If you really enjoy helping people but don’t want to spend a long time in school, an associate degree in human services might be just the ticket. This two-year degree can open doors in the substance abuse, homelessness and family abuse fields. You might enjoy working with elderly populations, or people with disabilities. An associate degree also is a good way to get into a field and try it out for a while to see if you want to pursue your education further.
Direct Care Assistant
Most social service agencies hire assistants to help the social workers on staff in a variety of ways. You’ll often work directly with clients under the supervision of a social worker. Duties such as sitting with the elderly and disabled and assisting with daily activities like eating and shopping are common tasks for an assistant. You may file or prepare paperwork for the agency social workers and help clients to fill out all their paperwork. In 2010, social and human service assistants earned a median income of $28,200, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Advocacy groups that deal with youth groups, the homeless, HIV/AIDS, the disabled and other challenged populations all have offices that need staffing. You can work directly with an advocacy group such as the Jewish Family Services that offers supportive services to former military, the elderly, youth and the unemployed as an administrative assistant or other office worker. You’ll be close to the front lines and will often interact with clients and get involved with advocacy and direct services. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2010, secretaries and administrative assistants earned a median pay of $34,660 a year.
While you won’t be able to do the kinds of counseling that clinical social workers with a license do, you’ll be able to provide counseling in group sessions and more informal situations in a variety of settings. One-on-one counseling you do in a substance abuse treatment center, for example, must be supervised by a counselor with a master’s degree, even though you might do a lot of the heavy work. Your group sessions must be signed off on by a licensed professional so the agency can bill insurance companies. But, if you want to be in the trenches, you can land one of those jobs with an associate degree and earn about $38,120, the 2010 median income for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors, according to the Bureau of labor Statistics.
You don’t need a four-year degree to work for yourself or a private investigation company and look into claims of child abuse or government assistance fraud. Police officers can get into the local academy right out of high school, though some college is helpful to earn you a spot in a competitive field. Private investigators earned a median income of $42,870 in 2010 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and helped many people and business owners to overcome financial, legal and personal problems.
- Trident Technical College: Human Services
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Social and Human Service Assistants
- Jewish Family Service: Employment
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Secretaries and Administrative Assistants
- North Essex Community College: Career Paths and Job Opportunities
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Private Detectives and Investigators
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."