How to Get a Job in Social Services

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Social services can do more than deliver essential services to individuals and their families. They can give peace of mind to those worried about basic needs and advocate for those unable to speak for themselves. For individuals who want to make a difference in their communities, pursuing a career in social services can be a rewarding professional journey — one that begins with learning how to get a job in social services.

A rehab counselor works with clients.

What Is Social Services, and Why Is It Important?

Social services entail various means of giving aid directly to people in need. These services can be distributed at the federal, state, or local government level or provided through various nonprofit organizations. Regardless of origin, social services often aim to meet immediate needs and be a force of advocacy, bringing attention to conditions that negatively impact a community’s welfare. They can also collaborate with other entities to connect individuals and families to essential, life-improving services.

The professions that fall under the umbrella of social services can focus their energies on a specific type of societal problem, such as child welfare, homelessness, or domestic abuse. While these programs all strive to help people, their approach is not universal. For example, providing advocacy and services to a neglected child requires a different methodology from helping a homeless veteran connect to a shelter.

Social services as a whole strive to ensure the basic needs of people are met, regardless of who they are, where they come from, or their socioeconomic status. This makes social services not only a crucial field but also a fulfilling one.

Pursuing a Career in Social Services

While the desire to help people in vulnerable situations may be a driving force behind interest in social work, to do so professionally requires specific knowledge and skills.

Educational Requirements and Skills

A bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement for non-clinical social services professions. A degree such as Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Arts in Sociology can help students increase their knowledge of key social services concepts, including identifying community vulnerabilities and developing social services strategies. The curriculum’s focus on the evolution of social issues, social class systems, and juvenile delinquency can help students identify and develop the skills typically considered fundamental for success in a social services role, such as strong interpersonal, communication, and critical-thinking competencies.

Some undergraduate programs also offer concentrations or tracks of study that can enable individuals to focus on a specific element of sociology. For example, Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Arts in Sociology program offers students the opportunity to study four distinct tracks. The general track enables students to gain a thorough understanding of sociology across numerous disciplines. The social justice track enables students to concentrate their study on various social issues and concerns regarding mental illness, ultimately determining community-driven solutions to these respective challenges. A third track, criminology, focuses on criminal justice, addressing how crime and incarceration affect a given community. Finally, the social work track prepares students to become resource-focused advocates for people who may struggle to have their voices and concerns heard.

These concentrations are designed to offer students knowledge and skills specifically attuned to each aspect of social service. An individual pursuing the social work track, for instance, may develop a more robust understanding of the socioeconomic factors that could drive specific behaviors across various demographics. This deeper knowledgebase can allow students to potentially develop into social services leaders capable of creating and developing effective strategies that can make a profound difference in a community.

Clinically based social services roles require a master’s degree. In these cases, the Maryville bachelor’s in sociology can lay the foundation for completing a graduate program. Additionally, most states require those in social services roles to be licensed to practice, although licensing requirements vary from state to state.

Careers in Social Services

Earning a degree and licensing can prepare individuals to pursue a variety of career opportunities. The following professions may focus on a specific aspect of social services but are bound by the goal of providing advocacy and aid to vulnerable groups.

  • Child Protective Services Worker: These workers protect the well-being and safety of children in homes where neglect or abuse may be taking place. In some cases, they may be forced to remove children from unsafe homes and put them in foster care. According to PayScale’s October 2019 data, the median annual salary for child protective services workers is roughly $53,800.
  • Case Manager: Case managers work with various agencies and institutions to coordinate care for individuals or families. They conduct client interviews to determine which services are necessary. As of October 2019, PayScale lists the median annual salary for the profession at about $38,500.
  • Social Services Director: Social services directors oversee the various functions associated with an organization’s social services strategies. They may also serve as the public face of the organization by speaking at community events or educational seminars. The median annual salary for the position, per October 2019 PayScale data, is around $54,200.
  • Rehabilitation Counselor: Rehabilitation counselors provide aid to individuals with physical or mental disabilities to improve their quality of life and capacity for independent living. They may work to provide aid to a specialized group, such as military veterans or the elderly. As of October 2019, PayScale lists the median annual salary for the position at approximately $44,500.

Learn More About a Career in Social Services

A career devoted to helping the vulnerable can be rewarding, and the right program can offer its students the building blocks to succeed. Learn how Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and its four concentrations can put you on the path to fulfilling work that makes a difference in people’s lives.

Recommended Reading

Job Opportunities for Graduates with a Sociology Degree

A Caregiver’s Guide to Understanding, Recognizing, and Preventing Elder Abuse

A Guide to Children’s Mental Health


Association of Social Work Boards, About Licensing and Regulation

Child Welfare Information Gateway, Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect

Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification, Rehabilitation Counseling Scope of Practice

Encyclopedia Britannica, “Social Service”

Houston Chronicle, “The Difference Between a Social Worker and a Case Manager”

Maryville University, Online Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology

NASW Center for Workforce Studies, “Social Workers in Social Services Agencies”

PayScale, Average Case Manager, Social Services Salary

PayScale, Average Child Protective Services Worker Salary

PayScale, Average Rehabilitation Counselor Salary

PayScale, Average Social Services Director Salary

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Social Workers