Working in the Social Services

Parent Q&A

  • So, I lived in Berkeley about 15 years ago.  It is hard to believe it has been so long.  I left because I was a new graduate level social worker, wanted to adopt a child as a single parent, and couldn't afford to do it there.  Fast forward to now, I have lots of experience and am more marketable, have 2 children, live in Oregon, and really want to come back.  I know housing is extremely expensive to put it mildly.  However, I want to return so badly.  My kids are 10 and 13 and next school year would be heading to middle school and high school.

    Here are my questions.I am an LCSW in Oregon, and have an MSW.  Not sure if my licensure would transfer.  I am thinking for a decent paying job I should be looking at community colleges and hospitals.  Any other ideas?   How much do you think I would need to earn to pay for decent housing?  Where should I consider living so the kids would be able to attend decent schools.

    Sorry if I seem naive.  I know things are very expensive there, but I want to see if I can make something work out.

    Thank you so much!  Robyn

    Isn't Berkeley wonderful?  Here's what's happened  in Berkeley.  The tech-boom and ridiculous wages the tech companies are paying employees along with the high rents in San Francisco have these workers looking for housing in Berkeley.  I have property I Berkeley and just can't believe what people are asking and getting for rent.  In the past year rent have increased 25% and people are waiting in line for these places.  Not sure what your budget is but a run of the mill 1 bedroom apartment in Berkeley is going for $2,500. 

    As for working at the community colleges you could try.  There are 28 colleges in the Bay Area and only 4 or 5 you could commute to within an hour.  The hiring process takes about nine months to over a year, if they are hiring.  Because the economy is doing well college enrollment is way down and pay is on the very low side to live in the Bay Area.  Due to budge constraints t he colleges are usually offer employment for one quarter/semester and then have you sign-up for unemployment between semesters and over the summer.  It's a messed up.  Even though the economy is doing well wages have been frozen for 5-10 years depending on the district.  But you can try.  Things change.
    For hospital work it's either Sutter, Kaiser or UCSF. 

    You might be able to find a shared housing arrangement.  That's what a lot of people are doing in order to live here.  You might want to try looking on Craig's List for a shared housing arrangement or post in BPN.

    Hope this helps.

    Hi Robyn,

    consider working for UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital in Oakland -- LinkedIn can show some openings.  Your MSW qualifies you for a level II position. You will need to register with the board of behavioral science in Sacramento. 

    Housing is tight and expensive. Consider sharing. Albany has the sweetest school district. Berkeley is lottery based so your kids can end up at different schools. 

    Good luck 

    I just wanted to respond and say, yes, Berkeley is the lottery and that can it work out.  The fact that your children are in middle and high school means they will be at different schools for a few years, and then your youngest child will end up in high school with his/her sibling (there's a sibling preference) and also only one high school!

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