Social services exist to improve human well-being and meet the basic needs of all people, especially those who are oppressed and living in poverty. Having a leader coordinating the community programs and advocating for the public’s needs is crucial. That’s precisely where social services managers come into the picture. Social services managers are administrators who direct and lead staff who provide services to meet the needs of a target audience. Their work may focus on helping the homeless, aging, mentally ill, disabled, or other people facing social challenges. Social services managers play a pivotal role in directly implementing community initiatives that will positively affect the health of hundreds to thousands. It’s their job to pioneer efforts that address their community’s physical, social, emotional, and spiritual needs.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 116,670 social services managers currently employed in the United States earn an average yearly salary of $67,730, or $32.56 per hour. Social services managers who work in individual and family services bring home slightly less at $62,630, but the highest paid are employed by the federal government with an average salary at $96,730 annually.
When just being promoted to social services manager, you’ll likely land in the bottom 10th percentile of earnings with a yearly income around $38,260. While this may seem low, it’s important to note that senior social services managers with years of experience can eventually break the six-figure mark to make over $104,540 each year.
Social services managers have the primary responsibility of planning, directing, and supervising the activities of community organizations. Most will direct an interdisciplinary team of counselors, social workers, probation officers, therapists, and community health workers to carry out effective social service programs. On a typical day, social services managers can be found identify in-need services, designing outreach initiatives, gathering data on community impact, analyzing program effectiveness, implementing needed improvements, managing the budget, writing grant proposals for funding, and meeting with potential donors. Social services managers working for larger organizations often report to elected government officials, executives, or stakeholders.
Being a social services manager will require that you have excellent communication skills for speaking with community members and employees. Leadership skills are a must since social services managers set the overall direction and motivation for their outreach programs. Good managerial abilities are important for administering a budget and writing proposals. Whenever agency-related issues occur, social services managers must have the quick thinking and problem-solving skills to effectively address them. Analytical skills are essential to evaluate data and provide strategic guidance for their programs. Social services managers should also have the organizational skills to multi-task and handle various duties in short timeframes.
Degree and Education Requirements
Before you can jump into the role of social services manager, you’ll need to obtain a college education with at least a four-year bachelor’s degree. Most social services managers select an accredited undergraduate major in social work, public administration, healthcare administration, public health, or urban planning. Taking elective coursework in statistics, business leadership, public policy analysis, grant writing, and communication is advised. Many employers prefer a master’s degree for advancing into social service program management though. Attending graduate school for a Master of Health Administration (MHA), Master of Business Administration (MBA), Master of Social Work (MSW), or Master of Public Health (MPH) could be smart depending on your niche.
Pros and Cons of this Position
Like any other career, being a social services manager will come with a fair share of advantages and drawbacks that you must weigh. On the positive side, social services managers are rewarded with a good salary that often rises well-above other social work jobs. Intrinsically, managers benefit from organizing services that truly help people cope with mental, emotional, or social problems. Social services managers often work in a pleasant office setting, but still interact with community members frequently. Job prospects are considerable favorable for new social services managers to get their foot in the door. On the other hand, social services managers need to invest significantly in their education and certification. Working a normal 40-hour workweek may be impossible whenever deadlines are looming. Leading social services programs can be emotionally and physically demanding since managers must help the vulnerable on a tight budget.
While earning your education, take every opportunity to build your practical skills with internships, field practicum, administrative residencies, and service learning. Volunteering your free time with a noble community outreach organization will show your passion for helping others. Professional doors will organically open for aspiring social services managers committed to being social advocates. Getting entry-level work experience as a social worker, case manager, counselor, or health educator may be necessary to facilitate promotion. Most social services management jobs require at least two to three years of experience. If mandated, follow the licensing requirements for social work employees in your state. Joining organizations like the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) can help with networking. You may also want to pursue professional credentialing, such as Certified Advanced Social Work Case Manager (C-ASWCM).
Today’s large aging baby boomer population is expected to keep demand for social services managers high for the foreseeable future. Elderly people often depend on social services, such as adult day rehab, home healthcare, and meal delivery, to meet their daily living needs. As more people seek treatment for substance abuse, it’s likely that there will be another big need for social services programs devoted to addiction. The BLS predicts that the employment of social services managers will spike by 21 percent through 2022, thus creating around 27,700 new job openings. Keep in mind that employment gains could be limited in government agencies due to funding decreases. The best job prospects are likely in clinics, hospitals, nursing care facilities, vocational rehabilitation services, individual and family services, homeless shelters, addiction treatment centers, and religious organizations.
Overall, social services managers keep their community outreach initiatives running with a high level of professionalism to ensure program goals and the target group’s needs are met. According to the U.S. News and World Report, social services managers have a very low unemployment rate of 2.7 percent. Specializing in social services could be the perfect idea for healthcare administration students seeking to represent community-wide committees for improving public health. If you decide to become a social services manager, you’ll do your part to lead advocacy organizations that fight to resolve today’s most pressing societal concerns.
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