Top 10 Intriguing Careers in Human Services
An extensive variety of opportunities exist in this branch of health care. And human service specialists are among some of Canada's most-required professionals. Every community has residents in need, and, in many towns and cities across the country, that need is rising.
Here are 10 types of professionals that are particularly worth joining in this field:
This group of workers includes four general types, which sometimes overlap in terms of the services they provide. That's because the people benefitting from them often have more than just one challenge. For example, a person might require shelter from a violent family situation or the cold streets plus need help coping with an addiction or mental disorder.
People in this category frequently have the skills to handle a number of different forms of crisis intervention or outreach. They don't have to go to school for very long. They can earn good money (as much as $66,560 or more per year with enough experience).*
Think about just one of the major drivers of that demand: homelessness. The facts are eye-opening:
- During any given year, at least 200,000 people in Canada experience a form of homelessness that puts them into contact with an emergency shelter.**
- On any given night, at least 30,000 Canadians are known to be homeless. But it is estimated that an additional 50,000 may experience a "hidden" type of homelessness.**
- Mental illness may affect up to two-thirds of homeless Canadians and is the main cause of disability across the country.‡
But although homelessness is a big reason why workers in this category are so necessary, it certainly isn't the only one. The issues they provide support for can affect people at every economic level, age, and ethnic origin. Their four main roles can be split up this way:
1. Addictions Workers—Mental illness and/or alcohol or illicit drug dependence affects about one in every five Canadians.‡ That's a lot of people, but that number doesn't include those who may suffer from addictions related to other issues like gambling, shoplifting, or sex. Workers who specialize in helping people overcome substance or behavioral addictions are incredibly valuable within almost any community.
2. Social Service Workers—These professionals often specialize in a particular area related to family and youth intervention, senior welfare, or support for Canada's military veterans. Many have both office and in-the-field duties.
3. Community Services Workers—Homeless people are frequently a big focus of these workers' careers. They can often be found performing community outreach in areas known for poverty and drug abuse. Many work in shelters for the homeless or for women affected by domestic violence. And some specialize in performing outreach within the Aboriginal population.
4. Developmental Service Workers—Helping people born with mental disabilities is the primary role of these specialists. They often teach life skills and do other work that allows developmentally challenged Canadians become active and participating citizens.
Many people in Canada are living with chronic illnesses or disabilities that make it impossible for them to do basic tasks the rest of us take for granted. Even simple activities like bathing, getting dressed, or moving from room to room can be unachievable for such members of our communities.
In fact, pain, mobility, and flexibility challenges make up the top three types of disability in the country. Together, they accounted for 24.5 percent of all Canadian disabilities in 2012. And even though more than 80 percent of disabled people make use of some kind of assistive device, they often still need human support.****
Becoming a personal support worker requires very little schooling. And the good you can do extends beyond the physical assistance you can provide. You can also offer daily companionship that can mean a lot to people with disabilities.
6. Health Care Aides
Like personal support workers, health care aides provide a lot of assistance with the routine and basic needs of people suffering from disabling conditions. The difference is that the patients of these workers tend to have medical issues that are more temporary in nature. They also tend to be receiving their care in a hospital or nursing setting.
Again, the training requirements are minimal. And, with experience, you can earn as much as $25.11 per hour or more while helping nurses with an important variety of health care tasks.*
Life in Canada, like anywhere else, can be difficult sometimes. Our jobs, finances, and relationships—along with other factors—can all cause emotional strain and stress. Without professional therapy, those issues can turn into bigger mental health problems. So counsellors offer critical help with preventing further mental struggles and offering coping mechanisms for the ones people already have.
Becoming a counsellor often means getting to pursue a specialty that is close to your heart. For example, some counsellors specialize in helping seniors. (Almost half of the nation's seniors in residential care homes have symptoms of depression or have been diagnosed with the condition.***) Others specialize in family or youth therapy. (About seven out of 10 mental health conditions develop before a person reaches the age of 18.‡)
Grief, addictions, rehabilitation, and marriage counselling are additional areas you can focus on. And you can make a good living. The median annual salary for counsellors in Canada is about $57,491. But it's possible to grow your income to $88,421 or more.*
8. Psychologists and Psychological Associates
With a graduate degree in psychology, you can practice an even higher level of therapy that comes with additional career options. And you'll be helping to address a major problem in Canada. Look at these stats:
- Roughly 20 percent of Canadians will suffer from a mental disorder at some time in their life. And the other 80 percent will at least know somebody personally who has.***
- Of the many Canadians who experience episodes of major depression, only about 50 percent receive care that may be sufficient for their condition.‡
- Mental health issues within Canadian workplaces are estimated to cost the nation's economy over $50 billion a year.***
Of course, playing a big role in alleviating such problems means being paid very well for your efforts. In Canada, the median salary for psychologists is about $82,285. And many earn salaries as high as $121,597 or more.*
9. Psychiatric Nurses
The field of nursing is experiencing an ongoing shortage of qualified workers at every level. This is particularly true in the area of psychiatric mental health nursing. Like counsellors and psychologists, these professionals do essential work that helps lessen the impact of mental disorders in our communities.
A psychiatric nurse is a specialized type of registered nurse (RN). As such, you can make a median hourly wage of $37.00 or earn as much as $46.00 or more per hour depending on your experience and location.*
10. Recreation Therapy Workers
By 2036, the number of Canadians aged 65 and older is projected to double. That means seniors will represent about 25 percent of the population.† And aging brings an increasing chance of disability.
That's where many recreational therapists come in. They often complement the work of gerontologists by providing services that help seniors retain as much mobility, independence, and physical vitality as possible. When you consider that seniors are about three times more likely than someone aged 15-64 to experience a disability, you can imagine just how much demand for recreational therapy is likely to grow.****
As a therapeutic recreation assistant, you could make a median wage of $25.64 per hour or as much as $41.00 per hour or more. Then, with experience and some extra credentials, you might become a recreation program director and have the opportunity to earn a salary as high as $122,533 or more in some areas of the country.*
* Government of Canada, Job Bank, website last accessed on March 5, 2019.
** Wellesley Institute The State of Homelessness in Canada 2013, website last accessed on August 22, 2016.
*** Canadian Nurses Association, website last accessed on August 22, 2016.
**** Statistics Canada, website last accessed on August 22, 2016.
† Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Canada's Aging Population: The Municipal Role in Canada's Demographic Shift, website last accessed on July 5, 2017.
‡ Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), "Mental Illness and Addiction: Facts and Statistics," website last accessed on November 27, 2019.
Canadian Federation of Mental Health Nurses, website last accessed on May 27, 2019.