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How to Become a Social and Community Service Manager

By Anita Akpuoforba

Published:

Do you possess strong organizational abilities and a genuine passion for serving and positively impacting the community? Are you interested in a career that allows you to make a difference in the world?

Becoming a social and community service manager offers a fulfilling path to drive change and uplift communities. This article provides a comprehensive guide on the qualifications, skills, and steps required to embark on this impactful career journey.

Career Summary

Social and Community Service Manager Salary

Social and Community Service Manager Salary

Individuals entering the field or possessing limited experience may begin with salaries on the lower end, while those with advanced degrees, substantial expertise, and responsibilities overseeing substantial programs or organizations may command higher earnings.

A breakdown of this salary scale can be observed below, per US News:

  • Entry Salary (US$59k)
  • Median Salary (US$74k)
  • Executive Salary (US$94k)

The median salary for a social and community service manager is higher than the national average wage for all professions, which stood at $61,900 in 2022.

What does a Social and Community Service Manager do?

A social and community service manager is a professional who coordinates and supervises programs and organizations that support public well-being. They work with a variety of stakeholders, including community members, government officials, and funders, to identify and address social needs. They also direct workers who provide social services to the public.

Social and Community Service Manager Progression

  • Entry-Level Positions: Start with roles such as social services assistant, case worker, or outreach coordinator to gain experience and understand community needs.
  • Social Services Coordinator: Move up to a coordinator position, where you’ll manage programs and oversee service delivery to specific groups or communities.
  • Supervisor/Team Leader: Progress to supervisory roles, where you’ll manage a team of social workers or coordinators.
  • Program Manager: As a program manager, you’ll oversee multiple projects and programs, ensuring their effective implementation and alignment with organizational goals.
  • Assistant Director/Deputy Manager: Step into a leadership role where you’ll assist the director in managing the overall operations of a social services organization.
  • Director of Social Services: As a director, you’ll be responsible for the strategic direction, program development, and overall management of social services.
Social and Community Service Manager Career Progression

Pros:

  • Flexible schedules.
  • Working with a variety of people.
  • Making a positive impact on individuals and communities.
  • Skill diversification.
  • Competitive salary.

Cons:

  • Working long hours.
  • Emotional strain.
  • Working with tight budgets.
  • Diverse client needs.
  • Excessive administrative tasks.

Valuable Skills to Have as a Social and Community Service Manager

  • Organizational Skills
  • Networking Skills
  • Empathy
  • Cultural Competency
  • Time Management
  • Advocacy

Popular Social and Community Service Manager Specialties

  • Child Welfare and Family Services
  • Substance Abuse Counseling and Mental Health
  • Elderly Services
  • Homelessness and Housing
  • Immigrant and Refugee Services
  • Community Development and Urban Planning

How to become a Social and Community Service Manager

Social and Community Service Manager 5 Steps to Career

Education

Before pursuing this career, it’s essential to determine if a degree is required. Some professions mandate a formal education, while others do not. Understanding where your desired career stands on this spectrum is crucial to setting the right foundation.

Do I Need a Degree to Become a Social and Community Service Manager?

While a degree is not always strictly required, having a relevant educational background equips you with essential knowledge and skills and a broader understanding of social issues and community dynamics.

It can also significantly enhance your opportunities and increase your earning potential, as many employers prefer candidates with at least a bachelor’s degree.  Additionally, certain roles, particularly in larger organizations or leadership positions, may require a master’s degree.

However, if you have extensive experience in the field and a track record of success, some employers may consider candidates without a degree. In such cases, your practical experience, leadership abilities, and demonstrated impact within communities become particularly important.

What Degree Is Relevant to a Career as a Social and Community Service Manager?

Several degrees are relevant to a career as a social and community service manager, as they provide the necessary knowledge and skills to effectively manage and lead community programs and services.

