Social and human service assistants provide client services, including support for families, in a wide variety of fields, such as psychology, rehabilitation, and social work. They assist other workers, such as social workers, and they help clients find benefits or community services.

Duties

Social and human service assistants typically do the following:

  • Help determine what type of aid their clients need
  • Work with clients and other professionals, such as social workers, to develop a treatment plan
  • Help clients find assistance with daily activities, such as eating and bathing
  • Research services, such as food stamps and Medicaid, that are available to clients
  • Coordinate services provided to clients
  • Help clients complete paperwork to apply for assistance programs
  • Check in with clients to ensure that services are provided appropriately

Social and human service assistants have many job titles, including case work aideclinical social work aidefamily service assistantsocial work assistantaddictions counselor assistant, and human service worker.

Social and human service assistants help clients identify and obtain benefits and services. In addition to initially connecting clients with benefits or services, social and human service assistants may follow up with clients to ensure that they are receiving the intended services and that the services are meeting their needs. They work under the direction of social workers, psychologists, or other community and social service workers.

With children and families, social and human service assistants ensure that the children live in safe homes. They help parents get needed resources for their children, such as food stamps or childcare.

With the elderly, these workers help clients stay in their own homes and live under their own care whenever possible. Social and human service assistants may coordinate meal deliveries or find personal care aides to help with the clients’ day-to-day needs, such as running errands and bathing. In some cases, human service assistants help look for residential care facilities, such as nursing homes.

For people with disabilities, social and human service assistants help find rehabilitation services that aid their clients. They may work with employers to make a job more accessible to people with disabilities. Some workers find personal care services to help clients with daily living activities, such as bathing and making meals.

For people with addictions, human service assistants find rehabilitation centers that meet their clients’ needs. They also may find support groups for people who are dependent on alcohol, drugs, gambling, or other substances or behaviors.

With veterans, assistants help people who have been discharged from the military adjust to civilian life. They help with practical needs, such as locating housing and finding ways to apply skills gained in the military to civilian jobs. They may also help their clients navigate the services available to veterans.

For people with mental illnesses, social and human service assistants help clients find the appropriate resources to help them cope with their illness. They find self-help and support groups to provide their clients with an assistance network. In addition, they may find personal care services or group housing to help those with more severe mental illnesses care for themselves.

With immigrants, workers help clients adjust to living in a new country. They help the clients locate jobs and housing. They may also help them find programs that teach English, or they may find legal assistance to help immigrants get administrative paperwork in order.

With former prison inmates, human service assistants find job training or placement programs to help clients reenter society. Human service assistants help former inmates find housing and connect with programs that help them start a new life for themselves.

With homeless people, assistants help clients meet their basic needs. They find temporary or permanent housing for their clients and locate places, such as soup kitchens, that provide meals. Human service assistants also help homeless people find resources to address other problems they may have, such as joblessness.

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Work Environment

Social and human service assistants held about 413,700 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of social and human service assistants were as follows:

Individual and family services 29%
Nursing and residential care facilities 14
Local government, excluding education and hospitals                  11
Community and vocational rehabilitation services 10
State government, excluding education and hospitals 8

Social and human service assistants work in offices, clinics, hospitals, group homes, and shelters. Some travel around their communities to see clients.

Work Schedules

Most social and human service assistants work full time. Some work nights and weekends.

Education and Training

Requirements for social and human service assistants vary, although they typically have at least a high school diploma and must complete a brief period of on-the-job training.

Some employers require a criminal background check. Social and human service assistants also may need a valid driver’s license.

Education

Although a high school diploma is typically required, some employers prefer to hire workers who have relevant work experience or education beyond high school. A certificate or an associate’s degree in a subject such as human services, gerontology (working with older adults), or social or behavioral science is becoming more common for workers entering this occupation.

Human service degree programs train students to observe and interview patients, carry out treatment plans, and handle people who are undergoing a crisis. Many programs include fieldwork to give students hands-on experience.

The level of education that social and human service assistants have completed often determines the responsibilities they are given. Those with a high school diploma are likely to do lower level work, such as helping clients fill out paperwork. Assistants with some college education may coordinate program activities or manage a group home.

Training

Many social and human service assistants, particularly those without any postsecondary education, undergo a short period of on-the-job training. Because such workers often are dealing with multiple clients from a wide variety of backgrounds, on-the-job training in case management helps prepare them to respond appropriately to the different needs and situations of their clients.

Advancement

For social and human service assistants, additional education is almost always necessary for advancement. In general, advancement to case management or social work jobs requires a bachelor’s or master’s degree in human services, counseling, rehabilitation, social work, or a related field.

Personality and Interests

Social and human service assistants typically have an interest in the Helping and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Helping interest area indicates a focus on assisting, serving, counseling, or teaching other people. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.

If you are not sure whether you have a Helping or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as a social and human service assistant, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Social and human service assistants should also possess the following specific qualities:

Communication skills. Social and human service assistants talk with clients about the challenges in their lives and assist them in getting help. These workers must be able listen to their clients and to communicate their needs to organizations that can help.

Compassion. Social and human service assistants often work with people who are in stressful and difficult situations. To develop strong relationships, they must have compassion and empathy for their clients.

Interpersonal skills. Social and human service assistants must make their clients feel comfortable discussing sensitive issues. Assistants also need to build relationships with other service providers to help themselves learn about all of the resources that are available in their communities.

Organizational skills. Social and human service assistants often must complete lots of paperwork and work with many different clients. They must be organized in order to ensure that the paperwork is filed properly and that clients are getting the help they need.

Problem-solving skills. Assistants help clients find solutions to their problems. They must be able to listen carefully to their clients’ needs and offer multiple solutions.

Time-management skills. Social and human service assistants often work with many clients. They must learn to manage their time effectively to ensure that their clients are getting the attention they need.

Some employers require a criminal background check. In some settings, workers need a valid driver’s license.

Pay

The median annual wage for social and human service assistants was $35,060 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $23,750, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $54,230.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for social and human service assistants in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Local government, excluding education and hospitals                 $41,030
State government, excluding education and hospitals 38,760
Individual and family services 34,450
Community and vocational rehabilitation services 31,370
Nursing and residential care facilities 31,020

Most social and human service assistants work full time. Some work nights and weekends.

Job Outlook

Employment of social and human service assistants is projected to grow 13 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. A growing elderly population and rising demand for social services are expected to drive demand for these workers.

An increase in the number of older adults is expected to result in growing demand for social services such as delivery of meals and adult daycare. Because social and human service assistants often arrange for these services, there will need to be more of them to meet this increased demand.

In addition, growth is expected as more people seek treatment for their addictions and more drug offenders are sent to treatment programs rather than to jail. As a result, demand should increase for social and human service assistants who work in treatment programs or work with people with addictions.

Job Prospects

Job prospects are expected to be good, but should be best for those with a related social or human service postsecondary degree.

For More Information

For more information about social and human service assistants, visit

National Organization for Human Services

 

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The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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