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Become A Health Support Specialist

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Working As A Health Support Specialist

  • Assisting and Caring for Others
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships
  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Getting Information
  • Deal with People

  • Unpleasant/Angry People

  • Mostly Sitting

  • Stressful

  • $43,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Health Support Specialist Do

Social workers help people solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives. One group of social workers—clinical social workers—also diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional issues.   

Duties

Social workers typically do the following:

  • Identify people and communities in need of help
  • Assess clients’ needs, situations, strengths, and support networks to determine their goals
  • Help clients adjust to changes and challenges in their lives, such as illness, divorce, or unemployment
  • Research, refer, and advocate for community resources, such as food stamps, childcare, and healthcare to assist and improve a client’s well-being
  • Respond to crisis situations such as child abuse and mental health emergencies
  • Follow up with clients to ensure that their situations have improved
  • Evaluate services provided to ensure that they are effective
  • Develop and evaluate programs and services to ensure that basic client needs are met
  • Provide psychotherapy services

Social workers help people cope with challenges in their lives. They help with a wide range of situations, such as adopting a child or being diagnosed with a terminal illness.

Social workers may work with children, people with disabilities, and people with serious illnesses and addictions. Their work varies based on the type of client they are working with.

Some social workers work with groups, community organizations, and policymakers to develop or improve programs, services, policies, and social conditions. This focus of work is referred to as macro social work.

Advocacy is an important aspect of social work. Social workers advocate or raise awareness with and on behalf of their clients and the social work profession on local, state, and national levels.

The following are examples of types of social workers:

Child and family social workers protect vulnerable children and help families in need of assistance. They help families find housing or services, such as childcare, or apply for benefits, such as food stamps. They intervene when children are in danger of neglect or abuse. Some help arrange adoptions, locate foster families, or work to reunite families.

Clinical social workers—also called licensed clinical social workers—diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional disorders, including anxiety and depression. They provide individual, group, family, and couples therapy; they work with clients to develop strategies to change behavior or cope with difficult situations; and they refer clients to other resources or services, such as support groups or other mental health professionals. Clinical social workers can develop treatment plans with the client, doctors, and other healthcare professionals and may adjust the treatment plan if necessary based on their client’s progress. They may also provide mental healthcare to help children and families cope with changes in their lives, such as divorce or other family problems.

Many clinical social workers work in private practice. In these settings, clinical social workers also perform administrative and recordkeeping tasks, such as working with insurance companies in order to receive payment for their services. Some work in a group practice with other social workers or mental health professionals.

School social workers work with teachers, parents, and school administrators to develop plans and strategies to improve students’ academic performance and social development. Students and their families are often referred to social workers to deal with problems such as aggressive behavior, bullying, or frequent absences from school.

Healthcare social workers help patients understand their diagnosis and make the necessary adjustments to their lifestyle, housing, or healthcare. For example, they may help people make the transition from the hospital back to their homes and communities. In addition, they may provide information on services, such as home healthcare or support groups, to help patients manage their illness or disease. Social workers help doctors and other healthcare professionals understand the effects that diseases and illnesses have on patients’ mental and emotional health.

Some healthcare social workers specialize in geriatric social work, hospice and palliative care, or medical social work:

  • Geriatric social workers help senior citizens and their families. They help clients find services, such as programs that provide older adults with meals or with home healthcare. They may provide information about assisted living facilities or nursing homes, or work with older adults in those settings. They help clients and their families make plans for possible health complications or for where clients will live if they can no longer care for themselves.
  • Hospice and palliative care social workers help patients adjust to serious, chronic, or terminal illnesses. Palliative care focuses on relieving or preventing pain and other symptoms associated with serious illness. Hospice is a type of palliative care for people who are dying. Social workers in this setting provide and find services, such as support groups or grief counselors, to help patients and their families cope with the illness or disease.
  • Medical social workers in hospitals help patients and their families by linking patients with resources in the hospital and in their own community. They may work with medical staff to create discharge plans, make referrals to community agencies, facilitate support groups, or conduct followup visits with patients once they have been discharged.

Mental health and substance abuse social workers help clients with mental illnesses or addictions. They provide information on services, such as support groups and 12-step programs, to help clients cope with their illness. Many clinical social workers function in these roles as well.

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How To Become A Health Support Specialist

Although most social workers need a bachelor’s degree in social work, clinical social workers must have a master’s degree and 2 years of post-master’s experience in a supervised clinical setting. Clinical social workers must also be licensed in the state in which they practice.

Education

A bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) is the most common requirement for entry-level positions. However, some employers may hire workers who have a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as psychology or sociology.

A BSW prepares students for direct-service positions such as caseworker or mental health assistant. These programs teach students about diverse populations, human behavior, social welfare policy, and ethics in social work. All programs require students to complete supervised fieldwork or an internship.

Some positions require a master’s degree in social work (MSW), which generally takes 2 years to complete. Master’s degree programs in social work prepare students for work in their chosen specialty by developing clinical assessment and management skills. All programs require students to complete a supervised practicum or an internship.

A bachelor’s degree in social work is not required in order to enter a master’s degree program in social work. Although a degree in almost any major is acceptable, courses in psychology, sociology, economics, and political science are recommended. Some programs allow graduates with a bachelor’s degree in social work to earn their master’s degree in 1 year.

In 2015, there were more than 500 bachelor’s degree programs and more than 200 master’s degree programs accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.

Some universities offer doctoral programs in social work, where students can earn a Doctorate of Social Work (DSW) or a Ph.D. Most doctoral programs in social work require students to have a master’s in social work and experience in the field. Many doctor’s students go on to work as postsecondary teachers.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Most states have licensure or certification requirements for nonclinical social workers. Requirements vary by state.

