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Social and human service assistant salary & career outlook

Social and human service assistants perform the difficult but gratifying work of providing individuals in need with the support and resources necessary to overcome obstacles such as poverty and disability. The first step on the road to becoming an capable social service professional is understanding just what it takes to help those who need it the most.

What do social and human service assistants do?

Social and human service assistants may also be known by such titles as case work aide, family service assistant, social work assistant and human service worker. In some roles they may extend direct assistance to clients, while others focus on providing support to social workers or other social service professionals. While their duties can change from one position or case to the next, there are a few general tasks that most service assistant positions have in common:

  • Supporting social workers, psychologists or other advanced professionals
  • Researching community services available to clients
  • Helping identify clients' needs and matching them with appropriate services
  • Checking in with clients to ensure services are being provided appropriately
  • Assisting clients with daily activities, such as eating and washing up

Ideal social and human service assistants are compassionate by nature and possess excellent time-management, organizational and problem-solving skills. They must also listen effectively and communicate well with a broad range of people, including other caregivers, such as personal care aides or occupational therapists.

Training at social and human service assistant schools

Proper training is imperative whenever client welfare is at stake, and social or human service environments are no exception to the rule. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a high school diploma is the minimum requirement for social and human service assistants, but employers increasingly prefer those with work experience or additional education.

Certificates and associate degrees related to social assistance or human services are often sufficient, though some employers favor candidates with bachelor's or master's degrees in social work or a related field. Positions that require greater levels of education tend also to involve greater levels of responsibility on the job. Students who stay busy with work or family may be able to complete some of their social and human service assistant training online.

Social and human service assistant salary info

The BLS reports that the mean annual salary for social and human service assistants in the U.S. was $31,280 in 2013, with the lowest 10 percent earning up to $19,620 and the top 10 percent earning $46,620 and more for the year. As with most professions, however, earnings can depend on a number of factors.

The industry where social and human service assistants found employment had a significant effect on salary expectations, according to BLS data. Here are some mean annual salary figures for social service aides in the industries that reported high average wages nationwide for the position in 2013:

  • Federal executive branch: $44,270 average annual salary
  • Management, scientific and technical consulting services: $39,920 average annual salary
  • Junior colleges: $38,530 average annual salary
  • Business, professional, labor, political and similar organizations: $37,620 average annual salary

Location can also impact earnings, and regional cost of living has a lot to do with how far each paycheck will go. Here are the 2013 mean annual wages for a few states that ranked highly on an affordability report released by the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center:

  • Indiana: $29,230 average annual salary; ranked 5th in affordability
  • Kansas: $30,430 average annual salary; ranked 6th in affordability
  • Tennessee: $28,750 average annual salary; ranked 2nd in affordability
  • Texas: $32,700 average annual salary; ranked 12th in affordability
  • Iowa: $29,470 average annual salary; ranked 9th in affordability

The metropolitan areas of Lawton, Oklahoma, and Manhattan, Kansas, were hot destinations for human service assistants in 2013, offering annual wages of nearly $34,000 in the fourth- and sixth-most affordable states respectively.

Career outlook for social and human service assistants

According to BLS projections, social and human service assistance positions are poised to experience rapid growth in the next several years. A growing elderly population coupled with a rising demand for health care and social services are expected to drive a 22 percent increase in employment between 2012 and 2022.

If you're considering a career in social and human services, be sure to research at least a few social and home service assistant schools before deciding where to enroll. Finding a school that best suits your goals and learning style can make all the difference.

Sources:

Social and Human Service Assistants, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,
www.bls.gov/ooh/Community-and-Social-Service/Social-and-human-service-assistants.htm

Occupational Employment and Wages: Social and Human Service Assistants, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, May 2013,
http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211093.htm

Cost of Living Data Series: First Quarter 2014, Missouri Economic Research and Information Center,
http://www.missourieconomy.org/indicators/cost_of_living/index.stm