Degree programs in social service are available at the undergraduate and graduate levels. As a student, you can learn how to help people in unfortunate circumstances get the help they need to improve their situations. To find out more about the academic requirements for social service professionals, read on.
The field of social and human services is primarily concerned with improving quality of life for adults and children. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) is the minimum educational requirement for obtaining a position as a social worker; however, candidates with master's degrees are becoming more common. An undergraduate major in a related area, such as sociology, psychology or human services, may also qualify you for an entry-level position in the field. If you're not quite ready to commit to a 4-year or graduate program, you might want to consider an associate degree in human services, which may help you prepare for a job as a social and human services assistant. As a qualified graduate from a bachelor's or master's degree program, you may find work in mental health agencies, government organizations or community settings.
As reported by the BLS, the demand for social and human services assistants was expected to increase by 22% nationwide from 2012-2022, which is faster than average. During the same period, social workers can expect a 19% growth in employment. As of May 2013, the median annual salary for social and human services assistants was $29,230, while the median annual salary for child, family and school social workers was $42,120. Social workers who specialized in mental health and substance abuse earned $40,970 (www.bls.gov).
Associate and bachelor's degree programs in social services may include courses in child welfare, family counseling, human resources and organizational behavior. You could also study helper relationships and the psychology of aging while learning how to assess children's needs and serve as a community advocate.
A Master of Social Work (MSW) may allow for a specialization in human services administration, community services or family studies. You might also pursue focused studies in administrative work, child abuse and leadership. Through a graduate social services program, you can study the history of social welfare in the United States, identify how community resources can help those in need and develop policies that can inspire social change.
Doctoral programs in human services are available on campus and online and can lead to supervisory and administrative positions. At this level, you'll conduct independent research for your doctoral dissertation and pursue areas of special interest, such as domestic or substance abuse, community health and safety, management and the prevention of child abuse.
According to the BLS, social service workers should enjoy working with people, have a desire to serve others and demonstrate leadership abilities. Knowledge of psychology can be beneficial; you'll also need good communication, decision-making and conflict resolution skills.
A social services degree can also help you acquire the clinical hours required for licensure. Each state has its own guidelines, but most require at least two years of supervised social work prior to licensure, reported the BLS.