Family Studies Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

About this article
Learn about careers in family studies. Get job description, salary and education requirement information. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of a family studies career.
View available schools

Pros and Cons of a Career in Family Studies

A career in family studies focuses on the family unit and includes fields such as social work, law, human services, and family therapy. You can learn more, at a glance, here:

Social and Human Service Assistant Social Worker Marriage and Family Therapist
Career Overview Social and human service assistants offer support to clients as they get through difficult times. Social workers diagnose and treat emotional and behavioral issues, while also helping people deal with the challenges of daily life. Marriage and family therapists help people with relationships threatened by mental disorders and emotional problems.
Education Requirement High school diploma Bachelor's degree (direct-service)/Master's degree (clinical) Master's degree
Program Length 4 years 4-6 years, including master's degree 4-6 years, including master's degree
Licensure None State license required for clinical work; may be voluntary for non-clinical work State license required
Experience Requirement On-the-job training Two years' supervised post-master's clinical experience for licensure Two years' supervised post-master's clinical experience for licensure
Job Outlook for 2012-2022* 81,200 additional jobs expected (22% increase) 114,100 additional jobs expected for child, family and school social workers (19% increase) 49,400 additional jobs expected (31% increase)
Mean Salary (May 2014)* $31,860 $46,180 $51,730

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Social and Human Service Assistant

Social and human service assistants are also known as clinical social work aides, social work assistants, human service workers, and case work aides. Duties vary and depend on the needs of clientele. For instance, they can specialize in helping children and families, the elderly, people with disabilities or addictions, veterans, immigrants, former prison inmates, the homeless, and people with mental illnesses. General duties include determining the type of help clients need, developing treatment plans in cooperation with other professionals, assisting clients with daily functions, researching the services that may benefit clients, and monitoring clients' progress.

In 2010, roughly 384,200 social and human service assistants were employed in the United States, and the majority of them worked in the individual and family services industry, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Potential employers include social services agencies, nonprofit organizations, and various levels of government and for-profit social services agencies. As a result, social and human services assistants work in a variety of environments, ranging from group homes and hospitals to offices and clinics. Most work full-time, although night and weekend shifts are not uncommon.

Requirements

The minimum requirement for a career as a social and human service assistant is a high school diploma, although employers may prefer candidates with additional education, training or experience. Associate's degree programs in gerontology, human services, and the social sciences are available, as are bachelor's and master's degree programs in social work and counseling. The higher your education level, the greater your degree of responsibility. For example, a high school diploma will equate to lower level work, while a college degree could lead to better job prospects and managerial positions. Most training is performed on-the-job, although higher education is typically required for advancement.

In December 2012, some employers of social and human service assistants were looking for the following:

  • A healthcare services center in Colorado wants to hire a social services assistant with at least an associate's degree to aid residents in accordance with current policies, procedures, and regulations. Candidates must meet state requirements with the appropriate degree, social work certification, and licensure. In addition, applicants must have at least one year of experience working in either a long-term care setting or with a geriatric population.
  • In Washington, a healthcare services business wants to hire social services assistants to develop culturally-sensitive training, participate in new employee orientation, and develop a list of community services for residents. Other duties include working with residents to outline the goals of their stays, provide educational materials, encourage involvement with the family council, and mediate therapy compliance. Clinical functions include providing direct psychosocial interventions, completing psychosocial assessments, facilitating interdisciplinary review, and collaborating with other departments. There are three levels of progressively more responsible assistants within this organization, with the first requiring a high school diploma, the second a bachelor's degree, and the third a master's degree in either social work or gerontology. Certification is required.
  • A social services company in North Carolina wants to hire a direct care assistant to work in residential nonprofit social services. Responsibilities include instructing on food preparation and housecleaning, documenting required data, motivating residents, dispensing medication, and transporting residents. Candidates must have a high school diploma or GED. Applicants who have completed college coursework in management, human services or social work are preferred. Certification in MedTech, CPR or first aid is beneficial. A valid driver's license is required, as is the ability to lift up to 50 lbs. and pass a drug test.