Some of the most common relevant degrees include a bachelor’s degree in Social Work, Human Services, Public Administration, Sociology, or Nonprofit Management, all of which can be found in the faculty of Social Sciences. Usually, these courses take 4 years to complete, after which you can choose to go for a year of further studies to earn a Master’s degree.

The cost of these degrees varies depending on the institution and the program level. However, on average, they cost $10,000 for state residents and $30,000 for out-of-state students.

Can I Become a Social and Community Service Manager Through Online Education?

Yes, you can become a social and community service manager through online education. There are many accredited online programs that offer degrees in social work, public administration, or a related field.

These programs can provide you with the knowledge and skills you need to be successful in a career as a social and community service manager.

Useful Web Resources for Aspiring Social and Community Service Managers

The web resources listed below will come in handy to help you learn skills that will help you become a social and community service manager, whether you choose to get a physical degree or use the online approach.

  • Community Tool Box: Developed by the University of Kansas, Community Tool Box offers free resources for community development and empowerment. It covers topics such as community assessment, collaboration, and leadership.
  • The Nonprofit Times: A leading business publication for nonprofit management, offering articles, special reports, and job listings.
  • Alliance for Strong Families and Communities: A national organization that brings together social sector leaders to learn, collaborate, and innovate.
  • Society for Nonprofits: A resource offering nonprofit professionals and volunteers a range of tools, including training, publications, and consulting services.
  • Chronicle of Philanthropy: A publication offering news, advice, and resources for charity leaders, grantmakers, and other influencers in the philanthropic community.
  • National Association of Social Workers (NASW): A professional organization for social workers offering industry news, ethical guidelines, and professional development resources.
  • American Public Human Services Association (APHSA): APHSA provides resources and training for professionals in human services and social work. Their webinars and publications cover various aspects of social service management.
  • Council on Social Work Education (CSWE): An association representing social work education in the U.S. Provides a wealth of resources, including accreditation information and educational tools.

Practical Experience

Gaining practical experience is vital for aspiring social and community service managers, as it not only builds skills but also strengthens their understanding of the field. You can gain practical experience by volunteering with community organizations, participating in internships, or working in entry-level positions within relevant nonprofits or social service agencies.

What are the Internship Opportunities for a Social and Community Service manager?

Internship opportunities for aspiring social and community service managers are vast and varied. Nonprofit organizations are a prime starting point, as they cater to a plethora of causes, from children’s welfare and education to environmental conservation, offering interns a chance to learn about program management, fundraising, and community outreach.

Government social service agencies, which encompass departments of child and family services, health, housing, and veteran affairs, provide hands-on experiences with public program management and regulations.

Another valuable setting is hospitals and health systems, especially those departments dedicated to community outreach, patient advocacy, or health education. Those passionate about mental health can look to mental health and substance abuse centers to understand the intricacies of managing programs for these specific demographics. Similarly, schools and educational institutions present opportunities, particularly in areas related to community outreach, after-school coordination, or student welfare.

Community development organizations play a significant role in housing, economic development, and urban planning, revealing the dynamics of large-scale community service projects. At the same time, advocacy groups and think tanks engage interns in a mix of policy recommendations, research, and community engagement. The elderly population’s needs can be explored in-depth in elderly care and assisted living facilities, while refugee and immigrant services offer an avenue to work closely with diverse communities, assisting with their integration.

Lastly, correctional facilities provide a unique perspective, focusing on rehabilitation programs, community reintegration, and inmate-related services.

It’s essential for those seeking internships in these areas to network extensively, reach out to specific organizations of interest, attend related workshops or conferences, and leverage academic career centers. Additionally, joining related student organizations or groups can also provide valuable connections and opportunities for internships.

What Skills Will I Learn as a Social and Community Service Manager?

As a social and community service manager, you will develop a diverse set of skills that are essential for effectively managing programs, coordinating services, and engaging with diverse communities.

