Human service workers provide a necessary and vital service to the communities they serve. While human service specialists are relatively underrepresented in the media, they are the backbone of human service organizations that serve a variety of communities. Through understanding the full job description of a human service specialist, you can make an informed decision about whether human services is the right fit for your aptitudes and long-term career expectations.
Human service specialists typically pursue bachelor's or associate's degrees in fields that prepare them for human services: human relations, psychology, social work, sociology, nursing or health sciences. To qualify as a human service specialist, you may need a graduate degree in human relations, counseling or social work for some employers. A graduate degree may not be necessary with at least five years of job experience in a supervised health and human services-related environment.
Human service specialists must excel at interviewing clients to determine their eligibility for various social programs. They must document their interview results and assessment of which program the client is eligible for and share this data with relevant parties (supervisors, program directors and others). The specialist will then notify the client of eligibility and program enrollment options.
Many human service specialists help develop programs based on agency funding. Program development may require some knowledge of grant writing or social program development that encompasses client concerns and the organization's budget constraints. In addition, human service specialists may deliver training to human service assistants or interns on new program initiatives and client maintenance strategies that program directors have set forth.
Besides the eligibility interview they conduct, specialists sometimes have to gather more information on clients based on investigation of public records. This includes evaluating other aid received, possible eligibility for disability benefits or other state or federally-funded opportunities. Specialists may authorize medical benefits, medications or other services provided to clients that program funds may cover. Upon further investigation, human service specialists will often advise clients on alternative forms of funding.
Counseling and Advising
Knowledge of counseling, or at least advising, is necessary. Sometimes, specialists are required to offer mental health counseling or assessment to determine eligibility on medical attention or medication. Advising clients on financial decisions or health decisions is sometimes required, depending upon the agency and the specific expectation the agency or employer has assigned. It is necessary for specialists to recognize when they cannot meet all a client's psychological or financial needs and make a referral to other resources.
Salary and Outlook
The annual salary of a human service specialist can range from $30,000 for state employees to $75,000 for the private or federally-employed, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS reports an average of $27,880 for human and social service assistants, but provided no information on human service specialists as of July 2010.
The job outlook for human and social service specialists is expected to grow faster than average, at a rate of 23 percent between 2008 and 2018 for the human services fields, according to the BLS.
2016 Salary Information for Social and Human Service Assistants
Social and human service assistants earned a median annual salary of $31,810 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, social and human service assistants earned a 25th percentile salary of $25,350, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $40,030, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 389,800 people were employed in the U.S. as social and human service assistants.