Social and Human Service Assistants: A Meaningful Career Right out of High School

by Ainoura Oussenbec

July 9, 2018

Many jobs in the Rogue Valley require only a high school diploma or less. Not many such jobs have starting wages well above Oregon’s minimum wages, and offer meaningful career opportunities in the future.

Social and human service assistants (SHSA) provide client services in a wide variety of fields, such as psychology, rehabilitation, or social work, including support for families. SHSAs may assist clients in identifying and obtaining available benefits and social and community services. They may assist social workers with developing, organizing, and conducting programs to prevent and resolve problems relevant to substance abuse, human relationships, rehabilitation, or dependent care. The typical entry-level education is a high school diploma or equivalent. Those with an associate’s degree or more have a competitive advantage in the labor market.

Typical work activities include maintenance of social services program records; referring clients to community or social service programs; interviewing clients to gather information about their backgrounds, needs, or progress; visiting individuals in their homes to provide support or information. Wide range of skills and knowledge is needed in this occupation, such as basic understanding of human behavior and performance individually and in groups; customer service; understanding of counseling and therapy methods; social perceptiveness; and active listening.

Jobs with Above Average Wages

Social and human service assistants is a large occupation. Employers use several other similar job titles when advertising their job vacancies, such as eligibility workers, case managers, or program assistants.

There were 467 social and human service assistants in the Rogue Valley in 2017. Employment is forecast to grow 12.8 percent by 2027, compared with the 12 percent growth rate for all occupations.

While the Rogue Valley has lower wages overall compared with Oregon, the average wages for SHSAs are $18.74 or $38,968 annually, a little higher than statewide. The entry-level wages are around $12 to $13 per hour. With experience, skills, and higher levels of responsibility, wages can reach over $25 per hour.

About half of SHSAs are employed in various government agencies, such as Department of Human Services (DHS), Veterans Administration, and public schools.

The occupation could be a good entry-level fit for those exploring careers related to mental health, social and community services, gerontology, and other health care fields.

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