bachelor's or master's degrees and a set number of clinical hours that are monitored or observed. Clinical social workers must do all of this and pass an exam, as well, before receiving a license to practice. In other words, for most counseling positions, future counselors must complete thousands of hours of supervised counseling or related participation. This may be done through the master's program itself, through internship work, or other opportunities (depending on the specific requirements, of course). Probation officers go through state or federal sponsored training before being approved, and may have additional employment restrictions, such as age and personal background.

To advance in many of these careers, workers need higher levels of education, such as a graduate degree, even though they may find entry-level work in their field with less. On-the-job training is even more important for the positions that do not require years of formal education.

IMPORTANT QUALITIES

  • Compassion This is a crucial quality for a community and social service professional. People who are in need of these counseling and coaching services are experiencing significant stress and distress. For the professional to truly help people in this position, he or she must work to understand and sympathize with their situations.
  • Interpersonal skills. Professionals must interact with a variety of people, including clients, their families, and other social service workers, and nurture strong relationships between them. Compassion can play a large part with clients, who will come from many different backgrounds and have many different problems. Each person needs to be treated and respected as an individual, and that takes skill.
  • Listening skills. In order to understand what the client needs and how they can be helped, professionals must listen closely and accurately to his or her problems and explanations. Respecting what their clients express, and how difficult it is for them to do so, is crucial to understanding-and ultimately helping-them.
  • Organizational skills. Workers must juggle many different clients and their files. Keeping details and essential information strictly organized is imperative to case management.
  • Patience. People in crisis often have strong emotions and opinions. Counselors and other professionals need to exercise patience when dealing with them, their families, and other service programs, which can all prove to be difficult or frustrating.
  • Speaking skills. Effective communication between clients and professionals is critical, and depends largely on the ability of the worker to clearly convey ideas, advice, and encouragement to different kinds of people.

JOB OUTLOOK

Jobs in this category are growing and should continue to grow faster than the average for all occupations. This is due, in part, to changing policies with health insurances and community services. Because much of this depends on state and federal funding, it is difficult to accurately project the changes in this industry. As a large part of the population enters old age, and as imprisonment policies consider addiction as a mitigating factor to harsh sentences, professionals who support these populations should expect more opportunities. 

  Occupation Description Entry-Level Education 2012 Median Pay
Health educators and community health workers Health educators and community health workers

Health educators teach people about behaviors that promote wellness. They develop and implement strategies to improve the health of individuals and communities. Community health workers collect data and discuss health concerns with members of specific populations or communities. '

Bachelor's degree $41,830
Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists help people manage and overcome mental and emotional disorders and problems with their family and relationships. They listen to clients and ask questions, to help the clients understand their problems and develop strategies to improve their lives.'

Master's degree $41,500
Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists work with and monitor offenders to prevent them from committing new crimes.'

Bachelor's degree $48,190
Rehabilitation counselors Rehabilitation counselors

Rehabilitation counselors help people with emotional and physical disabilities live independently. They work with clients to overcome or manage the personal, social, and professional effects of disabilities on employment or independent living.'

Master's degree $33,880
School and career counselors School and career counselors

School counselors help students develop social skills and succeed in school. Career counselors assist people with the process of making career decisions, by helping them choose a career or educational program.'

Master's degree $53,610
Social and human service assistants Social and human service assistants

Social and human service assistants help people get through difficult times or get additional support. They assist other workers, such as social workers, and they help clients find benefits or community services.'

High school diploma or equivalent $28,850
Social workers Social workers

There are two main types of social workers: direct-service social workers, who help people solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives, and clinical social workers, who diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional issues.'

Bachelor's or Master's degree $44,200
Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors

Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors advise people who suffer from alcoholism, drug addiction, eating disorders, or other behavioral problems. They provide treatment and support to help the client recover from addiction or modify problem behaviors.'

High school diploma or equivalent $38,520
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Ref: bls.gov
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