Working in the Social Services

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Feb 2005

I'm seriously interested on working at the social services area. I'm particularly interested on substance abuse treatment and domestic violence issues. The only problem is that I don't have any formal studies in the area. I'm now in the process to take some UC extension courses related to this themes, but still I don't think they will be enough to help me to get a job in the area. On the other hand I would be very happy to volunteer to get field experience. However, my question is: who would give a volunteer opportunity to somebody with zero experience in the field? Any ideas, please??

I really have nobody to help me with this matter. (By the way, FYI, I'm supposed to leave the country in 2 years, and have no money at all to pay for a degree, so those aren't an option). Thank you so much. MI

I think that the UCB Extension classes that train people about addictions have a good reputation. You need to take the whole series of them, though, before you can really use that as a ''bragging point'' on your resume. You could get some experience in a variety of ways:

1) You could attend some 12 step meetings. Just get a schedule from AA, NA, CA, Alanon ( for families and friends of alcoholics) and go to any meeting that doesn't say it is ''closed.'' This is an excellent way to get exposed to the principles of one of the most powerful self-help programs around. You might plan to go to 10 meetings from each of the 4 as a good starting point. ''Beginners'' meetings are good as are speaker meetings or speaker/discussion for someone in your shoes.

2)There are places where you could volunteer to get some experience with clinics. Due to the current patient confidentiality rules you might not get to see any real ''clinical'' work (like support groups etc) but you would likley be there to help out, answer phones, do clerical/reception stuff and just hang around.

3) There are many organizations that support people and families in crisis. You could volunteer at an emergency room ( lots of trauma related to drugs, alcohol and domestic abuse show up there). Better yet might be for you to sign up to work on a ''hotline'' or volunteer to do outreach work to hospitals. There used to be an organization close to campus called ''BAWAR''. I think it stood for Bay Area Women Against Rape. They would be a great source of info on organizations you could volunteer for. Probably doing any of these things would serve you by giving you experience as well as they would help build your resume. JM

It should not be a problem to get a volunteer position or an entry level case management job working in the areas you are interested in b/c there is a lot of need for workers and the pay is frequently very low, and the burnout high so people quit all the time.

I'd advise you make some inquiries/answer some ads and just stress how you have been responsible and dependable in other jobs and why you are interested in this area and what you have done to learn. Certainly residential centers/halfway houses need staff all the time/24 hours so you should at least be able to get a shift work position if you have a work history of being responsible. in social service myself

If you would like to volunteer at a domestic violence shelter or agency, you should take the 40-hour training to become certified. The training is usually free, as long as you agree to volunteer a certain number of hours after being trained. The trainings are given by different agencies and shelters around the area throughout the year. Try calling the Family Violence Law Center or Building Futures for Women and Children. Worked in DV