Careers in Social Services

The term “social services” is a broad umbrella that captures a range of career pathways. In this resource, we will outline those pathways that are focused on mental health and wellness. In addition, although we highlight here some career pathways that are common. See here for a website that details a huge range of career pathways in social services

Before outlining the pathways in social services, you should embrace one thing — there can be considerable overlap in the actual day-to-day functions for these kinds of jobs. While the licensing and credentialing can seem to indicate large differences, it is also important to notice the overlaps as well.

Bachelor’s Level Options

There a huge range of social service entry-level jobs that require a bachelor's degree and related experiences. I will list a sample of these kinds of positions here, but there are so many more

  • Case worker/manager
  • Social worker
  • Gerontology aide
  • Drug abuse counselor
  • Intake interviewer
  • Mental health aide
  • Residential treatment staff
  • Crisis response / psychological first aid specialist

These are only examples, as there are many more roles that you can pursue after graduating Wellesley, and job titles change from organization-to-organization. The key to considering these entry-level roles is to look carefully at:

  • The basic duties — do they align with your qualifications, interests and career goals
    • If you do not have the needed qualifications, how can you begin to build these qualifications?
  • Population — these jobs can be very different depending on the population served
  • Supervision — because these jobs can be complex, it is important to ensure you will receive the supervision and support needed to serve your client

There are also a range of social service career pathways that require graduate study. While this resource does not go into detail about the graduate school application process. please see here for general information about researching and applying to graduate schools.


Psychology is a very broad field, and includes a range of subfields. Of those, two are focused on direct social service to clients/patients. Each of these pathways requires a doctoral degree, and licensure at the state level. There can be much overlap in terms of the kinds of services provided, including

  • Talk therapy
  • Psychological assessment
  • Consultation

Regardless of which of these specialties you might pursue, it is very important to look at programs that are accredited by the American Psychological Association — here is their program database.

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Counseling Psychology
    • Primary focus - full range of human function and development
      • May choose to focus on psychopathology
      • But, generally speaking, more of a focus on working with people across functional levels
      • NOTE: focus will depend on graduate program and doctoral internships placements
    • May work in a range of settings - setting will be dictated by area of focus
    • See here for more information about this pathway

Professional Counseling

The field of professional counseling is similar to counseling psychology in many ways, in that counselors provide talk therapy/counseling, do some forms of assessment, and consult with other professionals about client needs. The primary difference is that counselors scope of practice is more limited regarding the kinds of psychological assessments that can be used and interpreted.

There are several specialties, all of which require a master’s-level degree. The specialities include:

  • Clinical Mental Health Counseling
  • Addictions Counseling
  • Rehabilitation Counseling
  • School Counseling
  • College Counseling
  • Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling
  • Career Counseling

When considering graduate programs, it is very important to think about where you will practice, as each state has unique license requirements. If you are not sure where you will live and work in the future, it is best to attend a CACREP accredited program (see here for a full list of these programs), as these programs very often as used by states as the “gold standard” for meeting state requirements. If you want to know more about requirements for a specific state, here is a list of state board contact information.

Social Work

Although it is possible to work in social work role with a bachelor’s degree, many people pursue more advanced levels of social work practice through graduate studies. Such programs qualify students for more advances licensure at the state level as well. Social work licensing requirements care very QUITE widely, so be sure to research licensure requirements in your state(s) of interest (here is a resource to get you started on learning more about social work licensure). When considering graduate programs in social work, you should consider programs accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) (here is their directory of accredited programs).

Social workers may work more with directly individuals/clients/families, at a more systematic/administrative level, or some combination of the two. Specialty areas in social work include:

  • Public health
  • Mental health
  • Substance use / abuse
  • Child welfare
  • School (K-12)
  • Corrections
  • Gerontology
  • Learning More

As you can see, there are a variety of settings and roles to pursue in K-12 education. In addition to research the information above, you can also: