Social Service Director Career and Education Requirements [2024 Updated]

Social Services Directors are a type of social and community service manager. They perform important duties by identifying people in the community who require assistance and developing programs and services to meet their needs. Some Social Services Directors choose to work with specific segments of the population, such as the elderly or veterans.

Social Services Directors often act as the liaison between the public and their organization. They educate people about programs that are available to them and explain eligibility requirements. They also perform fundraising activities to keep their programs going. Social Services Directors use their education, training and work experience to assist people who need help.

Successful directors use their leadership ability, managerial skills and analytical skills to solve problems and guide their staff members.

What is a Social Service Director?

A Social Services Director, also called a Social Service Manager or a Director of Social Services, is the person in charge of the policies of the social services department of an organization. This may be a non-profit organization, a private social service company, or a governmental agency.

A Social Services Director may be an administrator in a nursing home, a mental health program manager, the Chief Operating Officer at a non-profit organization or the president of a non-profit. Other Social Services Directors head up fundraising efforts as the Director of Development.

Community members count on Social Services Directors to create programs that help people with specific challenges. These challenges may include long standing unemployment, mental health issues, or chronic hunger. They often focus on a narrow demographic, such as the elderly, homeless people, children or veterans.

Social Services Directors represents their organization when speaking to the public. They may also spearhead community outreach initiatives to increase the public’s awareness of the programs and the services that are accessible to them. They provide families with accurate and detailed information about the services offered. They also determine the eligibility of individuals to enter their program. The staff at social services programs count on their Social Services Director to set goals for the program and provide the leadership to reach those goals.

What Does a Social Service Director Do?

A Social Services Director works with the community to determine what kinds of services and programs will benefit the population. They create programs that will help people by meeting the needs of that particular demographic. They establish the program and oversee its implementation by supervising a staff that is often composed of other social workers.

Social Services Directors also monitor the progress and effectiveness of the program by collecting and analyzing data. Based on these statistics, they develop a plan for improvement by making suggestions about changes that will better meet the needs of the community. The director then supervises the staff in order to put these changes into effect. When necessary, directors recruit, hire and train new staff members. They also guide their staff in meeting organizational goals.

Additionally, Social Services Directors monitor the budget of their program or service, and they may be called upon to write proposals to obtain additional funding. Fundraising efforts often involve meeting with potential donors in the community. In a smaller organization, the Social Services Director may also execute administrative tasks, such as keeping accurate records.

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Social Services Directors also conduct workshops and speak at community events in order to educate the public about their services and programs. They disseminate information about the individual’s rights, give details about the services provided by the program and encourage people to enter the program if it is appropriate for their needs.

Social Services Directors also make appointments with members of the community to tour the facility so they can see if that program is right for them. If a community member is interested, the Social Services Director will provide them with accurate information about their eligibility and guide them through the admissions process.

The director will help people who are admitted to a program such as a residential health care facility adjust to their new surroundings. They perform regular assessments of participants to make sure the program continues to meet their needs.

Social Services Directors are cognizant of privacy requirements and safety regulations, and they instruct their staff about their importance. The director may also be required to help families and patients by coordinating their care with outside agencies. Some Social Services Directors oversee programs in multiple facilities.

What Does a Social Service Director in a Nursing Home Do?

In a nursing home, a Social Services Director sets goals and plans for the social services department. The director establishes and directs the policies of the nursing home and supervises the staff. Community members and their families are provided with accurate information about the nursing home during outreach activities such as lectures.

The director can set an appointment with interested parties and schedule a tour of the nursing home facility. Members of the community are provided with an explanation of their rights, and the director will determine whether they meet the eligibility requirements for the program. If they do, the director will help them through the admissions procedures.

When an individual relocates to the nursing home, the Social Services Director helps the resident and the family adjust to the nursing home environment. Nursing home Social Services Directors assess patients regularly to make sure the facility continues to meet their needs. They also provide the family with information about care planning.

Why Do We Need Social Services Directors?

People depend on Social Services Directors to understand their challenges in life and create programs that will help them solve or manage their problems. Social Services Directors are needed to identify the needs of members of the community and design programs to help fill those needs.

Social Services Directors perform an important role by assisting people who may find it difficult to locate the services they need, such as veterans, the elderly, the disabled, children, the chronically unemployed, people living in poverty, homeless people, the mentally ill and others.

Social Services Directors are also needed to gather information about the effectiveness of services and programs and use that information to improve upon the programs. Participants count on them to set goals for the programs and evaluate progress to make sure the program is attaining those goals.

