THE GUIDE TO A CAREER IN COMMUNITY SERVICES
Are you an empathetic, helpful and caring person? A career in community services is all about making a living through helping others – and it’s a field that’s vital to maintaining the wellbeing of the community at large. Community services workers are in high demand. The industry is in constant need of qualified, trained professionals to help those who need it the most.
Who is a community worker?
Community services are any job roles that involve completing work that directly gives back or helps the local community. You can work in both paid and volunteer positions. Community workers advocate for the rights of individuals and communities and work to address systemic barriers that prevent the social and economic inclusion of all citizens. Promoting social justice and maximising human potential are cornerstones of community work.
A career in community services can be challenging at times, but it can also be hugely fulfilling. If you’re the kind of person who is passionate about social justice, has an optimistic and patient nature, and is determined to help people enact positive changes in their lives, then a career in community services might be an excellent fit for you.
Over 50 occupations fall under the community work banner and roles include intake, support, case work, crisis intervention, team management and advocacy. Common occupational titles:
- Alcohol and Drug Officer
- Child Protection Officer
- Community Development Officer
- Community Mental Health Support Worker
- Community Support Worker
- Crisis Intervention Worker
- Disability Services Officer
- Juvenile Justice Officer
- Multicultural Support Officer
- Residential Care Officer
- Welfare Worker
- Youth Worker
What does a community worker do?
The work of community workers involves considerable personal contact and travel within communities. They are normally expected to attend evening meetings and occasional weekend activities.
- Assesses clients’ needs and plans, develops and implements educational, training and support programs
- Interviews clients and assesses the nature and extent of difficulties
- Monitors and reports on the progress of clients
- Refers clients to agencies that can provide additional help
- Assesses community need and resources for health, welfare, housing, employment, training and other facilities and services
- Liaises with community groups, welfare agencies, government bodies and private businesses about community issues and promoting awareness of community resources and services
- Supports families and provides education and care for children and disabled persons in adult service units, group housing and government institutions
- Supervises offenders on probation and parole
- Assists young people to solve social, emotional and financial problems
Employment opportunities for a community worker
Practitioners may find work in a paid or voluntary capacity and in addition to providing direct services, people involved in the management or governance of community service organisations may fall under the community work banner.
Community workers can be employed in the not-for-profit, government and private sectors. Some community workers may want to work in not-for-profit organisations only, whereas others look for the relative security of government jobs that focus on the provision of human services.
Practitioners seeking work in non-government positions may find employment with community development organisations, welfare centres, social enterprises, neighbourhood houses, emergency relief agencies, home and community care organisations and residential care facilities.
The big advantage for practitioners is that learning transferrable skills affords you the flexibility to move around the sector to new settings if you start to get restless. Of course, if you have a clear picture of your career in mind you can certainly undertake a specialised course right away or study one post-graduation.
What are the job prospects?
The healthcare industry in Australia is the country’s fastest growing sector. Community Services has continued to grow in relation to demand over the past few years. Predictions are set for the number of employees to continue rising, which means there will be plenty of job opportunities for those wishing to enter community services.
As well as providing excellent job prospects in the major cities, rural and regional areas have particularly high demand for community workers and is an option new graduates are encouraged to explore.
There are a number of peak bodies for community services you may wish to join or learn more about to help you find work or access support from others already in the field. Some of these bodies include the Australian Council of Social Service, Carers NSW, Association of Children’s Welfare Agencies, Centre for Volunteering, Churches Housing, Community Housing Industry Association NSW and People with Disability Australia.