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Social Assistance

To be a success in the social assistance field, you must enjoy working with people and helping them solve their problems. The work requires patience, understanding, a strong desire to help others, and the ability to establish and maintain good relationships with often-troubled clients. Although it can be very rewarding, working in this field also can be emotionally draining.

Social assistance is a growing industry in Central New York; it employed 8,749 people at 462 work sites during January - September 2007. Between January - September 2000 and January - September 2007, employment jumped 1,975 or 9 percent. Most of the jobs are in private agencies.

Graph of employment trends

The social assistance field is made up of four component industries. The largest, individual and family services, includes adoption services, public assistance offices, senior citizen centers, and probation offices, among many other services. The second largest is child day care services (child care centers, nursery schools, and preschool centers). Other smaller industries are vocational rehabilitation services (sheltered workshops and employment training) and community food and housing, and emergency and other relief services (food banks, homeless shelters, disaster relief services). The breakdown of Central New York social assistance jobs by type of employer follows.

Service and professional specialty occupations account for the bulk of the jobs. The fastest growing occupations include rehabilitation counselor; child, family, and school social worker; social and community service manager; educational, vocational, and school counselor; clinical, counseling, and school psychologist; social and human service assistant; child care worker; preschool teacher; substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselor; and mental health and substance abuse social worker. Of the component industries, job growth is strongest in child day care services and individual and family services.

Wages tend to be low in the social assistance field, even though many jobs require high levels of education and/or skills. The average weekly paycheck for the region's social assistance workers during January - September 2007 was $407 a week, 44 percent below the average weekly paycheck for the region. Average weekly wages are highest in community food and housing, and emergency and other relief services and lowest in child day care services (see the illustration of average weekly wages by type of employer that follows).

Job openings occur because of two factors - staff turnover and growth in the size of the field. Turnover arises from retirements, promotions, moves out of the geographic area or the field, and so forth. Growth comes from the fact that the need for services to help people with problems related to substance abuse, teenage pregnancy, child and spousal abuse, and a host of other matters keeps increasing. The population also has a growing need for childcare, senior citizen services, and occupational retraining and this also boosts job growth in the social assistance field.

Years ago, people usually received support from their extended family during difficult times. Today, however, people live further from their extended families, and fewer family members stay at home, so workers in the social assistance field give this support.

Some resources available to workers seeking employment in the social assistance field follow:

  • New York State Department of Labor web page (www.labor.state.ny.us)
  • Local New York State Department of Labor offices and New York State Career Centers - look in the Blue Pages of the phone book under State Government, Labor Department
  • The Yellow Pages in the phone book list specific social assistance organizations - look under the headings:
    • Adoption Services
    • Day Care Centers - Adult
    • Counselors - Marriage, Family, Child and Individual
    • Career and Vocational Counseling
    • Psychologists
    • Hospitals
    • Social Workers
    • Schools
    • Child Care Centers
    • Nursery Schools and Kindergartens
    • Social and Human Services
    • State and Local Government
  • State and county social service agencies and civil service offices
  • Daily newspapers
  • People working in the field

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