What is a Human Services Specialist?

Human service specialist is a popular job within the human services field. But what exactly is a human services specialist? A human service specialist is an advocate for an array of clients in need of social services of one form or another.

Human service specialist

Human service specialists make a difference in the lives of the people they work with

What do they do?

She or he has in-depth knowledge of services available and is able to match programs with clients’ needs. Clients include the poor, the disabled, the elderly, or the mentally impaired, including those who have drug or alcohol abuse issues. The specialist conducts interviews, usually in his or her office, and fills out the forms required to start the programs. The specialist has often received a referral from an in-field social service worker or a community nurse. They will work as a team with the in-field worker to provide the best services available and to provide follow-up to make sure the services have been implemented. The specialist may also make referrals to different agencies as determined by his or her evaluation of the interview results. Knowledge of the programs available is essential. That knowledge is taught in college. Most human services specialists have a bachelor’s in human services. Online bachelors in human services are also widely available.

What are the educational requirements to be a human services specialist?

Although some government agencies or charitable institutions that employ human services specialists will hire entry-level employees with an associate’s degree, most require a four-year bachelor’s degree, or someone with two years of course work from an accredited college or university. Because online bachelors in human services degrees are so widely available, an entry-level specialist can complete her or his degree program while also earning both money and experience.

What is the salary?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics combines social services workers and human services specialists together and gives a median salary of $28,850. Depending, though, on area of country, amount of experience, and level of education, the pay ranges from $22,000 for entry-level to $47,000.

What makes a successful human services specialist?

Besides the knowledge gained in college, a successful human services specialist will have excellent communication skills. The specialist needs the ability to understand and explain complicated social service programs to clients with different levels of education or comprehension. The specialist must be organized and have the ability to do accurate paperwork. The human services advocate must be compassionate without being judgmental. He or she must have the ability to follow up and make sure the programs recommended have been instituted. She or he will work as a team with the other people involved with the welfare of the client, so they need to be a team player.

What is a typical workday like for a human services specialist?

A day usually begins by interviewing the new clients who have made appointments. Determination of programs available and the client’s eligibility for the program is then made. Paperwork is filled out and filed. Telephone calls are responded to and questions are researched. Referrals to different agencies are made. If an in-field interview is necessary, travel time must be allocated. Follow-up to make sure recommended programs have been implemented is done. A day will also include unscheduled walk-ins who must be talked with. Days stay busy and multitasking is very often required.

What are the types of social programs that may be utilized?

The client may need paternity testing for child support orders. The specialist will write up orders for the lab work and follow up with results. He or she may be the person charged with collecting the cheek swab and sending it to the lab. Perhaps the client is the sole support of a family and has become disabled. The specialist will determine if there is a worker’s compensation claim or a disability claim. He or she will fill out insurance paperwork and file the forms with the proper agencies. Follow up will be scheduled. Maybe food stamps are necessary. The specialist will make an estimation of how long work will be impacted by the disability and schedule food stamps for that period. A follow-up will be scheduled to make sure the wage earner is able to go back to work when the time has passed.

A human services specialist has the potential of doing great good for people in need. If a person has compassion, a love of doing good for fellow humans, and is patient and kind while remaining firm and level-headed, he or she may very well make an outstanding human services specialist.

Top 6 Jobs for Human Services Majors

Human Service Professional with PatientSome of the most rewarding careers are seeing job growth above the national average

Human services majors have a bounty of fields and specializations open to them. Jobs for human services graduates include careers working with the elderly, children, youth, families and individuals. They work with people who have various backgrounds and needs. They may work with indigent and at-risk populations, patients who suffer from addiction and compulsive behaviors, patients with mental illness, terminally ill patients, physically handicapped patients, clients with past trauma, the unemployed or underemployed and many, many others. In fact, most people could benefit from the assistance of a human services worker at one point or another in their lives.

We’ve taken the liberty of compiling a few of the most common careers for human services professionals. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but should serve to give you a general understanding of the types of work done by human services workers.

All statistics are courtesy of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Probation officer

Job growth: faster than average
Median pay: $47,200

Probation officers work with people who have been convicted of a crime. These particular individuals have been permitted to serve a probationary time as opposed to incarceration. That means they are under the supervision of a probation officer who monitors the offender’s progress and behavior to ensure they meet the conditions of their parole.

