Some occupations in social assistance have very specific entrance requirements. These include most of the professional and related occupations. Those requiring specific clinical training, such as clinical social workers and clinical psychologists, also require appropriate State licensure or certification. Nevertheless, people with a limited background in social assistance or little education beyond high school can find a job in the industry. Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants; home health aides; and personal and home care aides are some of these occupations. Many establishments provide on-the-job or classroom training, especially for those with limited background or training.
Many employers prefer social and human service assistants with some related work experience or college courses in human services, social work, or one of the social or behavioral sciences. Other employers prefer an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree in human services or social work. A number of employers provide in-service training, such as seminars and workshops.
Entry-level jobs for social workers require a bachelor’s degree in social work or in an undergraduate major such as psychology or sociology. However, most agencies require a master’s degree in social work or a closely related field. Public agencies and private practice clinics that offer clinical or consultative services require an advanced degree in clinical social work; supervisory, administrative, and staff training positions usually require at least a master’s degree.
Volunteering with a student, religious, or charitable organization is a good way for persons to test their interest in social assistance, and may provide an advantage when applying for jobs in this industry.
Advancement paths vary. For example, some personal and home care aides as well as some nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants, and home health aides get additional training and become licensed practical nurses. Formal education-usually a bachelor’s or master’s degree in counseling, human services, rehabilitation, social work, or a related field-almost always is necessary in order for social and human service assistants to advance. Social workers with an advanced degree and the appropriate license can advance to supervisor, program manager, assistant director, or executive director of an agency or department. They also may enter private practice and provide psychotherapeutic counseling and other services on a contract basis.