The field of community and social services is experiencing rapid growth. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), occupations in this sector are expected to expand 11% from 2018 to 2028—a rate that’s much faster than average.
Counselors and social workers will fill most of the 306,200 new jobs that the BLS projects will open in this sector. They’ll be playing a role in curbing the rising rates of drug overdoses in the United States by offering rehabilitation and substance abuse counseling. Those who fill these jobs will also provide school and career counseling, responding to the influx of K-12 students and the increasing number of career centers opening up on college campuses.
Launching a career in community and social services typically requires a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree. Higher education is a serious financial investment, and whether a community and social services professional gets a return will depend on which type of job he or she lands. The median annual wage for occupations in this category was $44,960 in May 2018—a salary that was 13.5% higher than the overall median wage of $38,640 for all other occupations—but some community and social services jobs pay more than $60,000 a year on average.
Stacker analyzed the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates most recent data (data from May 2018, updated on April 2, 2019) to figure out which community and social services jobs pay the most. These occupations included social workers, counselors, and religious workers. They are ranked by the mean annual salary. The list has excluded jobs that the BLS categorized as “major,” “minor,” or “broad,” and occupations with “all other” in the name, as these were aggregates of several jobs and the wage data is not accurate to one specific occupation.
Read on to learn about the highest-paying community and social services professions.
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- Mean annual salary: $35,830 (Median: $33,750)
- Mean hourly wage: $17.22 (Median: $16.22)
- 2018 employment: 392,300 (2.71 per 1,000 jobs)
Social and human service assistants typically require less education than other occupations in this field. Entry-level roles may only require a high school diploma and on-the-job training. Their main responsibility is to help at-risk populations—such as the elderly, veterans, immigrants, former prison inmates, homeless people, and people with disabilities—obtain benefits and services.
- Mean annual salary: $39,930 (Median: $35,630)
- Mean hourly wage: $19.20 (Median: $17.13)
- 2018 employment: 106,860 (0.74 per 1,000 jobs)
The growing population of Americans ages 65 and older is expected to create a greater demand for rehabilitation counselors in the next decade. These professionals help older adults overcome limitations and continue to live independently. Seniors citizens are just one group of people served by rehabilitation counselors, though. They also work with people with autism, disabilities, or substance abuse issues.
- Mean annual salary: $43,480 (Median: $39,540)
- Mean hourly wage: $20.90 (Median: $19.01)
- 2018 employment: 56,130 (0.39 per 1,000 jobs)
Community health workers are employed at hospitals, governments, medical practices, businesses, universities, and other settings to collect data and help people learn healthy habits. It might not require them to have postsecondary education, but they’ll need interpersonal expertise, problem-solving abilities, and strong writing skills to be successful.
- Mean annual salary: $46,980 (Median: $40,810)
- Mean hourly wage: $22.59 (Median: $19.62)
- 2018 employment: 21,700 (0.15 per 1,000 jobs)
It should come as no surprise that religious organizations employ the highest number of people in this occupation; they often direct programs for denominational groups. A fair amount of directors of religious activities and education also work at educational establishments, including elementary and high schools, and universities. New York and California employ more people in this job category than any other U.S. state.
- Mean annual salary: $47,920 (Median: $44,630)
- Mean hourly wage: $23.04 (Median: $21.46)
- 2018 employment: 267,730 (1.85 per 1,000 jobs)
Workers in this occupation help people overcome substance abuse disorders and address challenges related to mental or behavioral issues. This occupation is expected to grow by 22% between 2018 and 2028 as the criminal justice system shifts its focus from incarceration to counseling services for drug offenders. Under-served rural communities also have an ongoing need for mental health counselors.
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- Mean annual salary: $49,630 (Median: $44,840)
- Mean hourly wage: $23.86 (Median: $21.56)
- 2018 employment: 116,750 (0.81 per 1,000 jobs)
Mental health and substance abuse social workers offer treatments to help people overcome addiction and manage mental and emotional challenges. Rising rates of depression, suicide, and drug overdoses mean there’s a huge demand for this occupation. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services predicts that there will be a severe shortfall of over 10,000 mental health and substance abuse social workers by 2025.
- Mean annual salary: $49,760 (Median: $46,270)
- Mean hourly wage: $23.92 (Median: $22.24)
- 2018 employment: 320,170 (2.21 per 1,000 jobs)
People in this occupation work on a wide variety of issues, ranging from adoption arrangement and parenting assistance to child abuse, academic functioning of kids, and teen pregnancy. Of the industries that hire child, family, and school social workers, educational facilities for K-12 students pay the highest salaries for this profession.
- Mean annual salary: $53,290 (Median: $48,990)
- Mean hourly wage: $25.62 (Median: $23.55)
- 2018 employment: 50,960 (0.35 per 1,000 jobs)
The primary job of the clergy is to conduct religious worship and offer other spiritual services that help people practice their faith. They typically need a bachelor’s degree to land an entry-level role, and may receive a moderate amount of on-the-job training. The BLS expects this occupation to add another 13,800 new jobs by 2028, growing about 6%.
- Mean annual salary: $54,150 (Median: $50,090)
- Mean hourly wage: $26.03 (Median: $24.08)
- 2018 employment: 48,520 (0.34 per 1,000 jobs)
Marriage and family therapists help their clients manage their relationships with partners and relatives. Workers need to earn a master’s degree in a mental health field, such as psychology or marriage therapy, to pursue a career in this occupation. They also need to obtain a state license, which requires spending 2,000–4,000 hours in a supervised clinical setting.
- Mean annual salary: $58,470 (Median: $56,200)
- Mean hourly wage: $28.11 (Median: $27.02)
- 2018 employment: 168,190 (1.16 per 1,000 jobs)
People in need of psychosocial support to deal with an illness may seek the help of a health-care social worker. People in this occupation may provide guidance to family caregivers, counsel patients, and refer their clients to health-care services. Health-care social workers can earn significantly more money in certain states, such as Nevada, where the mean salary is $82,820 for this occupation.
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- Mean annual salary: $58,790 (Median: $53,020)
- Mean hourly wage: $28.27 (Median: $25.49)
- 2018 employment: 87,660 (0.61 per 1,000 jobs)
State and local governments employ 97% of the probation officers and correctional treatment specialists in the United States. They help rehabilitate inmates and people on probation or parole by providing social services, such as job training and substance abuse counseling.
- Mean annual salary: $59,660 (Median: $54,220)
- Mean hourly wage: $28.68 (Median: $26.07)
- 2018 employment: 58,780 (0.41 per 1,000 jobs)
Health educators develop educational programs that address the unique wellness needs of specific communities. A bachelor’s degree is typically required for a worker in an entry-level position in this field, but some positions may require more advanced education. It’s also important for health educators to undergo on-the-job training to learn how to communicate with members of the group they serve.
- Mean annual salary: $60,160 (Median: $56,310)
- Mean hourly wage: $28.93 (Median: $27.07)
- 2018 employment: 285,460 (1.97 per 1,000 jobs)
People in this occupation typically work in educational settings to provide academic and career guidance services to students. The vast majority of these workers are employed by elementary and secondary schools, while many others spend their careers in higher education settings like colleges and universities. Most states will only hire school counselors who have earned a master’s degree in counseling or a similar field.
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