With a focus on helping children, the elderly, struggling families or other people facing challenges, social service managers can have a positive effect on the health and well-being of their communities. They typically work for private or public agencies, targeting a particular group (such as military families or veterans) or a social problem (such as mental health or homelessness).
The employment outlook for this field is promising, with a variety of jobs that fit a wide range of skills and interests.
Social service managers work in offices, clinics, hospitals and other settings. They coordinate, supervise and administer programs, and are often involved in researching and analyzing community needs, and designing programs to meet those needs. Working with directors and staff, they set program goals, direct implementation of initiatives and analyze data to determine effectiveness.
Specific daily duties will vary according to the size of the employer. In smaller organizations, a social service manager may be responsible for a broad range of duties, while in larger agencies, managers will specialize in one or two areas.
Social service managers work directly with clients, providing services and support. They typically establish relationships with community leaders, donors and other agency leaders to expand awareness and increase donations. They may supervise fundraising and outreach efforts, prepare public relations materials, and supervise applications for grants and other funding.
Other social service manager duties include:
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts that employment for social service managers should grow by 27% from 2010 to 2020, which is almost double the average projected growth of 14% for all occupations. Demographic changes such as an increasing elderly population, as well as demand for substance abuse programs, will fuel growth.
Social service managers earned a median annual wage of $58,660 in May 2011, with the top 10% earning more than $97,700, the BLS reports. Both figures represented slight increases over the previous year.
Numerous factors can affect salary potential and employment opportunities, including local market conditions, and an individual’s educational qualifications and professional experience.
Generally, employers require social service managers to have a bachelor’s degree in urban studies, public or business administration, or social work, according to the BLS. Some positions require a master’s degree, and many employers will prefer candidates with related experience.
By demonstrating leadership abilities, employees may advance from case manager or social worker positions to social service manager and other supervisory roles. In some instances, social work employees need to be licensed, which may require them to earn a graduate degree, complete supervised experience in the field and pass an exam.
Professional development opportunities are available through organizations such as the National Association of Social Workers.
Servicemembers who are transitioning out of the military may see parallels between their skills and duties and those of social service managers. For example, serving as a Coast Guard yeoman requires strong organizational, problem-solving and interpersonal skills, and includes duties such as personnel counseling and support.
In the Army, mental health specialists collect records and data, and assist with the care and treatment of personnel with drug, alcohol, personal or psychological problems. Applicable roles in the Air Force and Navy include clinical social worker and social worker, respectively.