Standing Out

According to the BLS and published job postings, many employers of social and human services assistants prefer candidates with some relevant experience or postsecondary coursework, up to and including a certificate or associate's degree in human services; career advancement is also more likely for social and human services assistants when they've attained additional education, such as a bachelor's or master's degree. In addition, the BLS predicted that most of the job growth in this field will be related to caring for the aging population; therefore, experience with elderly patients or education classes or programs in gerontology may be beneficial.

Social Worker

There are two types of social workers: direct-service and clinical. Direct-service social workers identify people who need help with problems affecting their everyday lives and help them adjust to new challenges, such as unemployment or illness. Duties may also include responding to crisis situations, evaluating services, and working on behalf of clients to obtain government aid and other necessary resources.

Clinical social workers, on the other hand, deal with emotional, behavioral, and mental issues. Also known as licensed clinical social workers, these professionals assess clients' situations, encourage them to discuss issues, diagnose disorders, develop treatment plans, and evaluate progress over time. Many work in private practice, although some prefer to work either solo or in a group practice with other social workers.

While there are multiple types of workers within the realm of social work, specialties in child and family social work and school social work may be of interest for those focused on family studies. Child and family social workers strive to protect children in difficult situations and help families. Direct-service social workers in this field may facilitate adoptions, arrange for abused children to relocate to approved foster homes, and help parents obtain food stamps. Clinical social workers may offer mental healthcare to parents and children dealing with difficult situations. School social workers focus on the appropriate balance between school administrators, students, and parents. Typical issues addressed are bullying, behavioral issues, and academic performance.

Requirements

Direct-service social workers need at least a bachelor's degree in social work, sociology or psychology. Social welfare policy and human behavior are typically studied as part of these degree programs, and internships or supervised fieldwork may also be required. Clinical social workers must complete a master's degree in social work, which will demand 1-2 years of full-time study. These programs will also require supervised fieldwork or an internship.

All states require some type of certification or licensure for clinical social workers; social workers who don't work in clinical settings may be able to earn voluntary state certification. Exemptions are sometimes available for those employed by government agencies. To obtain licensure, you must have a master's degree in social work, complete two years of clinical experience, and pass an examination.

In December 2012, some employers of social workers were looking for the following:

  • A New Jersey company seeks a social worker to assist elderly residents and their families with appropriate counseling and support services. A Bachelor of Social Work degree is required; licensing or certification is also required. The employer prefers candidates with experience in long-term care settings; MDS3.0 experience is required and sub-acute experience is preferred.
  • A healthcare and rehab services firm in Wisconsin wants to hire a social worker to develop and maintain social services programming. Duties include assisting residents, arranging for a family council, maintaining records, and following all policies and procedures. Candidates must be licensed; a bachelor's degree in social work is preferred.
  • A pediatric healthcare system in Atlanta wants to hire a clinical social worker with a master's degree in social work and at least three years of postgraduate work experience to assist juvenile patients and their families. Candidates must also be licensed in the state of Georgia. Responsibilities include collaborating with hospital personnel, assisting families, maintaining updated patient information, and participating in program planning.

Standing Out

To stand out as a social worker, you may want to consider earning an advanced degree in social work, psychology or sociology. In addition, licensure for non-clinical social workers is optional in some states. If you would like to stand out as a direct-service social worker, you may want to see if licensure is available in the state in which you plan to work. You can learn more about state licensure requirements through the Association of Social Work Boards.

Marriage and Family Therapist

Marriage and family therapists provide family-centered mental healthcare to families, couples, and individuals dealing with issues such as stress, addiction, and low self-worth. Duties include diagnosing disorders, encouraging clients to face their issues, and guiding them towards healthier relationships. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), marriage and family therapists held roughly 36,000 jobs in 2010. The individual and family services industry employed 27% of these professionals, while the state and local government claimed a close second with 22% that same year. Most work full-time, although some work evenings and weekends. A variety of work settings are available, ranging from private practices to substance abuse centers.

Requirements

A master's degree in marriage and family therapy or counseling is required for employment in this career field. These programs typically involve the study of relationships and how emotional and mental disorders affect families. Supervised work experience and internships are usually required. After completing a master's degree program and two years of supervised clinical work experience, professionals are required by state law to become licensed. Licensure requires that professionals pass an examination and regularly complete continuing education courses.

