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Social and Human Service Assistant: Career and Salary Overview


Human and social service assistants take on many different roles and duties. These versatile professionals perform entry-level roles in social work, rehabilitation, and other social services fields. Their clients might include homeless people, immigrants, former prison inmates, veterans, struggling families or children, and the elderly.

Also referred to as social work assistants or social service aides, social service assistants do not need a postsecondary degree. They generally take on lower-level positions, working for social workers instead of carrying out many tasks themselves. Social work assistant jobs often function as stepping stones for individuals who wish to become licensed social workers themselves.

In 2019, the median pay for social and human service assistants approached $35,060, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, salary potential depends on many factors, including geographic location, professional experience, and education.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to become a social and human service assistant?

In some cases, high school graduates without higher education can secure assistant positions. However, employers often look for job candidates with some previous work experience, a human services certificate, or associate degree. That said, it can take up to two years to become a social services assistant.

What does a social and human service assistant do?

>These professionals offer services to individuals who need some extra assistance in some way. They often work as aides to social workers who might specialize in childcare, addictions counseling, or veterans, for example. Social and human service assistants take on several tasks, such as coordinating health services for clients or helping them fill out paperwork.

Where do social and human service assistants work?

Social and human service assistants work in hospitals, shelters, clinics, and group homes. They most commonly work at individual and family services organizations, but also find employment at nursing homes, residential care facilities, local and state government groups, and community services centers.

Do social and human service assistants need a license?

Individuals do not need a license or certificate to work as social and human service assistants. However, certification can improve a candidate's job prospects. Social service assistants who wish to continue on this career path and become social workers must obtain bachelor's and master's degrees before they qualify for licensure.

Top Paying Industries for Social and Human Service Assistants

One factor influencing pay involves the industry in which social work assistants find employment. The best-paying area to work for social and human service assistants is within the government.

According to the BLS, assistants who work for state government agencies earn a median annual wage of $38,760. Individuals who work for the federal government earn even more, with the median salary for these professionals reaching $41,030.

Top Paying States for Social and Human Service Assistants

Location also affects social work assistant salary potential. Washington, D.C., North Dakota, California, Alaska, and Connecticut pay social work assistants the highest mean salaries in the U.S., according to the BLS. In California and North Dakota, social service aides earn a mean wage of over $44,000. In Washington, D.C., these professionals bring home mean earnings of $49,110 each year.

In addition, BLS data shows that Vermont, New Jersey, Maine, West Virginia, and Rhode Island employ the highest concentrations of social service assistants.

Top Paying Metropolitan Areas for Social and Human Service Assistants

Metropolitan areas can also make a difference in social work assistant salaries. Yuba, California ranked as the city with the highest pay for these professionals, with mean salary figures reaching $56,760. In two other metropolitan areas in California -- the Merced and San Jose areas -- social service assistants also earn a mean annual wage over $50,000.

Other well-paying metropolitan areas for social service aides include Santa Cruz, California; Janesville/Beloit, Wisconsin; San Francisco; Sacramento; Carson City, Nevada; Albany, Oregon; and Kankakee, Illinois. In all of these cities, social and human service assistants earn a mean annual wage of over $36,000.

Salary and Job Growth for Social and Human Service Assistants

The BLS projects that job growth for all occupations in the U.S. may grow by 5% from 2018-2028. The social and human service assistant role is projected to grow more than twice as quickly, with an increase of 13% in that same time period.

An aging U.S. population certainly contributes to this growth, with more social services needed to help the elderly. An increased push to treat people with addictions instead of sentencing them to prison may also drive growth in the social work profession.

While job prospects appear generally bright, social and human service assistants can further boost their job prospects through higher education.

How to Become a Social and Human Service Assistant

Individuals need a high school diploma to become a social work assistant. While training usually occurs on the job, employers often prefer candidates with a certificate or associate degree.

Students can find these programs at vocational schools or community colleges, and sometimes even at four-year colleges or online. Learners study topics like foundational psychology, intervention techniques, or human services. While these programs generally do not last long, an associate degree takes about two years to complete.

Many consider social services assistant jobs as a first step within the social work profession. They may go on to earn a bachelor's degree and then a master's degree in the field before becoming licensed social workers.