Social service assistants provide clients with direct and indirect services that help them attain a higher level of everyday functioning in society. They are typically supervised by different professionals, such as those in nursing, psychiatry, psychology, rehabilitative or physical therapy, or social work. Their responsibilities and level of supervision varies greatly from job to job. Some work under close supervision, while others work independently. They determine their clients’ eligibility for government benefits, such as food stamps, Medicaid, or welfare. They arrange for transportation and give their clients emotional support. They keep detailed records of each client’s case and report progress to their supervisors.
Social service assistants perform many different types of duties, depending on their specific job. Some organize group activities or trips. Others run food banks or emergency fuel programs. Others work in halfway houses, group homes, and government-supported housing programs. Those who work in hospitals, rehabilitation programs, and outpatient clinics work closely with professionals such as psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers, helping clients communicate more effectively and live more fully.
Those types of people who tend to succeed in social service assistant jobs generally enjoy helping other people and working hard. They tend to be emotionally stable and responsible. They are passionate about their work and their clients, and they usually have a pleasant and optimistic personality. They also need to be honest, tactful, and discreet.
In 2002, social service assistants earned a median annual salary of $23,370. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $15,420, to the highest 10%, who earned more than $37,550. The following shows the median hourly wages in the industries employing the largest numbers of social service assistants:
- State government: $31,280
- Local government: $26,570
- Individual and family services: $22,210
- Community food and housing services: $21,840
- Residential retardation, mental health, and substance abuse facilities: $20,010
Training and Education
Most employers of social service assistants look for applicants who have education beyond the high school level as well as work experience in the field. A bachelor’s degree is usually not required, and certificates or associate degrees in social work, human services, gerontology, or behavioral science will usually be enough to qualify applicants. A few jobs, such as those involving counseling, rehabilitation, and social work, may require a bachelor’s or a master’s degree. In human serve degree programs, students learn to observe patients and record information, conduct patient interviews, implement treatment plans, employ problem-solving techniques, handle crisis intervention matters, and use proper case management and referral procedures. In order to advance in the occupation, employees are almost always required to have formal education, such as a bachelor’s or master’s degree. You can explore more about training for social service assistant careers by clicking on this link for schools offering human services degrees.
In 2002, social service assistants held about 305,000 jobs.
Between 2002 and 2012, employment of social service assistants is expected to increase faster than the average. In fact, it is one of the most rapidly growing occupations in the country. Jobs in urban areas will be more competitive than in rural areas. However, even in the cities, applicants with the proper qualifications should have little trouble finding employment. Opportunities will be best for those who have related postsecondary education.