Why Social Services is One of the Best Second Careers
Whether you’re interested in a fresh start in the job market or you want to work part time after a decades-long career, a social services position is one of the best second careers you can choose. Within the field, there are many careers paths to choose from, from entry–level positions up to higher roles.
Here’s what you need to know:
Why Work in Social Services in the First Place?
There are many popular second career options to choose from. You could get a Master’s in Business Administration and enter the corporate world. You could become a dental assistant, a social media consultant or even join the ranks of financial planners. So why consider a position in social services?
For many, it comes down to the gratifying nature of the work. In the social services space, you get to work directly with youth and families in need and provide them with the support and care they desperately need. Very few jobs can have the powerful, lasting impact that a position in social services can provide.
And, it’s possible to make a huge impact even without working full-time hours. Individuals in the social services fields can help immensely while working just a few hours a week. The inherent flexibility in many social services positions makes it especially appealing as a second career – especially for those that want workplace responsibility without as many hours as a full-time role. If you’re ready to leave the 40-hours-a-week grind but not quite yet ready for retirement, then a social services position can be just the thing.
Consider what these social services employees here at AFS have said:
- “Working at AFS has taught me acceptance, [and has] given me a greater understanding of the needs of others and the value of team work. AFS has given many kids hope and taught them to believe in themselves when they otherwise might have given up. AFS has truly offered me so many valuable experiences that I could not have gotten elsewhere. Management has given me years of support and flexibility. They have congratulated and celebrated my successes and understood my limitations.” — Carrie Philpott, MSW, San Francisco Foster Care Caseworker
- “I wake up every morning excited about going to work. I find AFS to be an outstanding organization with a high level of integrity that starts at the top and trickles down to us. In the Developmental Disabilities Program, I have witnessed much progress in terms of the behavior goals of the children that I work with. I believe that this is due to the amazing dedication that our foster parents have for our children and by hard working, caring and responsible treatment teams. Witnessing the progress that these children continue to make adds joy to my life. I am blessed to work with amazing foster parents and co–workers who truly care.” — Mahtab Nikoo, MSW, Clinical Supervisor, Family Alternatives for Children with Developmental Disabilities
- “The most enjoyable part of my job is making a difference in a child’s life and helping a foster parent with techniques to help a child. Everyone I have worked with is very passionate about their job.” — Anonymous Family Counselor in Sacramento
- “AFS has served thousands of Northern CA foster youth and families since 1978 and the staff is dedicated to helping every single youth have a better life through mental health, foster care and adoption services. I have never worked in an environment where every single employee is working tirelessly towards the common goal of helping clients. It gives me some faith in humanity to see so many people working so hard… The work AFS does to help foster youth become capable, independent adults is very inspiring and anyone who works here knows they have had a positive impact on a young person’s life who otherwise may have had a very bleak future.” — Anonymous Employee
Are Social Services Jobs Expected to Grow?
Yes, this is a high-growth field! According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, an additional 13,700 people found jobs in the Social Assistance sector between December 2018 and March 2019. The unemployment rate in this space is currently less than 3.5%.
This is a very hot space that will likely only continue to grow further in 2019 and beyond. If you’re looking for a second career with good job prospects, then social services positions could be extremely ideal for you.
In March 2019, close to 4 million people were employed in this space across the country. Here’s how it breaks down more specifically by some of the top types of roles in the space throughout 2018 nationwide:
- 97,750 people were employed as child, family and/or school social workers.
- Over 65,000 people were employed as social and community service managers.
- More than 163,000 people were employed as social and human service assistants.
How Much Can I Make in Social Services?
According to the BLS, the average worker in this space makes the equivalent of over $17 an hour. But, it’s important to note that this is just a national average.
Let’s look at California more specifically. In the state as of May 2018, the more than 282,000 people working in community and social service occupations had a median hourly wage of $24.77, with an annual mean wage of $58,120.
But this does vary by role. Here’s a look at the breakdown for a few top positions within the social services field within California:
|Role||Median Hourly Wage||Annual Mean Wage|
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors||$21.74||$50,950|
|Child, Family, and School Social Workers||$26.66||$59,500|
|Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers||$26.92||$61,640|
|Social and Human Service Assistants||$19.22||$43,330|
|Community and Social Service Specialists, All Other||$22.10||$49,830|
These statewide averages also don’t highlight regional nuances. In particular, in competitive regions like the Bay Area and in and around Sacramento, wages are often higher than the statewide averages. After all, California is a big and diverse state!
And, of course, the amount of education, job training and experience someone has will often dictate wages. Someone who has completed multiple certification programs, has a Bachelor’s degree and has decades of experience is more likely to make more than someone who is brand new to the field and just has a high school diploma.
Do Social Services Jobs Provide Health Insurance?
The answer depends on the role and the organization, but the answer here is more often yes. Most full-time social services positions offer full medical coverage.
For example, here at AFS, individuals get full medical, dental, vision and even chiropractic coverage. AFS also offers life insurance, disability insurance, paid time off, a retirement savings plan and flexible spending coverage, among other perks.
What Kind of Accreditation and Training Do You Need?
The degrees, accreditation and training required for even part-time social services roles varies depending on the position. Some roles require more – and more specific experiences – than others. For example, consider the requirements for these two AFS roles:
- For our Mental Health Clinician opening in our Oakland office, qualified applicants must be B.B.S. Registered MFT/ACSW Intern or Licensed, with experience with in-home or community-based services for children and families and working with kids who are on probation or wards of the juvenile court preferred.
- For our Mental Health Rehab Specialist role in our San Francisco office, qualified applicants must have at least an AA degree plus experience, with less experience required for those with higher degrees. They must also be MHRS eligible, have CPR/First Aid certification and have experience working with youth in wraparound or foster care environments, among other qualifications.
Of course, these are just two possible roles. There are many other potential social services jobs to choose from, and each one has its own needs and requirements.
How Can I Get Started?
We’re glad you asked! If you have any questions about a social services job as a second career might look like, feel free to send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 800-300-1022, and someone from our Human Resources Department will follow up to answer any queries you may have. And, to apply for a social services opening at AFS, head to https://www.afs4kids.org/careers/.
Alternative Family Services provides thoughtful, informed foster care, adoption and mental health services throughout Northern California. Since 1978, the mission of AFS has been – and continues to be – to support vulnerable children and families in need of stability, safety and well-being in communities through foster care, adoption and mental health services.