If you enjoy helping people and crave a meaningful career, working as a social and community service manager may be a good fit.
Social service and community service workers coordinate, supervise, and administer programs that support the public's well-being, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). They may work with people of all ages with behavioral, emotional, and mental health issues, helping them to improve their lives.
It’s a growing field. The BLS projects that employment of social and community service managers will grow 12% through 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations.
Jessie Budzinski, assistant department chair for the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Purdue Global, shares her thoughts on social and community service work.
Why Is Working in Social Services a Good Career Choice?
The field is diverse and growing. In 2023, U.S. News and World Report ranked social and community service managers No. 12 in Best Business Jobs.
"One of the great things about working in this field is you can explore many different opportunities,” says Budzinski. “You can work at a variety of agencies and serve a variety of populations. A generalist skill set allows our students to transition easily from one type of employment to another.”
The work environments are varied as well, the BLS reports. Social and community service managers can work in such locations as:
- Individual and family services
- Nursing and residential care facilities
- Local government, excluding education and hospitals
- Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations
- Community and vocational rehabilitation services
Budzinski says human service professionals can work with children, teens, adults, and/or the older population. They can also concentrate on administration or advocacy.
"It's not just one-on-one work," Budzinski says. "You can also do some bigger-picture work in social services."
What Do Social and Community Service Professionals Do?
Social and community service professionals have a variety of responsibilities based on title, industry, and the population they serve. The BLS reports typical duties to include:
- Assessing and analyzing data about program effectiveness
- Managing the administration of programs to meet objectives
- Planning and executing outreach activities
- Suggesting and implementing improvements
- Collaborating with community members and other stakeholders
- Putting together proposals for social services funding
In addition to these daily tasks, Budzinski says human service professionals can be change agents.
"If they see an unmet need in their community, they can go create those services,” she says. “They don't realize they can do that when they first enter the [degree] program."
Budzinski has seen students work through the creation of necessary services while in her classes. Inspired by their learning, some students put their newfound skills into action.
"When we talk about services for teenagers, for example, students may realize there are no services for teens in their own communities,” Budzinski says. “We ask them, 'What do they need? What would that look like? How do you go about assessing that need and sharing that with other stakeholders?' We go through every step, which could end in the creation of a new much-needed service.”
>>Read: Helping Others as a Human Services Professional
With a Bachelor of Science in Human Services, you may pursue titles like:
- Community health workers
- Eligibility interviewers, government programs
- Mental health and substance abuse social workers
- Rehabilitation counselors
- Social and community service managers
- Social and human service assistants
For those with a Master of Science in Human Services, available titles include:
- Executive director
- Program director
- Social and community service managers
- Social and human services assistants
Advanced education and experience in the field also prepare social services workers to pursue advanced titles such as executive director or program director.
Who Would Be a Good Fit for Social and Community Services?
Budzinski says most people drawn to the social and community services field are natural helpers. They might be the listener of their family or the one who comes up with solutions to problems.
"People who are helpers by nature can be a natural fit for this field because they already have some basic skills that lead to success," Budzinski says. "These include being empathetic, being a good listener, and wanting to make a difference."
According to the BLS, those who go into the social and community service field should have skills such as:
- Analytical skills: Social and community service managers must analyze programs using data for guidance, strategize how to improve outcomes, and continually introduce new initiatives.
- Communication skills: Since social and community service managers often lead teams, collaborate with others, and talk to people in the community, strong oral and written communication skills are helpful.
- Managerial skills: Social and community service managers must coordinate people on their teams, manage resources, and administer budgets, all of which require organizational skills.
- Problem-solving skills: Social and community service managers must be comfortable facing challenges and finding solutions for staff, agency, and community.
- Time management skills: There's typically a lot to coordinate as a social and community service manager. These professionals must manage their time well as they juggle various tasks.
"The ability to see the bigger picture is important," Budzinski says. "Somebody who's organized, a leader, a good listener, and has good interpersonal skills can succeed in social and community service."
How Does Someone Enter the Social and Community Service Field?
According to the BLS, someone entering the field typically starts with a bachelor's degree, such as Purdue Global's online Bachelor of Science in Human Services.
"A Master of Science in Human Services can make students more marketable, especially for administrative positions," Budzinski adds. "We also encourage our students to earn a Human Services-Board Certified Practitioner credential. This is a way for them to show their commitment to the field."
>>Read: Succeeding and Broadening Your Opportunities in Human Services
Purdue Global also offers several micro-credentials and certificates in human services, including:
If you already have a degree in human services, a micro-credential or certificate can help move you to a specialty or enable you to work with a specific population.
What Does the Future Look Like for Social and Community Services?
As the BLS job outlook projections show, the future for social and community service managers has lots of opportunities, with a much faster growth rate compared to all jobs. Budzinski adds the need for social services is growing as specific populations increase.
"We're seeing challenges related to homelessness, mental health, and substance abuse,” she says. “People are struggling with dementia and other types of health concerns. Let's not leave out the grandparents taking on the primary role of parenting their grandchildren or great-grandchildren. There's a place for our students to provide support and resources to these populations."
Budzinski says some students are interested in partnering with law enforcement to deliver more mental health services. She also sees more opportunities for growth in community advocacy, leadership, cultural humility, restorative justice, and continued work and collaboration with LGBTQIA+ people.
What Are the Challenges of Working in Social Services?
Like most jobs, social services work has some challenges. However, many students find that the field provides intrinsic benefits.
"One of the hardest things in this field is that you can't help everyone," Budzinski says. "You can offer the services, you can share the resources, but not everybody is going to be able to take you up on what's available for a variety of different reasons. And that can be tricky to navigate.”
To avoid burnout, Budzinski advises students to consider working with populations or in areas they don't have personal ties to. For example, many students choose the field because they've had similar challenges, such as being in foster care or having a substance use disorder.
"We try to help them realize that maybe it's not the best match to work with clients experiencing the same thing," Budzinski says. "We talk about setting boundaries from day one. We want to ensure students are taking care of themselves," Budzinski says.
Learn More About Social Services Careers
Social services careers can be enormously fulfilling. If you want to do work that directly affects people and communities, working as a social and community service manager could be for you.
Learn more about the online Human Services Degrees and Certificates at Purdue Global and get started today. Contact Purdue Global for more information.