All states require clinical social workers to be licensed. However, some states provide exemptions for clinical social workers who work in government agencies. Becoming a licensed clinical social worker requires a master’s degree in social work and a minimum of 2 years of supervised clinical experience after graduation. After completing their supervised experience, clinical social workers must pass a clinical exam to be licensed.

Because licensing requirements vary by state, those interested should contact their state board. For more information about regulatory licensure boards by state, contact the Association of Social Work Boards.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Clients talk to social workers about challenges in their lives. To effectively help, social workers must be able to listen to and understand their clients’ needs.

Empathy. Social workers often work with people who are in stressful and difficult situations. To develop strong relationships, they must have compassion and empathy for their clients.

Interpersonal skills. Being able to work with different groups of people is essential for social workers. They need strong people skills to foster healthy and productive relationships with their clients and colleagues.

Organizational skills. Social workers must help and manage multiple clients, often assisting with their paperwork or documenting their treatment.

Problem-solving skills. Social workers need to develop practical and innovative solutions to their clients’ problems.

Time-management skills. Social workers often have many clients and administrative responsibilities. They must effectively manage their time to provide adequate service to all of their clients.

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Health Support Specialist Career Paths

Health Support Specialist
Certified Nursing Assistant Registered Nurse Registered Nurse Supervisor
Nursing Director
9 Yearsyrs
Certified Nursing Assistant Team Leader Supervisor
Case Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Certified Nursing Assistant Staff Nurse Registered Nurse Supervisor
Nurse Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Mental Health Counselor Therapist Case Manager
Director Of Social Services
6 Yearsyrs
Mental Health Counselor Therapist Clinical Supervisor
Clinical Director
9 Yearsyrs
Mental Health Counselor Clinician Case Manager
Patient Care Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Counselor Therapist Case Manager
Clinical Case Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Counselor Team Leader Program Manager
Service Program Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Counselor Clinician Clinical Supervisor
Clinical Services Director
11 Yearsyrs
Clinician Clinical Supervisor Program Director
Director Of Residential Services
7 Yearsyrs
Behavioral Specialist Adjunct Professor Superintendent
Resident Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Behavioral Specialist Clinical Coordinator Registered Nurse Case Manager
Medical Case Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Behavioral Specialist Adjunct Professor Nurse Manager
Health Director
9 Yearsyrs
Support Specialist Administrator Registered Nurse Case Manager
Clinical Care Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Support Specialist Lead Teacher House Manager
Home Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Support Specialist Support Coordinator Residential Supervisor
Residential Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Substance Abuse Counselor Clinical Coordinator Nurse Manager
Health Services Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Substance Abuse Counselor Clinical Social Worker Program Supervisor
Residential Program Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Substance Abuse Counselor Senior Counselor Clinical Director
Director Of Support Services
9 Yearsyrs
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Average Length of Employment
Living Specialist 2.4 years
Support Specialist 2.4 years
Support Worker 2.3 years
Support Staff 2.1 years
Top Careers Before Health Support Specialist
Internship 11.7%
Volunteer 6.0%
Counselor 4.8%
Cashier 4.5%
Teacher 3.3%
Top Careers After Health Support Specialist
Case Manager 13.8%
Clinician 6.3%
Internship 3.8%
Counselor 3.8%

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Top Skills for A Health Support Specialist

  1. Mental Health
  2. Treatment Plans
  3. Crisis Intervention
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Provided community-based, comprehensive, recovery oriented mental health support and case management services to individuals with severe mental illness.
  • Interact with clients to develop, implement, and follow through on treatment plans.
  • Provide coordination, participate, and provide assistance within the continued development of crisis intervention.
  • Provided education on community integration, interpersonal skills, adult daily living skills, and vocational opportunities.
  • Facilitated in-home support for families with behavioral issues.

Health Support Specialist Demographics

Gender

Female

64.0%

Male

21.9%

Unknown

14.1%
Ethnicity

White

65.0%

Hispanic or Latino

13.0%

Black or African American

11.4%

Asian

6.9%

Unknown

3.8%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

81.3%

Vietnamese

6.3%

French

6.3%

Tagalog

6.3%
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Health Support Specialist Education

Schools

Norfolk State University

12.5%

University of Phoenix

10.3%

Liberty University

8.8%

Virginia State University

7.4%

Virginia Commonwealth University

6.6%

Radford University

6.6%

Old Dominion University

6.6%

Capella University

4.4%

Ashford University

4.4%

University of Maine at Fort Kent

3.7%

Strayer University

3.7%

Kennebec Valley Community College

3.7%

University of Maine

3.7%

Northern Arizona University

2.9%

Hudson Valley Community College

2.9%

Virginia Union University

2.9%

University of Kentucky

2.2%

Kaplan University

2.2%

Western Oregon University

2.2%

Nova Southeastern University

2.2%
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Majors

Psychology

19.4%

Social Work

13.7%

Business

10.9%

Human Services

5.3%

Criminal Justice

4.9%

Health Care Administration

4.9%

Sociology

4.9%

Nursing

4.2%

Counseling Psychology

3.9%

School Counseling

3.5%

Education

3.5%

Mental Health Counseling

3.2%

Elementary Education

2.8%

Public Health

2.5%

Management

2.1%

Medical Assisting Services

2.1%

Human Resources Management

2.1%

Human Development

2.1%

Accounting

2.1%

Social Sciences

1.8%
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Degrees

Bachelors

38.4%

Masters

29.0%

Other

16.5%

Associate

7.8%

Certificate

4.6%

Diploma

1.7%

Doctorate

1.5%

License

0.5%
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