Social Services

Social workers in general work either in direct services, helping clients to cope with everyday issues and solve problems, or in a clinical capacity, diagnosing and aiding people suffering from emotional or psychological issues. They operate in a variety of community settings, ranging from hospitals and schools to clinics and law enforcement agencies. They are trained to identify and understand their client's problems, help their client understand them, and guide their client through the remedy, whether that includes helping them fill out paperwork to apply for assistance or locating a doctor to treat a mental health issue.

Social services workers operate in broad sectors that provide services to people in need of assistance.

Individual and family services include government programs that supply welfare assistance, rent supplements, and food stamps; agencies that provide adult day care and in-home support; child protection services; adoption services; and crisis centers that provide individual, child, marriage, or family counseling.

Residential care services offer personal and social care for those unable to care for themselves such as homeless people, runaway children, elderly people needing help other than medical care, alcohol and drug abusers, the mentally ill, the developmentally disabled, and others.

Job training and vocational rehabilitation services provide help to the unemployed, disabled, and poorly educated. Services include teaching those who need help new job skills or finding jobs that fit their current skills. Miscellaneous social services includes various groups and organizations that focus on social change and community improvement, such as advocacy groups, health and welfare councils, and antipoverty boards.

The variety of jobs available in this field ranges from psychologists and community planners to policy makers, fund-raisers and grant writers. Many social services workers specialize in one area, such as child and family services, elder care services, or substance abuse services. In addition to community outreach directors, counselors, and therapists, social services include many support professionals such as tutors, trainers, and employee assistance personnel; security guards, live-in residential assistants, custodial crews, and cooks; and other positions.

Many communities prioritize social services, but most social programs rely on government funding to function. Bureaucratic issues, budget cuts, such as those following the 2008 recession, and policy shifts can make it challenging to keep a social service in business. Emerging community needs, however, such as job retraining, or changes in government administrations that lead to changes in welfare structure can improve or reduce employment opportunities for social services workers.

Despite these variables, opportunities for employment in social assistance are projected to be among the fastest growing in the coming decade. Social services are expected to grow and adapt to new client bases, such as minorities seeking protection for their civil rights and immigrants navigating possible future immigration reform.


Career Update Newsletter

Tips and tools to help you manage your ideal career.