Probation officers often encounter difficult clients. The individuals probation officers meet with are court-ordered to do so; they are not seeking assistance of their own accord. Probation officers need to have thick skin for this reason.

The main goal for probation officers is to help rehabilitate offenders and prevent future crimes from happening. They meet with clients, friends and families to discuss and develop treatment plans, refer clients to other community resources that may help, keep detailed records of client progress and provide assistance to clients who need help filling out paperwork associated with their situation. This may include applications for housing, court documents and other legal requests.

Grant writer

Job growth: varied by region
Median pay: $25,000 – $65,000

Grant writers are a special case within the world of human services. Not only do grant writers need to have a passion for human service organizations at the work they do, but they must possess strong technical writing skills.

Grant writers are responsible for penning proposals for funding. The audience for these requests may be individual donors, corporate sponsors or government programs. Grant writers must be comfortable with dense, high-level technical writing. Grant requests are not meant to appeal to emotion, but rather provide a business plan and goal for the organization requesting funding.

Substance abuse counselor

Job growth: faster than average
Median pay: $38,120

Substance abuse counselors are not psychologists or psychiatrists. They do not prescribe medicines to patients. Most do not even work one-on-one with clients. They do, however, work alongside psychologists and psychiatrists to treat individuals suffering from addiction and other compulsive behaviors.

These human services workers may lead group therapy, support groups, 12-step programs or awareness classes. Occasionally they may meet with family members and friends to discuss treatment options or hold interventions for clients.

Program director

Job growth: faster than average
Median pay: $57,950

Program directors should have business sense as well as knowledge in the human services field. They are responsible for assessing unmet needs in the community and developing initiatives to address those needs. Program directors are also supervisors; they oversee the individuals who run the daily operations of programs within their jurisdiction. They are also responsible for setting and monitoring the budget.

Case manager

Job growth: faster than average
Median pay: $60,000

Case managers are the workers responsible for keeping track of patient and client progress. This includes documenting new developments, improvements or setbacks in the patient’s condition, changes in care, new treatment options that have been developed and more. Case managers work in a variety of settings, including healthcare and other human services settings. They work with clients and their families to develop a course of action and acquire needed services (such as housing or government assistance). The main goal for a case manager is to help clients achieve a better quality of life through the use of available methods and resources, including therapy, medication and advocacy.

Child advocate

Job growth: faster than average
Median pay: $54,000

Contrary to popular belief, child advocacy is not only about intervention of Child Protective Services into family affairs. Child advocates aim to protect children from harm. This includes physical, emotional and mental harm. The main issues they focus on include obesity, malnutrition, homelessness and abuse. In the majority of scenarios, child advocates work with the entire family to help allocate and obtain resources that will benefit the child. They may work in schools, private practice or in politics as lobbyists and activists.

5 Surprising Program Director Responsibilities

Serving as the program director for a human services organization requires managerial skills, attention to detail and organizational prowess. But there’s more to successfully managing an organization than administrative duties. Read on, and we’ll detail daily program director responsibilities, as well as some duties you might not expect.

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A program director isn’t afraid to speak up since they represent their community and take a leadership role

What does a program director do?

Most people would correctly assume that a program director designs and oversees programs to meet needs in the community, supervises staff and analyzes data to ascertain the effectiveness of programs. Their supervisory role extends to recruiting, hiring and training new staff. Program directors also set and monitor the budget for their organization.

At large agencies or organizations, the role of a program director can be specialized. In smaller and non-profit organizations, program managers often assume many roles. That’s where responsibilities you wouldn’t expect come in to play. Program directors who hope to get involved with smaller and grass roots organizations should hone skills that will help them perform the following unexpected tasks.

#1 – Hold Community Forums

In many instances, program directors are the face of the organization. That means they are responsible for leading public forums and community meetings. These events are typically open to the public and serve as a venue for discussing community concerns and issues. During forums, residents may draw attention to services that are needed or suggest ways to improve services that are currently offered. Forums are also an opportunity for organizations to explain new and existing services to members of the community. Educational outreach is an important function of community meetings. Programs and services will not be effective if residents don’t know about them or how to use them.

#2 – Campaign for Fundraising

Controlling the budget for human services programs often entails more than just monitoring funds in vs. monies out. Program directors not only set and manage the budget, but they play a large part in obtaining funding. This may mean planning and supervising fundraiser events, such as:

  • Silent auctions
  • Donation drives, and
  • Meeting with individual or corporate donors

Fundraising requires program directors to wear many hats and communicate effectively with persons of diverse and varied status and backgrounds.

