A social services specialist works for hospitals, community service facilities, educational institutions and other organizations that provide services to the community. He or she works with patients to assess individual cases and set up an appropriate plan that fits each patient's needs. Common duties include providing counseling, conducting interviews, filing paperwork, creating treatment plans and providing educational services for various life skills. A four-year, or bachelor's, degree in social work is usually necessary to become a social services specialist, though a degree in a related field might be acceptable. You also may need certifications, licensure or a master's degree to succeed and advance in the field.
To become a social services specialist, you will likely need to study social work, psychology or human services and earn at least a bachelor's degree. Your degree will include classes in communications, sociology, research, counseling, human behavior and group processes, and most programs require field work during an internship to complete the degree. Some programs also may require field experience in a community social service agency during core courses. If you decide to pursue more advanced jobs in social services, then you may need to earn a master's degree in social work, counseling or human services. Some positions may require state licensure that you can obtain through a combination of education, experience and exams.
When you first become a social services specialist, you will likely find yourself starting at the bottom of the social services tier system. The tier system varies in its number of levels, but it generally ranks entry-level workers as trainees and assigns more duties to employees when they reach the intermediate, experienced and advanced tiers. Each proceeding tier requires a number of years of experience, and it may require a master's degree to reach the experienced and advanced tiers. Although entry-level social service specialists perform some basic counseling for people, specialists in the higher tiers work with more difficult cases. As you reach higher tiers, your organization will likely require specific certifications.
Excellent social skills and communication skills are important if you want to become a social services specialist and provide the best services for patients. You should feel comfortable counseling others, performing assessments and recommending an action plan for your patients. Social service specialists also perform many administrative tasks and need to have basic computer skills and feel comfortable filling out paperwork. Some employers may require you to travel to a client's home to conduct interviews, and experienced social services specialists also may have to mentor and train those who are new to the field.