Professionals in community service careers are the cornerstone of any town, community, or city, working in schools, medical facilities, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and more. All around the nation, counselors, social workers, and human service assistants help a variety of people navigate their careers, excel in academia, overcome addiction issues, and resolve family conflict. Although the job titles and people they assist may vary, a common goal unites those in community service careers: to help people improve their lives.
Another thing community service careers have in common is that most of them require an education in community service, psychology, or related field. For instance, a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology is a suitable first step to enter the field of community service.
Current and prospective students interested in community service careers may benefit from learning more about the importance of these roles, along with exploring some examples of career avenues they can take once they’ve earned a degree.
Why Are Careers in Community Service Important?
Every community has challenges — high unemployment rates, homelessness, low high school graduation rates, addiction, domestic violence, and so forth. No community is exempt from these problems, which is why community service workers serve as such valuable resources. These empathetic professionals work one on one with individuals and families to help them overcome obstacles using a variety of proven methods.
Community service careers are wide and varied. Typically, a community service role entails working with a specific demographic or addressing a specific challenge the community is facing. The reasons these professionals are important and generally have a positive job outlook in the coming years include:
- There is a continued demand for counselors who specialize in working with clients who have substance abuse issues, behavioral issues, or mental health challenges.
- Drug offenders may seek counseling in lieu of jail time or for a reduction in their sentence. Counseling, which data suggests reduces recidivism rates, is a requirement for some offenders.
- A rising number of students across all grade levels, as well as other individuals, require counseling.
- A growing number of seniors require assistance services.
Examples of Community Service Careers
Aspiring community service professionals can pursue many career paths in the field with the right education and training.
Substance Abuse Counselor
Drug and alcohol addiction remains one of the nation’s largest problems, as drug overdose deaths have tripled since 1990, according to Addiction Center. Nearly 21 million Americans have at least one addiction, yet only about 10% of them get the treatment they need. Alcohol and drug addiction also hurts the economy, costing approximately $600 billion annually.
Substance abuse counselors meet with those who are attempting to overcome their addiction issues and introduce them to methodologies and programs that influence positive change. Some examples include 12-step programs, support groups, and coping mechanisms that subdue addiction triggers.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors was $47,660 in 2020. The BLS projects the employment of these professionals to increase by 25% between 2019 and 2029, much faster than the average growth for all occupations (4%).
Some states require substance abuse counselors to hold only a high school diploma and certification from the National Board for Certified Counselors, but most states require at least a bachelor’s degree in sociology, psychology, mental health counseling, or similar field. Other states require a master’s degree. Aspiring substance abuse counselors may also need supervised clinical experience depending on the state.
Social worker is one of the most popular community service careers. These individuals work in a variety of settings, such as schools, human services agencies, hospitals, private practices, and mental health clinics. Their core job duty is to help people cope with problems and personal challenges. Considering how diverse the U.S. population is, these problems may be anything from handling a divorce or terminal illness to finding child care resources. Social workers are an invaluable resource to a community, helping those who aren’t able to help themselves.
According to the BLS, the median annual salary for social workers was $51,760 in 2020. The BLS projects the employment of these professionals to increase by 13% between 2019 and 2029 — more than triple the average growth rate of all occupations.
Entry-level social workers need to have at least a bachelor’s degree; however, becoming a clinical social worker requires a master’s degree, along with supervised clinical hours and state licensure.
Child Welfare Social Worker
Child welfare social workers operate as advocates and protectors of children who are in abusive, neglectful, or otherwise harmful situations. This role is arguably one of the most challenging community service careers because it means getting directly involved in a difficult family dynamic. When a parent demonstrates a pattern of abuse on an emotional, physical, or psychological level, a child welfare social worker intervenes to protect the child. This process can result in removing the child from their home situation while an investigation is underway.
Child welfare social workers typically work for agencies associated with the government, such as departments of child and family services and departments of family and protective services. They also work in foster care, child advocacy agencies, and adoption agencies.
According to the BLS, the median annual salary for child, family, and school social workers was approximately $48,430 as of 2020. A bachelor’s degree in social work (or related field) is the minimum level of education required to become a child welfare social worker, and some positions require a master’s degree.
School counselors work in high schools, private schools, and universities. They are a resource that children and young adults have at their disposal for conflict resolution, counseling, and personal guidance. Feelings of being overworked, uncertainty about their future (college, career, etc.), social pressures, and even problems at home can inhibit a student’s ability to learn and compromise their overall performance. Additionally, some students face challenges that are completely out of their control, such as developmental disabilities or conditions such as ADHD. Whatever the case may be, school counselors help these students overcome their challenges using proven methods. They also work with teachers and parents to ensure that all parties involved are aware of a particular student’s situation and how it’s being addressed.
A master’s degree in counseling or psychology is the typical minimum level of education required to begin a career as a school counselor. Depending on location and employer, school counselors also need a state-issued credential (endorsement, licensure, or certification). Additionally, many schools prefer to hire school counselors with teaching experience.
According to the BLS, school counselors and advisors earned a median annual salary of $58,120 in 2020. The BLS projects the employment of these professionals to grow 8% between 2019 and 2029 — twice as fast as the average for all occupations.
In the world of community service careers, the role of a career counselor is most valuable in helping jobseekers find employment. They work with a wide range of individuals, including those who are just entering the workforce, considering a career change, and reentering the workforce after a layoff or extended time away.
Career counselors administer aptitude tests and do a deep dive into a jobseeker’s employment background. They also work with jobseekers on tasks such as creating professional resumes, preparing for interviews, and growing their professional networks. Finally, career counselors have an inside track on where to look for employment opportunities.
Graduates with a bachelor’s degree in counseling or a related field can attain entry-level jobs in career counseling; however, many employers prefer candidates for career counselor positions to have a master’s degree. A certification or state licensure may also be an application requirement, depending on the employer and region.
The BLS reports that career counselors made a median annual salary of $58,120 in 2020. It also expects the employment of these professionals to grow by 8% between 2019 and 2029.
Social and Human Service Assistant
Social and human service assistants generally work one on one with clients, helping them with daily tasks and activities; researching services and programs such as Medicaid, Medicare, and food stamps; filling out paperwork or preparing documents; and coordinating services with other professionals such as social workers or therapists.
They also work with the children and families of clients to ensure that they are aware of how their loved ones are being cared for, what their immediate and long-term needs are, and which care options their families may want to consider, such as nursing homes or residential care treatment. Although social and human service assistants are perhaps best known for working with the elderly, they also work with children, people with disabilities, veterans, and people with addictions.
Aspiring social and human service assistants must have at least a high school diploma; however, some employers prefer candidates for this role to have an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree in sociology or a related field.
According to the BLS, social and human service assistants earned a median annual salary of $35,960 in 2020. The BLS projects the employment of these professionals to grow by 17% between 2019 and 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations.
Take the First Step Toward Serving Your Community
Several avenues can lead to community service careers. Not only are these careers personally rewarding and helpful in your community, but they have a positive job outlook for the foreseeable future.
The first step to making a difference in this way is by getting an education. Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Arts in Sociology can help you realize your career aspirations through courses such as Social Analysis and Thought, Social Issues in a Changing World, and Social Class in Society.
Learn more about Maryville University’s degree program today so that you can start making a positive impact in your community.