Social and economic upheaval, physical and mental health problems, and an aging population are creating a strong demand for social and community services in the United States.
Additionally, concerns stemming from issues like COVID-19, systemic racism and economic inequality are raising Americans’ collective stress level. Too often, that stress is leading people to unsafe and unhealthy behaviors, according to a 2022 report from the American Psychological Association.
An analysis of programs that address these issues is a priority. Human services professionals reported to the HealthSpark Foundation in 2021 that they expected increasing emphasis on evaluating these programs’ efficiency and effectiveness as the need for them becomes more pronounced.
Social and community service managers play a key role in addressing all of these concerns. They oversee programs and organizations that support the well-being of individuals and communities, ensuring they provide the necessary resources to those who need them most.
The clear value of these professionals explains why the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects faster-than-average job growth for the role between 2020 and 2030.
What do social and community service managers do to coordinate these vital support programs? And what preparation, including an advanced education, can lead to a job in this in-demand field?
The Role of a Social and Community Service Manager
Social and community service managers coordinate services and programs that support public well-being. They also direct professionals who provide this assistance to those in need, and they connect communities and funders to foster support for social services.
The work of a social and community service manager can focus on a specific group, such as people experiencing homelessness or dealing with a serious illness. Their assistance includes:
- Identifying issues
- Finding available services
- Leading awareness programs
- Advocating for individuals and families
Because their work impacts many different populations, these professionals can work in various settings and for a wide range of organizations.
Social and Community Service Manager Workplaces
Social and community service managers often work for nonprofit organizations, government agencies or for-profit social service companies. Typical work environments include offices, clinics, shelters and hospitals.
While nearly a third work in individual and family services, social and community service managers work in a variety of other fields as well. The BLS reports that the following sectors employed most of these professionals in 2020:
- Individual and family services — 29%
- Religious, grantmaking, civic and professional organizations — 12%
- Nursing and residential care centers — 11%
- Local government — 10%
- Community and vocational rehabilitation services — 9%
Social and Community Service Manager Responsibilities
Social and community service managers serve a variety of organizations, including those that address specific problems or serve particular populations. Examples of populations they may serve include:
- Individuals struggling with substance use
- People with mental health needs
- Older adults
What a social and community service manager does can vary according to the size of the organization they serve, but typical responsibilities include:
- Working with members of a community, as well as other stakeholders, to identify services that an area and its residents need
- Analyzing data to evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of programs and services
- Reporting to program funders about the impact of services
- Recommending and leading improvements to programs and services
- Managing administrative tasks to ensure programs and services meet community needs
- Handling personnel-related duties such as recruiting, hiring and training new staff
- Coordinating outreach activities that promote a program and its services
- Writing proposals to solicit funding for social and community services
- Representing an organization and promoting its work at community events
In large organizations, social and community service managers typically have more focused responsibilities. They might be responsible for a specific program — for example, overseeing consulting services in an assisted living facility or adoption assistance in a family services group.
In smaller organizations, these professionals often juggle many major responsibilities, such as developing and leading programs, managing budgets and raising money.
How to Become a Social and Community Service Manager
Becoming a social and community service manager generally requires at least a bachelor’s degree and some prior related experience. Earning a Master of Social Work (M.S.W.) degree can help professionals advance more quickly in this field.
Social and Community Service Manager Educational Path
A bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement for most social and community service manager roles. These professionals generally study social work or another public policy or social services discipline, such as urban policy or public administration. Some roles require a master’s degree, however, so completing a graduate program can put job seekers at an advantage.
Social and Community Service Manager Experience Requirements
Most roles in this field call for at least some experience, especially for those whose highest level of education is a bachelor’s degree. Individuals with master’s degrees may not need as much prior experience to qualify for these jobs.
Experience as a social worker or substance use counselor can be good preparation for a job as a social and community service manager.
Social and Community Service Manager Skills
Succeeding in this profession requires certain skills that support what social and community service managers do, with responsibilities that include performing data analysis and managing staff. The following skills and competencies are beneficial for aspiring social and community service managers:
- Analysis — To evaluate data that shows the effectiveness of programs and services
- Management — To lead staff and coordinate administrative duties
- Communication — To speak to the community and write funding proposals
- Problem-solving — To address issues that arise among people an organization serves and among those who work there
- Service orientation — To commit to coordinating assistance for those who need it
Social and Community Service Manager Salary and Job Outlook
The employment outlook for social and community service managers is positive. Furthermore, professionals in this role have a higher-than-average median annual salary, according to the BLS.
Social and Community Service Manager Salary
The median annual wage for social and community service managers in May 2021 was $74,000, according to the BLS. Salary ranges for individuals in this role can vary based on several factors, including experience level, location and the specific setting in which they work.
The BLS reports the highest-paying sector for this profession was local government, where social and community services managers earned $93,420. The other top-paying industries included the following:
- Religious, grantmaking, civic and professional organizations — $70,960
- Individual and family services — $63,260
- Nursing and residential care centers — $60,590
- Community and vocational rehabilitation services — $60,590
Social and Community Service Manager Job Outlook
The BLS projects about 18,300 job openings each year, on average, for social and community service managers between 2020 and 2030. That projected total reflects 15% growth, which is faster than the projected average growth for all occupations (8%).
Much of the employment growth in this field will occur as a result of retirements or transfers to other occupations, but the BLS also attributes the projected job growth to an aging population.
U.S. Census data from 2020 shows that the adult population grew by more than 10%, faster than the entire population, when compared with 2010. The Census Bureau reports this growth is due in large part to baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964. As the adult population grows and continues to age, it will need more social services, such as adult daycare, so social and community services managers who work with this population are likely to be in the greatest demand.
Other societal concerns are also driving the growth in this profession, the BLS reports. Among those factors are the continuing need to support people with substance use disorders and the emerging trend of sending those with these concerns to treatment programs instead of jail. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) cites issues related to COVID-19, systemic racism, economic inequality and climate change as additional factors demanding the attention of social and community service professionals.
Make Your Mark in a Rewarding, In-Demand Career
If you’re interested in a leadership role that helps ensure individuals and communities get the care and assistance they need, explore a career as a social and community service manager. [Virginia Commonwealth University’s online Master of Social Work])/) format can help prepare you for the responsibilities associated with this vital profession.
The program focuses on providing assistance in a variety of settings, emphasizing values such as inclusivity and leadership. Additionally, it offers geographic flexibility and a largely asynchronous learning environment for most courses. Discover how VCU’s online M.S.W. format can help you achieve your social work leadership goals.