Social Services Directors make adjustments in the program and train their staff to implement those changes. A Social Services Director is needed to insure that the program has adequate funding by writing proposals and engaging in fundraising activities such as meeting with potential donors in the community.

The Social Services Director can be a strong advocate for the individual to secure much needed services such as transportation, employment, meals and personal care. The director is needed to act as a liaison to the community to disseminate information about programs that can help people deal with their problems. They educate the public about their rights and recommend programs to eligible community members.

How to Become a Social Service Director?


A Social Service Director is a typically a social worker who has moved up to a managerial position. The applicant must first obtain an undergraduate degree in social work or a related field. The student then earns a license, and completes several years of hands-on experience in an area of interest in social work.

To become a Social Services Director, the student will generally need a postgraduate degree, although some director positions may accept a candidate without a degree if they have many years of experience in the field.

At the undergraduate level, the student intending to become a Social Services Director can take coursework in human services, sociology and psychology as well as social work. To obtain a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW), applicants learn about social welfare policy, diverse populations and human behavior.

BSW programs require the completion of an internship or supervised fieldwork. Undergraduate coursework prepares the prospective Social Services Director for the licensing examination completed upon obtaining the BSW degree. A BSW is generally 124 to 128 credits. Some Social Services Directors hold a bachelor’s degree in urban studies, public administration or a related field, as well as work experience.

While social and community service managers need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and work experience, employers typically prefer the applicant for a position as Social Services Director to have an advanced degree as well as experience the field. A master’s degree in social work (MSW) generally takes two years, although there are some programs that enable individuals who have a bachelor’s degree in social work to complete the master’s degree program in one year.

All MSW programs require an internship or a supervised practicum. An MSW is typically around 46 credits. The master’s degree in social work prepares the student to work in a specialty and develops their skills in clinical assessment and supervision.

Some Social Services Directors hold a master’s degree in business or public administration, public health or a related field of study. Many take courses in program management, policy analysis and public health.


To obtain a BSW, the student generally complete an internship or supervised field experience. For example, at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, the BSW offers 240 hours of supervised internship each semester in conjunction with a field seminar. For an MSW, at the University of Arkansas the student will complete two internships for a total of 1200 practice hours.

According to the Department of Labor, work experience is often required for a social and community service manager with an MSW. For those with only a BSW, work experience is essential. The work environment is an opportunity for individuals to demonstrate their skill at leading others and managing programs and services.


The certification and licensing requirements for social workers vary by state. All states require licensing for clinical social workers, with the possible exception of those employed in governmental agencies. A LBSW (Licensed Bachelor’s Social Work) requires a bachelor’s degree or four years of study, and an LMSW (Licensed Master’s Social Worker) requires a master’s degree and six years of study.

Licensed Clinical Social Workers require a master’s degree plus 3,200 hours of supervised clinical experience after graduation, the equivalent of seven or eight years of study. Social workers are required to pass an examination to become licensed.

The Association of Social Work Boards provides information about licensing requirements by state.

Where Does a Social Service Director Work?

Social Service Directors are classified as a type of social and community service manager by the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Most social and community service workers work full-time for nonprofit organizations, governmental agencies and private for profit social service firms. They work in nursing homes, offices, hospitals, homeless shelters and clinics, among other settings.

Social Service Directors sometimes specialize in dealing with a segment of the population like senior citizens, children, homeless people, veterans, the chronically unemployed or those suffering from hunger and poverty.

What Careers are Similar to Social Service Director?

  • Health Educators and Community Health Workers: Health educators teach people how to live a healthy lifestyle, and community health workers investigate health concerns and discuss them with demographic populations. Entry level positions require a bachelor’s degree in health promotion or health education.
  • Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists: Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists assist people in overcoming or managing family and relationship problems. Entry level positions require a master’s degree.
  • Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists: Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists monitor offenders to help them avoid committing future crimes. Entry level positions require a bachelor’s degree.
  • Rehabilitation Counselors: Rehabilitation counselors help people live independently when they have physical or emotional disabilities. A master’s degree is required for an entry level position.
  • School and Career Counselors: School and career counselors help people with career decisions, such as choosing an educational program. A master’s degree is generally required.
  • Social and Human Service Assistants: Social and human service assistants support people facing problems by assisting social workers and others. They help their clients find appropriate services. A high school diploma or the equivalent is required for an entry level position.
  • Social Workers: Social workers help people with challenges in their daily lives. Social workers require a BSW or MSW for an entry level position.
  • Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors: Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors help people overcome addiction and other behavioral problems. A high school diploma or the equivalent is required for an entry level position.

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