The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Counseling & Social Services

About the Industry

Counseling and Social Services are sometimes referred to as the “helping” professions.  Whether you want to be a private therapist or work for an organization, these professions tend to be focused on the areas of mental health and addictions, family and child welfare, social and community development, and issues related to diversity.  Working in these fields during the summer or school year may help you decide if you want to pursue this kind of career. Many of these jobs require certification and/or graduate degrees. There are also jobs in this are that are more focused on policy and administration in the areas of marginalization and oppression, social policy, public administration, social program evaluation, social policy analysis and development at the policy and administration level.

Sample Classes

We urge you to talk to your major/departmental advisor and explore available courses in SPIRE. Remember not to constrain yourself to classes within your major.

ANTHRO 104: Culture, Society and People: The nature of culture and its role in creating forms of social, economic, and political life in diverse historical and geographical contexts.


SOCIOL 222: The Family: Historical transformations in family life (relationships between husbands and wives, position and treatment of children, importance of kinship ties); and the contemporary family through life course (choice of a mate, relations in marriage, parenthood, breakup of the family unit).


SOCIOL  297W Special Topics- Introduction to Social Welfare: Critical introduction to various conceptions of "welfare" across contexts, exploring notions of deservingness and entitlement, various methods of provision, changes in programs over time, as well as the ways that welfare programs create, reproduce, and mitigate enduring inequalities.


COMM 250 - Interpersonal Communication: This course introduces non-majors to a variety of competing theories of interpersonal behavior and everyday social interaction and provides them with new ways of thinking about the social situations in which they participate and interact (and observe others doing so). Theoretical frameworks may include Cultural Discourse theory, models of Relational Communication, Coordinated Management of Meaning, Identity Management, and the Ethnography of Speaking.


COMM 352 - Group Dynamics: The dynamics of decision-making groups. Topics include: leadership, networks, conformity, problem solving, mediation, and conflict resolution.


LEGAL 391F - Law & the Family: Who has traditionally had the right to parent, and what has been the role of ideology in defining the "American family"?  What are some of the contemporary issues in American family law addressed by legal scholars, practicing lawyers, judges, legislators and policy analysts?  How have changing social patterns affected marriage and parenting arrangements?  We will discuss recent developments that have redefined "the traditional American family": divorce, single parenting, gay and lesbian parenting, international and transracial adoption, and new reproductive technologies that have changed the very meaning of parenthood.


Depending on your main area of interest, your academic pathway will shift. To explore this field, you can take courses that will provide you with knowledge and skills in:

  • Effective listening
  • Written & oral communication skills
  • Problem solving
  • Analytical thinking
Co-Curricular Activities

Being involved in on and off campus activities and organizations will give you experience and help you hone in on what you really love doing. Consider joining organizations that will provide you with a deeper understanding of the professional areas you’re considering. You’ll learn more about the field, meet people who share your interests, and have something to include on your resume to show your dedication. Go to the RSO webpage and start searching! Below are some examples.


  • UMass Residence Life - Resident Advisor
  • Upward Bound - Resident Advisor
  • Center for Women & Community - Rape Crisis Counselor
  • Everywoman’s Center - Volunteer
Internships and Experience

Explore the different aspects of this industry through internships, co-ops, job shadowing, and other experiential opportunities. This will help you hone in on your interests while building an impressive knowledge base and resume for when you enter the job market. SBS students and alumni have completed internships in this field at places like:


  • Center for Women & Community
  • The Home for Little Wanderers
  • SKIP - Supporting Kids in Peru
  • ServiceNet
  • Clinical & Support Options
  • Student Legal Services
  • Camp Counselor
Sample Job Titles
  • Prenatal Genetic Counselor
  • Clinical Case Manager
  • Director of Operations
  • School Mental Health Manager
  • Program Manager - Vital Statistics Improvement
  • Psychotherapist
  • Housing Safety Coordinator
  • Child & Adolescent Care Coordinator
  • Guidance Counselor