#3 – Public Speaking

Program directors encounter many situations where it is beneficial to have strong public speaking skills. They may be required to address the board at quarterly or yearly meetings and give presentations summarizing the activities and success rates of the programs they head. Program directors often speak at rallies and keynote events or give presentations at local schools and other community institutions. They may even present in front of council persons or representatives to obtain local and state government funding. Program directors also conduct interviews with community members and residents who use the services their programs provide and report this information to administrators and funders.

#4 – Head Committees

Program directors get down in the trenches, too. They serve as the head of many operational committees for the organizations and programs they run. From budgetary hearings to membership drive committees to think tank operations, program directors need to have eyes and ears on all the goings on and provide the final word and approval for action taken by employees and members.

#5 – Grab bag!

Program directors are the first and last line of defense for their organizations. If a program or service fails, it is on their head. Because they have the most at stake, they often work the hardest to make sure the needs of the organization are met. That means they pick up slack wherever it occurs. Program directors may:

  • Fill in manning the tables at awareness events
  • Sign up new volunteers and recruits at rallies
  • Manage the organization’s social media and communications networks
  • Write and distributing press releases and
  • Serve as volunteer workers at events and service locations

The duties and responsibilities of a program director don’t often stay at the office. Working in human services is a life choice, not just a job. It’s hard to predict when a need or emergency may arise and call for a program director to step up to the plate and settle the issue. Most program directors are involved with an organization that mirrors their passions. For that reason, these ambitious and energized workers are always on, working from home and the road, in constant communication with the organization through email, text and phone. This important work is shouldered by motivated individuals who not only want to see change in their communities, but are willing to do the hard work required to effect that change.

6 Great Counseling Careers in Human Services

Human services workers help people from all types of backgrounds facing a wide range of challenges in their lives. The organizations that human services professionals work for are often managed by state or local governments. So, job availability and salaries are largely dependent on budgetary funding.  There are also a large number of non-profit human services organizations. These organizations face budgetary restraints, as well; they are usually dependent on donations from supporters to continue their work.

Because human services as a whole helps so many different individuals and addresses so many concerns, organizations typically focus on meeting one need in the community. Within each organization, workers take on different roles and responsibilities to help others. Human services workers may have administrative duties, as is the case for grant writers and program directors.

Many are direct service workers—counselors, instructors and facilitators. A large part of what human services workers do for their clients is centered on education and emotional support. Below, we’ve outlined a few of the many counseling careers in human services that are available to compassionate individuals working in the field.

Counselor with CoupleCounselors help people of all ages who need assistance with emotional or physical trauma

Substance Abuse Counselor

Substance abuse counselors work in conjunction with psychologists and other professionals to treat those who suffer from drug addiction, alcoholism, eating disorders and other compulsive behaviors. Substance abuse counselors have many tools at their disposal to help clients. They help clients develop:

  • Goals and treatment plans
  • Educate friends and family about addiction
  • Provide emotional support and
  • Refer clients to other resources that may be of assistance

Substance abuse counselor education requirements can vary from a high school diploma to a master’s degree. Workers with more education are able to provide more complete care to clients. Those with a master’s degree, for example, may be clinical counselors who can provide one-on-one services and crisis intervention.

Rehabilitation Counselor

Rehabilitation counselors work in the intersection of human services and healthcare. In this specialty, human services workers aid patients who are recovering from a seriously physical injury or are living with disabilities. Rehabilitation counselors help clients with disabilities—both permanent and temporary—live fuller personal, social and professional lives by:

  • Providing emotional support
  • Developing treatment plans and
  • Referring clients to other resources and services

Most rehabilitation counselors have a master’s degree in human services, counseling or a related field. Some employers prefer to hire only licensed rehabilitation counselors, but a license is not necessary in many settings. A license is required, however, for those who work in private practice.

Mental Health Counselor

Mental health counselors are not psychologists or psychiatrists. They do not work in private practice and they cannot prescribe medications. What they can and do do is work in tandem with these professionals to provide help for patients who suffer from:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar disorder and
  • Other mental illnesses

Mental health counselors may be employed in hospitals, community mental health centers, nursing homes and residential facilities. The majority of mental health counselors have a master’s degree and a state license. Counselors must also complete annual continuing education classes at the graduate level.

