Working in a variety of settings, community and social service specialists plan and coordinate activities for social service and community outreach programs. They may be employed by government agencies, healthcare facilities, adult day care homes or social services providers. Preparing for a career as a community and social service specialist can begin by enrolling in a Bachelor’s degree program in Applied Psychology.
According to national data published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2011, employment in the social assistance industry, including community and social service specialist jobs, is projected to grow rapidly through 2018. A growing job rate may not guarantee employment in the industry. Prospective students are encouraged to conduct independent research regarding actual job growth rates, which vary according to location, education, experience, local trends and requirements.
Typically working under the supervision of a program director, director of social services, social worker, or similar title, community and social services specialists help facilitate the delivery of services and support to individuals and clients.
Specific community and social service specialist job duties will vary according to employer. Responsibilities may range from assisting adults and children with developmental disabilities, to providing physical and psychosocial care to individuals in specialized day care settings. Additional duties may include interviewing clients and gathering information to determine eligibility for social assistance under public social services programs, or running errands for senior citizens.
Many individual and family services programs depend on skilled community and social service specialists to help children, the elderly or those with mental or physical disabilities become more self-sufficient. In this capacity, they may organize youth activities such as field trips, tutoring, and mentoring, and drug prevention programs. These professionals may also help clients locate safe housing, healthcare providers, and obtain specialized assistance need to live a full and productive life.
Additional jobs duties performed by community and social service specialists may include providing social service program information to clients, explaining programs and eligibility requirements, scheduling and administering health screenings or public workshops, and making referrals for additional services.
Community and social service specialists may be required to work flexible schedules, including evenings and weekends. They often work 40-hour weeks, but may work part-time. Traveling to client homes, hospitals and other locations is typical.
According to a 2008 national survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor, the median hourly wage for community and social service specialists was $18.11. Because earnings may vary depending on location, education and experience, prospective students are encouraged to conduct independent research to determine actual earning potential.
Education and training requirements for community and social service specialists vary, based on the setting and specific position. Certain entry-level positions may not require education beyond a high school diploma, but most employers seek individuals with at least a bachelor’s degree, along with coursework in social or behavioral science. Some may require work experience, which can be obtained through summer employment or internships while pursuing a degree in applied psychology.
A first step on the path to a community and social service specialist career may be earning a Bachelor’s degree in Applied Psychology with a concentration in Child Advocacy. Coursework typically includes lifespan development and psychology, learning and motivation, introduction to psychology, and research methods in applied psychology.
Employers can be confident that individuals who have earned a Bachelor’s degree in Applied Psychology with a concentration in Child Advocacy are able to:
Some employers offer opportunities for continuing education. It may be possible to gain an entry-level position with a bachelor’s degree and use a tuition assistance program to pay for a master’s degree.
Breaking into the community and social service specialist field takes a combination of knowledge, personal strengths and practical skills. If you have patience, good listening and communication skills, and are a creative problem solver, you have a good foundation for pursuing this field. Enrolling in a Bachelor’s degree in Applied Psychology with a concentration in Child Advocacy can provide the additional skills and knowledge needed to prepare for a community and social service specialist career.