The Human Services Profession
Nature of the Work
"Human services worker" is a generic term for people who hold professional and paraprofessional jobs in such diverse settings as group homes and halfway houses; correctional, mental retardation, and community mental health centers; family, child, and youth service agencies, and programs concerned with alcoholism, drug abuse, family violence, and aging. Depending on the employment setting and the kinds of clients served there, job titles and duties vary a great deal.
The primary purpose of the human service worker is to assist individual and communities to function as effectively as possible in the major domains of living. Social and human service assistants also give emotional support and help clients become involved in community recreation programs and other activities.
A strong desire to help others is an important consideration for a job as a human services worker. Individuals who show patience, understanding, and caring in their dealings with others are highly valued by employers. Other important personal traits include communication skills, a strong sense of responsibility, and the ability to manage time effectively.
Working conditions of social and human service assistants vary. Some work in offices, clinics, and hospitals, while others work in group homes, shelters, sheltered workshops, and day programs. Traveling to see clients is also required for some jobs. Sometimes working with clients can be dangerous even though most agencies do everything they can to ensure their workers' safety. Most assistants work 40 hours a week; some work in the evening and on weekends.
Social and human service assistants held about 339,000 jobs in 2006. Over 60 percent were employed in the health care and social assistance industries. Nearly 3 in 10 were employed by State and local governments, primarily in public welfare agencies and facilities for mentally disabled and developmentally challenged individuals.
Employment of social and human service assistants is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations. Job prospects for social and human service assistants are expected to be excellent, particularly for individuals with appropriate education after high school. Job openings will come from job growth, but also from the need to replace workers, who advance into new positions, retire, or leave the workforce for other reasons. There will be more competition for jobs in urban areas than in rural ones, but qualified applicants should have little difficulty finding employment.
In Washington, the average entry level wage for social and human service assistants is $10.42 per hour ($1,806 per month). Half of all social and human service assistants earn between $11.08 and $16.63 per hour ($1,920 and $2,882 per month).
Nationally, the median wage for social and human service assistants is $2,274 per month ($13.12 per hour). Half of all social and human service assistants earn between $1,821 and $2,882 per month ($10.51 and $16.63 per hour).
Wages vary by the assistant's level of responsibility and training. Those who have experience generally earn more than those who are new to the occupation. In addition, wages vary by employer and area of the country.
Social and human service assistants who work for state and local government agencies usually receive benefits. Typical benefits include health insurance, paid vacation, sick leave, and a retirement plan. Many employers give benefits only to full-time employees. Some employers may not offer benefits.
Note: Wages for Washington State have been adjusted to reflect projections for 2009. National wage figures are based on 2008 data and have not been adjusted.
*Wage and Job Outlook Information for the local area were provided by WOIS/The Career Information System (http://www.wois.org/) Data Retrieved July 2010.
For more information please reference the United States Department of Labor at http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos059.htm
Getting a Job
The Human Services Professional Program is not in a position to provide you with placement in human services jobs. We sometimes receive notification of agency openings, which we post on the bulletin board, but we do not actively recruit jobs for you.
So how do you go about getting a job in the field? We don't know of any hard and fast rules, but here are some pointers:
- Some of our students have chosen clinical practicums in agencies where they wanted to work (or agencies that provide services in the student's chosen specialty) and have been hired after doing an excellent job.
- Some of our students have doggedly volunteered at a place where they'd like to work, have proven themselves, and have eventually been hired.
- Some of our students have been hired because of their skills, their personal presence, and their ability to interview well.
- Some of our students have simply kept in close contact with each other and have acted as each other's best advocates in jobs that open up.
One thing is certain: training does not ensure employability - it only makes it possible. You need to be able to present yourself well, to produce high quality work, and to fulfill all job requirements - and to do it all better than the other applicants!
We have provided you with information on the profession so that you can make an educated decision about joining the Human Services program at TCC. If you are interested in finding out more please click "Next".