Youth Counselor

Youth counselors work for organizations like the YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs of America and Big Brothers/Big Sisters. They are responsible for coordinating and supervising recreational and social programs for children and teenagers. These programs may be involved and complex, like a summer camp, or may be smaller activities, like intramural sports or tutoring programs. Youth counselors aim to reach out to at-risk and troubled youth who may be experiencing trauma or difficulties adjusting to life changes, such as a new school or a divorce. Many youth counselors eventually enter a child advocate career.

Legal and Victim Assistance Counselor

Human services workers in legal and victim assistance work with both the victims of crimes and those who have been convicted. Counselors who work with victims provide emotional support and work to education the community about crime awareness and prevention. Some may even provide free child care for victims of crime while they attend to legal matters.

Counselors who work with former convicts, on the other hand, focus on rehabilitation. They may work alongside probation or parole officers to help offenders find jobs, housing and support groups. These counselors may work with juveniles or adults. Legal counselors often take on some case manager duties. They need to be familiar with their clients’ backgrounds and keep detailed reports in case they are called upon to testify or provide information to other professionals working for the client.

Vocational Counselor

Vocational counselors assist clients who are unemployed, underemployed or looking to switch careers. They provide advice and use tools, such as aptitude test, to find careers that best suit their clients. These human services workers may work in job placement agencies, unemployment offices or in vocational rehabilitation facilities. The work of a vocational counselor is more administrative than many of the other careers on this list. Why they may provide some emotional support and advice, the majority of their work is focused on facilitation between clients and employers.

Tips on Becoming a Grant Writer

There is no standardized path to becoming a grant writer. Individuals come to the position from all kinds of backgrounds. But, some methods of breaking into the field are more effective than others.  If you’re interested in becoming a grant writer, check out the following tips and advice.

Grant WriterGrant writers work in different settings and industries with important responsibilities in addition to writing.

Education

To be a grant writer, you will need a college degree. In most cases, a four-year bachelor’s degree will suffice. Many candidates find that degrees in communication, journalism, English, marketing or pre-law are best suited to the profession. Essentially, you will want to find a degree program that emphasizes technical writing and analyzing dense texts. Grant writers are not typically creative writers; they are writing proposals to government agencies to request funding. It is an entirely different skill set than that used by authors of poetry and fiction. Grant writers should be able to pen concise and informative prose. They should be able to distill important information in a manner that is easily understandable, yet still professional in tone and voice.

While degrees that specialize in grant writing are practically non-existent, workshops are offered. Consider enrolling in a course offered by a reputable firm to learn the ins and outs of grant writing. During these workshops, you will get the opportunity to write sample grants, thus building a body of work to present to potential employers.

Credentials

In addition to workshops, the American Grant Writers’ Association (AGWA) offers a certification in grant writing. They offer a one-day review course and exam, which must be passed to earn the certification. Attendance at the review course is not necessary, but is highly recommended. This program is open only to members of the AGWA who are 21 years of age or older.  You can learn more about the courses and credentials offered through the AGWA by visiting their website.

Experience

While courses in grant writing can definitely help you build a theoretical portfolio, employers will want to see what kind of results your grant writing endeavors have produced. One way to accumulate experience is to volunteer your time and skill for a cause that you are passionate about. You can also attempt to peddle yourself as a freelancer prior to seeking permanent employment as a grant writer. Check sites like elance.com for opportunities, and be sure to keep other online networks, like LinkedIn, up-to-date with your current availability and contact information. Connect with anyone you know who may work in the field and could help you find a way to get your foot in the door.

Research

Employers want someone who knows the ins and outs of the industry in which their organization is situated. Research the industry, so you really know your stuff. Grant writing may seem simple, but it’s very important to stay on-topic and have valid, hard data to back up your claims and requests.

You’ll also need to research specific donors. The message should be tailored directly to them. Corporate grants, for example, are more PR oriented, while government grants are much more technical.

Essentially, you are selling the organization that has hired you. It is very time consuming and difficult to compile all the necessary information if you haven’t immersed yourself in the organization and its mission.

Qualities

Writers earn their bread by their reputation. Referrals and references are the number one way freelance writers get new work and clients. While talent cannot be taught, there are some attributes you can hone to improve your chances of making it in the writing world.