  • Program Management: Learn to design, implement, and evaluate social service programs, ensuring they meet the needs of the community and achieve desired outcomes.
  • Cultural Competence: Gain the skills to work with diverse populations and respect different cultural backgrounds, ensuring services are inclusive and culturally sensitive.
  • Problem-Solving: Acquire the ability to identify challenges within the community and develop creative solutions to address them, adapting strategies as needed.
  • Communication: Hone your communication skills to effectively interact with clients, community members, staff, and stakeholders. Clear communication is vital for conveying information, resolving conflicts, and fostering collaboration.
  • Case Management: Learn to assess client needs, develop personalized service plans, and coordinate resources to provide comprehensive support.
  • Conflict Resolution: Learn strategies for resolving conflicts within teams and among community members, promoting positive interactions and outcomes.
  • Budgeting and Resource Allocation: Develop financial management skills to create and manage budgets, allocate resources efficiently, and ensure the sustainability of programs.
  • Policy Knowledge: Familiarize yourself with social policies, regulations, and legal frameworks that impact the delivery of social services.
  • Data Analysis: Acquire skills in collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data to measure program effectiveness and make informed decisions.

What is the Work-Life Balance of a Social and Community Service Manager?

The work-life balance of a social and community service manager can vary depending on the size and type of organization they work for as well as their individual responsibilities. However, in general, social and community service managers tend to have a demanding workload that can require long hours and irregular schedules.

This is especially true for managers who work in high-need areas or who are responsible for managing multiple programs or departments.

Some of the factors that can affect the work-life balance of a social and community service manager include:

  • Organization Size: Social and community service managers who work for larger organizations may have more opportunities for specialization and less direct client contact, which can lead to a better work-life balance.
  • Organization Type: Social and community service managers who work for non-profit organizations may have to work more hours and deal with less job security than managers who work for government agencies or for-profit organizations.
  • Managerial Level: Social and community service managers at the entry level may have more flexible schedules and less responsibility than managers at higher levels. However, managers at higher levels may have more opportunities for advancement and to make a significant impact on the organization.

What’s the Career Outlook for Social and Community Service Managers?

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the career outlook for social and community service managers is expected to grow 12% from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations. Specifically, about 18,000 openings for social and community service managers are projected each year over the decade.

Some of the factors that are contributing to the growth of this field are as follows:

  • The Aging Population: The number of people aged 65 and older is expected to grow by 20% from 2020 to 2030. This growth will put a strain on social services, as older adults are more likely to need assistance with activities of daily living and long-term care.
  • The Rising Cost of Living: The cost of living is rising, which is making it difficult for people to afford basic necessities. This is leading to an increase in demand for social services such as food banks and homeless shelters.
  • The Increasing Diversity of the Population: The population of the United States is becoming more diverse, which is creating a need for social services that are tailored to the needs of different cultures and communities.
  • The Focus on Mental Health: There is a growing awareness of the importance of mental health, which is leading to an increase in demand for social services such as counseling and therapy.
Social and Community Service Manager Popular Career Specialties

What are the Job Opportunities for a Social and Community Service Manager?

A Social Services and Community Manager can pursue a variety of job roles depending on their interests, expertise, and the specific needs of the communities they serve.

Here are some job opportunities:

