Counselors, social workers, and social and human service assistants - all are involved with helping children, students, and adults solve problems and improve their lives.
Counselors work to assist people with personal, family, educational, mental health, career, and other issues. Their particular duties vary greatly depending on their occupational specialty and are based on the setting in which they work and the population that they serve. This range of specialties within the counseling profession includes educational, vocational, and school counseling; rehabilitation counseling; mental health counseling; and marriage and family therapy.
Educational, vocational, and school counselors provide individual students and groups with educational and career counseling, and may also offer assistance with personal, family, and other social issues. School counselors assist students of all educational levels, including elementary, middle, secondary, and postsecondary. Among their responsibilities, school counselors help students to evaluate their talents, interests, abilities, and personalities in order to develop realistic academic and career goals. Among all counseling specializations, educational, vocational, and school counselors account for about 4 out of every 10 jobs - the largest proportion within the counseling profession.
The education and training requirements for counselors vary by state, and often involve a combination of specialized postsecondary education, state licensure, and certification requirements. For example, a number of states require counselors in education and other public employment to have a master's degree, while others accept a bachelor's degree with appropriate counseling courses.
Social workers assist individuals by helping them cope with issues of everyday life, deal with relationship issues, and address other personal and family issues. Many social workers specialize in serving a particular population or work in a specific setting. For example, some social workers help clients who face a life-threatening disease or social problem such as inadequate housing, unemployment, or substance abuse. Others may assist families facing serious domestic conflicts and issues.
A bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement for entry into the social work profession, with some positions also requiring an advanced degree. In addition, all states and the District of Columbia require social workers to be licensed, certified, or registered as a condition for employment.
Social and human service assistants help social workers, health care workers, and other professionals provide various kinds of social services to people in order to help them improve their quality of life. These assistants may have a wide-range of job titles, including social work assistant, community support worker, human service worker, mental health aide, community outreach worker, life skills counselor, or gerontology aide.
Many employers prefer to hire social and human service assistants with some education beyond high school. A bachelor's degree usually is not required for these jobs, but relevant work experience is desirable.
The employment outlook for counselors, social workers, and social and human service assistants is expected to be much better than average for all occupations over the next ten years. These job opportunities will result both from the need for staff expansions and worker replacement because of retirements and individuals leaving the field. As with other areas of education, the type and extent of employment opportunities in this industry will vary by location as well as occupational specialty, appropriate postsecondary training, and experience.