In December 2012, some employers of marriage and family therapists were looking for the following:

  • A healthcare services company in California wants to hire a licensed marriage and family therapist to provide individual and group services. Duties include conducting psychosocial assessments, developing treatment plans, providing resource referrals, and maintaining treatment documentation. Candidates must have at least two years of experience in a mental health environment. Experience with dual diagnosis and working in a high volume environment is required, as is BLS and CPI certification.
  • A social services company in Connecticut wants to hire a clinical counselor to assess patients, develop treatment plans, provide case management services, develop educational programs, and maintain case documentation. Candidates must have a master's degree in social work or marriage and family therapy. Clinical licensure and at least two years of full-time clinical experience working with families - especially military families - is required.
  • A health services company in Texas wants to hire a licensed counselor with experience to work with adolescents suffering from chemical dependency and co-occurring disorders. Candidates must have a master's degree in sociology, psychology or chemical dependency.

Standing Out

Based on recent job postings, having relevant experience is a key factor in the ability to stand out among other job applicants. Some employers want to see candidates with a minimum of experience in providing general services to patients or clients. Others prefer to see that previous experience in delivering services to specifically to families, so it may be beneficial to take advantage of any opportunities to work with families that may arise through your education and training experiences.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. The George Washington University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Educational Leadership and Administration
      • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Educational Technology Leadership
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Human Services
      • MSHUS - Family and Community Services
      • MSHUS - Organizational and Social Services
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Human Services/Child and Family Welfare
      • BS in Human Services
      • BS in Liberal Studies Leadership
    Certificate
      • Certificate in Human Services
      • Human Services Certificates in Child and Family Services
      • Adult Gerontology Practitioner Certificate
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Johns Hopkins University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Liberal Arts
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Regent University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.A. in Human Services - Human Services Counseling
      • M.A. in Human Services - Addictions Counseling
      • M.A. in Human Services - Biblical Counseling
      • M.A. in Human Services - Christian Counseling
      • M.A. in Human Services - Conflict & Mediation Ministry
      • M.A. in Human Services - Criminal Justice & Ministry
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies
      • Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies - Interdisciplinary Studies
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Saint Leo University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BA: Liberal Studies
    Associate's
      • AA: Liberal Arts
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Post University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.S. in Human Services
      • B.S. in Child Studies
      • B.S. in Human Services / Counseling
      • B.S. in Human Services / Health and Community Services
      • B.S. in Human Services / Human Services Management
      • B.S. in Human Services / Criminal Justice
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • PhD in Psychology - Gerontology
      • DMFT - Child & Adolescent Therapy
      • Doctor of Marriage and Family Therapy - Couple Therapy
      • Doctor of Marriage and Family Therapy - General Family Therapy
      • Doctor of Marriage and Family Therapy - Medical Family Therapy
    Master's
      • MS - Child & Adolescent Developmental Psychology (MSPSYCAD)
      • MAMFT - Child & Adolescent Family Therapy
      • MAMFT - LGBTQ Couple & Family Therapy
      • MAMFT - Military Family Therapy
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Penn Foster

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Career Diploma - Child Care Professional
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS - Human Services
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Health and Human Services Administration

Featured Schools

The George Washington University

  • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Educational Leadership and Administration
  • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Educational Technology Leadership

What is your highest level of education?

Kaplan University

  • MS in Human Services
  • Bachelor: Human Services/Child and Family Welfare
  • Certificate in Human Services

Which subject are you interested in?

Johns Hopkins University

  • Master of Liberal Arts

What is your highest level of education?

Regent University

  • M.A. in Human Services - Human Services Counseling
  • M.A. in Human Services - Addictions Counseling
  • Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies
  • Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies - Interdisciplinary Studies

What is your highest level of education completed?

Saint Leo University

  • BA: Liberal Studies
  • AA: Liberal Arts

What is your highest level of education completed?

Post University

  • B.S. in Human Services
  • B.S. in Child Studies
  • B.S. in Human Services / Counseling

Education Level:

Northcentral University

  • PhD in Psychology - Gerontology
  • DMFT - Child & Adolescent Therapy
  • MS - Child & Adolescent Developmental Psychology (MSPSYCAD)
  • MAMFT - Child & Adolescent Family Therapy

What is your highest level of education?

Penn Foster

  • Career Diploma - Child Care Professional

What is your highest level of education?