  • Social Services Manager: In this role, you would oversee social service programs that cater to specific populations or address particular issues, such as child welfare, family services, or mental health programs.
  • Program Coordinator or Manager: Program coordinators or managers are responsible for planning, implementing, and evaluating specific programs like youth programs, community outreach initiatives, or support groups.
  • Community Outreach Coordinator: Community outreach coordinators focus on engaging with the local community, building partnerships, and promoting the organization’s services.
  • Grant Writer or Fundraiser: They secure funding for social services programs through grants, donations, and other fundraising initiatives.
  • Case Management Supervisor: Case management supervisors oversee a team of case managers who work directly with clients to assess their needs, develop plans, and connect them with appropriate services and resources.
  • Advocacy Manager: Advocacy managers work for organizations that aim to influence policy and social change. They lead advocacy campaigns, collaborate with stakeholders, and work to create positive shifts in laws and regulations.
  • Substance Abuse Services Manager: Managers in this field oversee programs and resources related to substance abuse prevention, treatment, and recovery.
  • Crisis Intervention Manager: Crisis intervention managers lead teams that respond to immediate crises, such as natural disasters, emergencies, or situations involving vulnerable populations.
  • Elder Services Manager: If you work in elder services, you would manage programs and services that cater to the needs of older adults, such as senior centers, meal programs, and home care services.
  • Youth Services Manager: Youth services managers oversee programs aimed at supporting and engaging young people, which might include after-school programs, mentoring, and recreational activities.
  • Residential Services Manager: In this role, you would oversee residential facilities such as group homes, shelters, or halfway houses, ensuring the well-being and support of the residents.
  • Rehabilitation Coordinator: You’ll design and manage programs aimed at helping individuals reintegrate into society after incarceration, addiction treatment, or other significant life disruptions.
  • Veterans Service Officer: In this role, you would be assisting veterans with accessing benefits, integrating into civilian life, and addressing specific challenges they face.

What Types of Companies Hire a Social and Community Service Manager?

  • Nonprofit Organizations: Many non-profit organizations, such as charities, social service agencies, and community centers, need social and community service managers to lead and manage outreach programs
  • Government Agencies: Local, state, and federal government agencies often employ social and community service managers to oversee programs related to social welfare, public health, and community development.
  • Healthcare Institutions: Hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare organizations may hire social and community service managers to develop and manage patient support programs, such as mental health services, patient advocacy, and support groups.
  • Educational Institutions: Schools, colleges, and universities might employ social and community service managers to coordinate student support services, such as counseling, career services, and campus-wide community engagement initiatives.
  • Social Services Agencies: Organizations that focus on specific social issues, such as domestic violence, substance abuse, or child welfare, often require social and community service managers to lead and supervise their programs.
  • Advocacy Organizations: Advocacy groups and organizations dedicated to promoting social change may employ managers to develop and execute campaigns, coordinate events, and collaborate with other stakeholders to advance their causes.
  • Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Programs: Some large corporations have CSR programs that involve community outreach, philanthropy, and social impact initiatives. Social and community service managers might be employed to design and manage these programs.
  • Elder Care Facilities: Nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and senior care centers often hire managers to oversee programs and services that enhance the quality of life for elderly residents.
  • Disaster Relief Organizations: In times of natural disasters or emergencies, organizations dedicated to disaster relief and recovery may hire social and community service managers to coordinate relief efforts and provide support to affected communities.

Should I become a Social and Community Service Manager?

Whether or not you should become a social and community service manager depends on your individual skills, interests, and goals.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Are you passionate about helping others? Social and community service managers need to be passionate about helping others and making a difference in the world. If you are not passionate about this work, it will be difficult to succeed in it.
  • Do you have strong communication and interpersonal skills? Social and community service managers need to be able to communicate effectively with a variety of stakeholders, including clients, staff, volunteers, and community members. If you are not a good communicator or if you do not enjoy working with people, this may not be the right career for you.
  • Are you emotionally resilient? Working in the social services field can be emotionally demanding, as you’ll encounter individuals facing difficult situations. Being emotionally resilient and having strong coping mechanisms is important for maintaining your well-being.
  • Are you interested in social work or public administration? Social and community service managers typically have a degree in social work or public administration. If you are not interested in these fields, you may be happier with another career.

In sum, a career as a social and community service manager is both rewarding and challenging. The role demands a fusion of passion, skill, and resilience, coupled with a genuine commitment to societal change. Before making a decision, it’s pivotal to introspect and weigh these considerations against your personal aspirations and values. The right choice will align with both your inherent strengths and your vision for a fulfilling professional journey.

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Anita Akpuoforba

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