General Studies Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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Get the truth about salaries in the field of general studies. Read the job descriptions and learn about education and training requirements and career prospects to decide if a general studies career is right for you.
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General Studies Careers

The term 'general studies' does not refer to a type of career, but rather an educational path that can take you toward certain job prospects, as well as a broad-based program that allows flexibility in your course of study. Careers in this field include social and human services assistant, probation officer and sales executive. They are compared in the table shown:

Social and Human Services Assistant Probation Officer Sales Manager
Career Overview Social and human services assistants provide support, advice and direction to help individuals persevere through tough times and personal situations. Probation officers work with criminal offenders to prevent them from committing new offenses. Sales managers direct and supervise a team of sales representatives for an organization.
Education Requirements Associate's degree preferred Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree
Program Length Two years, full-time Four years, full-time Four years, full-time
Additional Training On-the-job training often required Government training program and probationary period None
Certification and Licensing Optional Board of Corrections certification often required Optional
Experience Requirement Not required, but relevant experience can be a plus in securing a position Experience in a pertinent area can be a determining factor 1-5 years' experience as a sales representative
Job Outlook for 2014-2024 Faster than average (11%)* Slower than average (4%) - figure includes correctional treatment specialists* As fast as average (5%)*
Mean Annual Salary (May 2015) About $33,000* About $54,000 - figure includes correctional treatment specialists* About $130,000*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Social and Human Services Assistant

Working with and under the direction of psychologists, social workers, counselors and other professionals, social and human services assistants try to make life better or at least manageable for individuals who are in need. Their duties can range from helping with daily tasks to assessing a client's needs and eligibility requirements for Medicaid or food stamps. They may help coordinate treatment or services and see to it that needs are met and assistance is provided.


Although you may only need a high school diploma in order to secure a position as a social and human services assistant, employers often prefer to hire individuals who hold an associate's degree. You may look for programs that include an emphasis on a related area, such as the Associate of Arts in General Studies with a concentration in human services. Once hired, you generally will have to go through a period of on-the-job training. This is designed to expose you to the diverse client types, problems and situations that regularly occur in the field, counseling techniques and available services.

Below are some examples of what employers were looking for in January 2013:

  • A healthcare organization serving seniors in Florida wanted to hire a social services assistant. Candidates were to hold an associate's degree in an area related to social services and have at least one year of work experience, preferably in a long-term care environment.
  • In California, a community services organization sought a resident assistant with one year of experience working in a residential setting with clients of varying special needs. A high school diploma or GED was acceptable but an associate's degree in an area related to counseling, psychology or an appropriate area was preferred.
  • A community services organization located in Connecticut was seeking a recovery assistant with at least a high school diploma; an associate's or a bachelor's degree related to counseling was preferred. The ideal candidate would have at least one year of volunteer or work experience dealing with mental health or substance abuse situations.

Standing Out

The level of education you have can play a major part in determining the responsibilities you're given, and an associate's degree can get your foot in the door. Once on the job and while you're accumulating varied and valuable work experience, you may want to consider pursuing a bachelor's degree. Once you've earned at least an associate's degree and have accumulated the required amount of work experience, you might consider pursuing the Human Services Board Certified Practitioner (HS-BCP) credential, which is offered by the National Organization for Human Services.

Probation Officer

Rather than serve a prison sentence, some individuals who have committed a crime are sentenced to probation. Probation is a supervised period of time during which the offender must be on good behavior. Generally reporting to a chief probation officer, a probation officer investigates, interviews and monitors the probationer over that time period. The probation officer may refer the probationer to various community social service or rehabilitation agencies that can provide assistance. The probation officer reports on the offender's behavior, counsels the offender and makes recommendations regarding the final disposition of the case.


Most agencies require that probation officers hold a bachelor's degree. You can find general studies with a concentration in a relevant area, such as the Bachelor of Science in General Studies with a criminal justice specialization. You may also find that any applicable work experience can weigh in your favor in securing a position. Once hired, you'll most likely have to complete a state or federal training program and sit for an examination. Upon completion you may be required to serve up to a year as a trainee or probationary officer before you're accepted on a permanent basis.

Here are some employment ads that were running in January 2013:

  • The U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services system sought an individual to fill a position as a probation officer in the western district of Washington. Candidates were to hold a bachelor's degree in an appropriate area and have accumulated one years of experience in probation, pre-trial, parole, corrections or criminal investigation, after degree completion. Candidates with fluency in second language and a graduate degree were preferred.
  • A county in California wanted to hire a chief probation officer. Applicants should have a bachelor's degree and seven years of experience in probation/parole, which should include three years in a management position. Candidates were to hold the appropriate Board of Corrections certificates and present evidence of having complied with annual training requirements.
  • The Department of Probation of a Texas county was looking for an individual to fill a position as a probation officer. Candidates were required to hold a bachelor's degree and would need less than one year of experience. Pay would be based on the candidate's amount of experience. Candidates were subject to psychological, drug and criminal background tests and investigations.

Standing Out

You may be able to distinguish yourself by specializing in a specific type of casework, such as juvenile offenders, domestic violence or substance abuse, which could require extra training in that area. You may also stand out from the crowd by way of additional education. A master's degree in a related area like justice or psychology can enhance your possibilities for advancement to a supervisory position. Another option is to pursue a related personal certification, such as the Thinking for a Change Certified Facilitator (T4C-CF) credential that is designed for correctional staff.

Sales Manager

A sales manager is responsible for the performance of the sales team. In a business, the sales manager's duties can include training, coordinating the efforts and monitoring the results of individual sales representatives. The sales manager may determine budgets, help maintain good customer relations and work with the marketing department in a coordinated effort to increase company productivity.


Most sales managers hold a bachelor's degree. You can find general studies programs to prepare you for this position, such as the Bachelor of Science in General Studies with a business focus or Bachelor of General Studies with a management concentration. You'll find that experience can play as big a part as formal training in securing a position. In fact, you generally have to accumulate 1-5 years' experience as a sales representative before a company will consider you for a sales management position. Though some companies accept general sales experience as a qualification, others insist that your experience be directly related to their product area or niche.

Here's what some employers were looking for in January 2013:

  • An insurance industry search group in Missouri was looking for an individual to become its regional sales director for employee benefits programs. Candidates were to hold a bachelor's degree and have accumulated 5-7 years of experience related to group employee benefits. The employer preferred that candidates hold a professional designation.
  • A company in North Carolina dealing with HVAC research, development and manufacturing wanted to hire a regional sales manager. Candidates were to hold a bachelor's degree or have equivalent experience in the area of industrial technology, as well as have accumulated over five years of industry-related experience in sales or sales support.
  • A food fundraising corporation in Illinois was seeking a sales manager to provide marketing and operational guidance to individual account representatives. Candidates were to hold a bachelor's degree or its equivalent and have accumulated 1-3 years in a supervisory position.

Standing Out

Though experience counts a great deal in landing a job as a sales manager, you may find that courses in areas such as marketing, management, statistics or economics may set you out from the pack. In addition, a master's degree in an appropriate area can work to your advantage. You may also find that industry-specific credentials, such as the Certified Sales Leadership Professional (CSLP), Certified Sales Operations Professional (CSOP) or Certified Sales Executive (CSE), can serve to enhance your position and reputation. Requirements vary by organization, but may include passing an examination or series of tests, as well as meeting educational and/or experience minimums.

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