Determination

The projects grant writers work on may require lots of work and take a considerable about of time to complete. These writers must possess the determination necessary to see projects through to completion.

Persuasion

Grant writers are trying to convince others to fund their endeavors. They must be able to persuade others to feel that their cause is important and warrants funding. And, they must be able to accomplish this without relying on an appeal to emotion. Grant writing is an academic exercise.

Social perceptiveness

This quality goes hand-in-hand with persuasion. Grant writers must be able to understand how others will perceive and react to their writing in order to connect with the audience.

Organizational skills

The work grant writers do requires lots of research and data compilation. For this reason, organizational skills are a must for grant writers.

Writing skills

Because grant writers focus on more technical writing, they must have an excellent grasp of the fundamentals of writing. They should be well-versed in syntax, grammar, spelling and the rules of punctuation and formatting.

6 Important Qualities Needed to Become a Probation Officer

The proper education and training can help you land any career you want. However, certain personality types may be better suited for certain employment. If you’re interested in a career as a probation officer, it might help to know what personality traits and abilities match up nicely with the demands of the job. The great thing about many of these skills is that they can be learned. Some personality traits are innate, but there are other tools and skill sets that can be developed with a little bit of work.

Read on for a list and explanation of the six most important skills to cultivate if you want to become a probation officer.

Probation Officers

Source: public.venturaprobation.org

Probation officers work together by sharing advice and helping one another cope with difficult situations

1. Communication skills

Communication skills include written communication, verbal communication and even body language. Developing these skills will enable you to interact effectively and efficiently with others, by showing them respect and courtesy. Remember, communication is a two-way street. Half of communicating is listening actively and understanding what others are trying to say.

Why are these important?

Communication skills are vital in practically every field. If you have co-workers, clients or customers, you’re going to need communication skills. However, this skill set is especially important for probation officers. These professionals have to communicate with a wide range of individuals. They need to be able to communicate well with people who operate on different ability levels.

2. Critical-thinking skills

Higher order thinking, pattern recognition and logical reasoning are all considered critical-thinking skills. Critical-thinking skills aid in evaluating the validity of an argument, recognizing similarities between different things and analyzing various situations. 

Why are these important?

A key part of a probation officer’s job is assessing the needs of their clients and directing them to resources that can help. They also help clients understand the outcomes and repercussions of their actions, as well as to examine their own behavior and choices.

3. Decision-making skills

Making a decision requires confidence and the ability to commit to a course of action. You must be able to deduce the possible outcomes of an action and weigh the pros against the cons. You must also be able to admit that you were incorrect and adjust the plan if it isn’t working.

Why are these important?

As a probation officer, your clients will be coming to you to help them make decisions about treatment, housing and job options. You will need to be able to advise them to the absolute best of your ability to improve their odds of success. Probation officers also help teach these skills to their clients by leading through example.

4. Emotional stability

Emotional stability does not mean that you are a robot. It simply means that you can deal with your emotions and that they do not get the better of you, especially while in a professional capacity. Emotions are normal, but it’s important to keep a level head. Emotional stability also means that you are able to draw clear and healthy emotional boundaries.

Why are these important?

Probation officers encounter lots of difficult situations. Hostile situations may arise, given that clients are often in attendance against their will. They may experience frustration if clients relapse or continue to make poor choices. Probation officers may also be exposed to disheartened situations, especially when children are involved in the lives of their clients. It is vital that probation officers can keep their work and personal lives separate.

This is, of course, in addition to the other stressors that come with having a job, including but not limited to, difficulties dealing with management or disagreements with co-workers.

5. Organizational skills

Organizational skills include an attention for detail, multitasking abilities, proficient use of an organizational system and strong memory recall. Everyone has their own system to keep organized. The point is that you have some system to use.

Why are these important?

Probation officers see many clients. They must be able to manage many case files at once. They are also responsible for reporting back to a supervisor and keeping detailed records of their clients. Probation officer should also be able to stay on top of relevant and current resources available in the community that may serve the differing needs of clients.

6. Writing skills

Written communication can be difficult to master for some. The ability to write effectively with proper spelling and grammar can go a long way in helping someone present themselves in a more professional manner.

Why are these important?

As mentioned above, probation officers must report to their supervisors and maintain records on clients. These communications must be legible and clear so that others who assist these clients can do their jobs and provide the best help possible.