Name: Josh Cutler
Job Title: Branch Director/Social Worker
Where: Bellevue, Washington
Employer: Alpha Supported Living Services (Non-profit Organization)
Years of Experience: 4.5
Other Relevant Experience: Direct Support Staff, Program Coordinator, Business Manager, etc.
Education: B.A. in Human Services
Annual Salary: Use PayScale’s Research Center to find Non-Profit Director Salaries and the Salary of an Assisted Living Director.
There are two factors that guide most career decisions: salary and personal satisfaction. At the end of the day, you have to bring home a paycheck big enough to pay the bills and put food on the table. But most people also want a work environment that satisfies them on a personal level. For some people, that kind of job satisfaction comes from collaborating with like-minded coworkers, or creating a quality product.
For Josh Cutler, a non-profit director at Alpha Supported Living Services in Seattle, job satisfaction means going home knowing his work has helped improve someone else's quality of life. Starting out within an entry-level caregiver job and working his way up the non-profit career ladder, Josh also provides a perfect example of the non-profit career opportunities available to those with a strong work ethic and a passion for social work.
Josh: My job is to oversee the eastside branch of ASLS. This includes the branch office, eight supported living programs, and two group homes. I am responsible for leading a management team of three, an administration/supervisory staff of 20, and an additional 75 direct support staff that serve the clients of the eastside branch programs. The 24-hour support services I oversee are responsible for the intensive residential care of 36 adults with developmental disabilities. I am also a member of the senior management team and work closely with the board and CEO to establish and achieve strategic goals for the organization.
PayScale: How did you begin your career in social work?
Josh: I started as an entry-level direct support staff (caregiver), and worked my way up from there. My first experience was as a camp counselor, where I was inspired by some positive experiences with developmentally disabled kids. After college I applied for a job based on this experience, but did not expect it to turn into a career. My company has had two mergers in the last few years, and I was promoted several times to fill key positions that opened up because of the expansion.
PayScale: What do you love about your career in social work?
Josh: I love knowing that the time and energy I expend all day makes a difference in the lives of my clients and their families. I also love working with a team of people who are deeply committed to providing high quality support services that enhance the quality of our client's lives.
PayScale: What are the biggest challenges you face with a career in social work?
Josh: It is a challenge to continue providing quality support when funding is rapidly falling behind the cost of living and other costs of providing services. We are currently on the verge of a staffing crisis, especially on the eastside of Seattle. It has become very difficult to attract and maintain a quality workforce to staff our programs, because of the low wages (currently $11.40/hr plus benefits) we offer for such demanding work.
The bureaucracy of a government funded program can be a bit stifling at times. Paperwork, paperwork, and paperwork never seems to go away. It often feels meaningless, but keeping it at bay allows us to maintain the bottom line: providing quality support to our clients.
PayScale: What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in social work?
Josh: Start at the bottom and give it your all. If you are smart, work hard and honestly care, you will rise to the top very quickly. This is a young field, and there are lots of opportunities for advancement for the right individuals.
PayScale: What is the most amazing or interesting part of having a career in social work?
Josh: The most interesting thing is that I get to interact upon all levels of the organization. I report directly to the CEO, attend all board meetings, work closely with staff at all levels, interact with guardians and family members, and regularly visit with clients. I really enjoy having both a micro and macro perspective on our work.
The most amazing part is that I have the opportunity to make a profound and lasting difference in the lives of each one of my clients and staff.