The human services field is a broad, interdisciplinary field concerned with meet people’s needs through both prevention and solutions. As a discipline, those who work in human services commit themselves to improve the quality of life of the communities they care for.
Human services are best known for delivering programs, but it also concerns itself with improving the accessibility of those services. The practice occurs through a focus on accountability, coordination, and quality control not only in individual services but across both professions and agencies.
All in all, human services careers focus on making a difference in the lives of the people served in a defined community.
Have you thought about where a human services degree might take you? Keep reading for more on a career in human services.
What Is a Human Services Degree?
A human services degree prepares workers to enter jobs in public services jobs and outreach programs.
You can get a general degree, like a Bachelor of Arts in Human Services, or choose to enter a more specific degree within the field. In some programs, you may find the option to select a major or concentration within the area. Some of the standard options include:
- Child and Family Services
- Social Work
- Youth Services
- Adult Development and Aging
- Child Care Services
- Child Care Management
- Child Development
- Community Organization and Advocacy
- Youth Services
Human services degrees also come at all four levels of the post-secondary and graduate education system including:
- Associate of Arts
- Bachelor of Science
- Bachelor of Arts
- Master of Science
- Master of Arts
- Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
You can also find degree programs available both online and in traditional on-campus learning environments.
What Will You Learn During Your Degree?
Your Human Services degree will include essential core courses in addition to elective courses. You may also take general core classes and electives for your chosen concentration.
Your degree prepares you for your career in human services by teaching you:
- Theories and principles of human development
- Theories of and principles of counseling dynamics
- Social and legislative issues
- Information science like statistics, data analysis, and record keeping
- Service programming, planning, and assessment
- Interpersonal communication and dynamics
To get there, you’ll take classes like:
- Introduction to Human Services
- Social science electives
- Human behavior
- Social welfare
- Ethics and ethical and legal issues
Careers with a Human Services Degree
Hoping to enter a profession where you make a tangible difference in your community? Human services may be that career. The field includes a long list of both credentialed professional jobs as well as administrative positions to choose from. What is more, your path may vary depending on the setting you choose to work in.
You’ll also find that career progression is available depending upon your chosen profession.
What can you do with a human services degree straight out of college? Many of the jobs in the field are available to entry-level applicants. The great thing about these degrees is that they provide you with a theoretical background in the area, but you will also likely complete practicums that give you real-world experience before you hit the ground running.
Do you want to work directly with people to help them take on life’s challenges? Social workers do precisely that.
With a degree in hand and a specialization in counseling or criminal justice, you can enter a career as a licensed social worker or therapist. Some of the places you might work include:
- County governments
- Mental health clinics
- Senior centers
If you’re unsure of what career you want, try out social work first. The Department of Labor Bureau of Statistics projects that this profession will grow 16 percent by 2026 with 109,700 jobs added in that period.
Substance Abuse Counselor
Substance abuse counselors offer support to those who struggle with addiction as well as their families. They provide both emotional support and the tools to help people take back control of their lives and avoid relapse whenever possible.
Substance abuse counselors are popular among state and local governments as they work to battle the opioid crisis and increasing recognize addiction as a public health issue rather than a criminal justice issue.
In addition to state and county health boards, you may also work in:
- Mental health centers
- Community health centers
- Private practice
The substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counseling profession may grow even faster than social workers with 23 percent projected growth.
Community Outreach Worker
As a community outreach worker, you’ll often work with cities, counties, or states or else for non-profit organizations to bring communities together for a task. Often, these include fundraising or raising awareness for specific issues.
The community outreach worker does something entirely different from many other entry-level professions. While you’ll work directly with individuals and communities, you’ll also do lots of logistical and administrative work.
During your week, you could:
- Run a volunteer drive
- Plan an event
- Coordinate a team of volunteers
- Work with community partners
Typically, you’ll work with one subject, allowing you to be somewhat of a subject matter expert, which provides career progression opportunities.
Adult Day Care Worker
Adult day care workers work in settings that care for adults with developmental disabilities such as group homes or adult day care. You can take your degree into these settings and provide direct care to vulnerable people in your community.
Probation offers work with offenders who either finished their sentence or received probation instead of a prison sentence after a conviction.
A human services degree is a first step to becoming a probation officer, and a criminal justice focus during your degree prepares you for the role.
Your role includes working as a case manager and role model wrapped up in one. You need to monitor each case to ensure the parolee upholds the terms of their parole. However, you also need to recognize when something stands in their way. Your ultimate goal is to help people lead lives that don’t put them on the road to recidivism.
Some of your tasks will include working with other professionals in the justice system, reporting and monitoring, and contributing to the rehabilitation plans to help people get their lives back on track.
Gerontology aides are often called human service workers. They work with the elderly to help them get the assistance they need to continue living independently and safely. A gerontology aide is effectively a social worker who works specifically with the elderly.
Some gerontologists are more like social workers while others may serve in more of a personal care aide position.
Moving up in your human services career requires several years of service and a graduate degree in a specialty service.
In many cases, career progression involves moving into an administrative or management role within your current organization. To do so, you’ll need a master’s level degree with coursework in that area.
Keep in mind that moving up comes with more responsibilities and often a larger salary. You’ll get to make organizational decisions and changes that impact everyone. At the same time, you almost always receive less hands-on work. It’s important to decide what your motivations are and how much field work plays a role in your job satisfaction before setting your sights on a position.
Director of Probation Services Department
A probation officer can work their way up to become the Director of Probation Services Department. The leadership position requires a master’s degree with coursework in areas like:
- Professional ethics
- Budget planning
- Crime prevention theory
- Organizational administration
You will lead the team of probation officers and administrators as well as planning the office budget, managing the office, and creating best practices for both officers and parolees.
Management Social Work Careers
As a social worker, you may move into a career in management. If you want to remain squarely within social work, you might become an administrative social worker, who holds a leadership role within their organization.
Public policy social workers are also a step up. They work with governments to help create top-down change through legislation, education, and the positioning of priorities within a geographic area and community population.
You may also enter a career as a research assistant or research social worker. To get here, you’ll often need a Ph.D. Once in the role, you’ll find yourself working with the research team in a government, university, or non-profit organization to help instigate real change based on the latest findings.
Research assistants tend to spend an equal amount of time in organizational affairs, administration and seeking new funding through grant applications and program proposals.
Help Your Community with a Human Services Degree
Human services graduates can find jobs in whatever area their passion lies in. Whatever role you take, you can be sure that every day will be different.
Have you thought about what you can do with a human services degree? Share your thoughts in the comments below.