The minimum requirement is a high school diploma or equivalent, but some employers prefer to hire workers who have additional education or experience. Without additional education, advancement opportunities are limited.
A high school diploma is the minimum requirement, but some employers prefer to hire workers who have relevant work experience or education beyond high school. Certificates or associate’s degrees in subjects such as human services, gerontology (working with older adults), or a social or behavioral science are common for workers entering this occupation. Some jobs may require a bachelor's or master's degree in human services or a related field, such as counseling, rehabilitation, or social work.
Human services degree programs train students to observe and interview patients, carry out treatment plans, and handle crises. These programs train students to work with people in difficult situations. Many programs include fieldwork to give students hands-on experience.
The level of education that social and human service assistants have completed often determines the responsibilities they are given. Those with a high school diploma are likely to do lower level work, such as helping clients fill out paperwork. However, assistants with some college education may coordinate program activities or manage a group home.
Many social and human service assistants, particularly those without any postsecondary education, undergo a period of on-the-job training. Training prepares assistants to work with clients from a wide variety of backgrounds and respond to crisis situations.
For social and human service assistants, additional education is almost always necessary for advancement. In general, advancement to case management or social work jobs requires a bachelor's or master's degree in human services, counseling, rehabilitation, social work, or a related field.
Communication skills. Social and human service assistants talk with clients about the challenges in their lives and assist them in getting help. They must be able listen to their clients and to communicate their needs to organizations that can help.
Compassion. Social and human service assistants often work with people who are in stressful and difficult situations. To develop strong relationships, they must have compassion and empathy for their clients.
Organizational skills. Social and human service assistants often must do lots of paperwork and work with many different clients. They must be organized to ensure paperwork is filed properly and clients are getting the help they need.
People skills. Social and human service assistants must make their clients feel comfortable discussing sensitive issues. Assistants also need to build relationships with other service providers to help them learn about all of the resources that are available in their communities.
Problem-solving skills. Assistants help clients find solutions to their problems. They must be able to listen carefully to their client’s needs and offer multiple solutions.
Time-management skills. Social and human service assistants often work with many clients. They must learn to manage their time effectively to ensure that their clients are getting the attention they need.
Some employers require a criminal background check. In some settings, workers need a valid driver's license.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition