Human service professionals work to improve the quality, accessibility, coordination, and delivery of services to those who need them. Someone who works in human services typically focuses on providing basic services to individuals and families. These services can be in health, wellness, youth welfare, criminal justice, social services, and more.
Job prospects across the profession are trending upward. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 13-percent growth in jobs for social and human services assistants by 2028.
Anyone going into the human services field needs to be truly passionate about helping others. This is because the work can be emotionally demanding and because compensation is below average. The highest-paying job in the field is social work, with a median salary of $50,470 for a social worker.
If you are considering a career in human services, remember that the most important characteristic you should have is being a people person. This is a front-facing profession that requires strong interpersonal and communication skills. Human service professionals typically deal with complicated issues and come across difficult situations. Compassion, patience, and understanding are important characteristics for anyone in the field.
What is Human Services?
The human services field is broad and includes many professions that focus on different types of human services. Examples of human service professionals include but are not limited to social workers, rehabilitation counselors, and criminal justice professionals. Below is a breakdown of these common human service professions.
Social work can be defined as the creation of systemic change through social justice. More simply, social workers provide services to improve the lives of people and families facing challenging situations.
Social workers are different from psychologists or counselors in that they focus on environments, policies, and community factors that are affecting any given situation. By taking this approach, social workers are able to identify issues by finding their systemic root cause. They can then propose changes and adjustments to address specific challenges. Social workers are employed by many different types of organizations, including human services agencies, schools, non-profit organizations, and hospitals.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, social worker jobs are trending upward and growing at an 11-percent rate. That growth is driven by general growth in health and human services across the board.
If you are interested in becoming a social worker, you might consider getting a more advanced degree, like a master’s of social work after securing a bachelor’s in human services or a related field. There are many top programs to choose from, including online, classroom, and part-time options.
A rehabilitation counselor helps rehabilitate people with physical or mental disabilities so they can live full, independent lives. Professionals in this field also work in different settings, including assisted living or senior centers, youth services organizations, clinics, and rehabilitation centers. Depending on the particular job or place of work, a rehabilitation counselor may need specialized knowledge in youth issues, senior issues, and substance abuse issues.
Rehabilitation counselor jobs are also increasing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 10-percent increase in opportunities in the field by 2028.
Human Services and Criminal Justices Professionals
The criminal justice system employs human services professionals to work in prisons and the court system to provide needed services to people going through the criminal justice system. A human services worker in the criminal justice system works with prisoners, juvenile detainees, victims of crime, and victims of abuse. Some job titles for those working in the criminal justice system include probation officer, case management aids, correctional treatment specialist, victim advocate, and prison social worker.
How to Become a Human Services Professional
Becoming a human services professional requires some education and training. You can get an entry-level job in the field with just an associate degree. These jobs usually involve doing intake interviews and paperwork during client interactions and services. To work more closely with clients and progress to higher-level jobs, you typically need a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Besides earning at least an associate or bachelor’s degree in the field or a related field, some human services workers like social workers, counselors, and educators also need to get a license to practice. Individual states also issue licenses for human services professionals. To get a license, you usually have to take additional courses or take an exam that proves your capacity to practice. These requirements vary by subfield and by state.
There are many types of degree programs out there in the human services field, including associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees, and master’s degrees for sectors like counseling, social work, and criminal justice. The programs are typically offered in traditional classroom settings or online.
Every program will include some kind of practicum or internship component for students to gain hands-on experience. To get started in the field and have the flexibility to move beyond basic entry-level positions, consider earning a bachelor’s degree.
Human Services Bachelor’s Degree Programs
A Bachelor of Arts in Human Services is like any other bachelor’s degree in that it requires both general education courses and major courses. After fulfilling general education requirements, which will vary from institution to institution, students can sink their teeth into human services area courses. Most programs require 160-180 credits, which can typically be completed in four years, full-time.
How Is a BA in Human Services Different from a BS in Human Services?
When researching bachelor’s degree programs, remember that there are two different kinds of programs, a BS, a bachelor of science, and a BA, a bachelor of arts.
Though the two degrees are likely to be very similar, a BS might be more focused on administration and healthcare management. Meanwhile, a BA might focus more on human psychology and ethics coursework. That being said, programs vary from school to school, so be sure to check out each program’s coursework and requirements.
How Is a BA in Human Services Different from a BS in Social Work?
The main difference is that a BS in Social Work prepares students for the specialized human services profession of social work. A BA in Human Services is more general, giving students more flexibility to decide what they want to concentrate on down the road. Additionally, a social work degree always has a licensure requirement, while a human services degree may not.
Human Services Bachelor’s Degree Curriculum
The core curriculum for a bachelor of arts program in human services will vary from school to school. That being said, most programs will include the following basic course requirements:
- Introduction to Human Services
- Crisis Intervention
- Human Behavior
- Public Policy and Advocacy
- Social Problems
- Cognitive Development
These courses are just some examples of what might be required or included in a human services degree curriculum. Individual programs may offer different concentrations or may specialize in a particular subfield. That’s why researching different programs is so important.
Human Services Bachelor’s Degree Specializations
Because the human services field is so vast, most programs offer concentrations and specializations for students to get more specific training. To become a social worker, criminal justice professional, or a counselor, you will have to choose a concentration to get specialized knowledge. Some specializations include health and community services, criminal justice, drug and substance abuse, youth services and child welfare, and counseling.
Human Services Bachelor’s Degree Admission Requirements
A high school diploma or a GED is required for students applying to a bachelor of arts program in human services. Some schools will require SAT or ACT scores while others will not. That always depends on individual schools and degree programs. The typical high school GPA requirement is a minimum GPA of 2.5 or 3.0, depending on the school.
If you already have 60 college credits from an associate degree, you can transfer your credits and pursue the bachelor’s degree in half the time that it usually takes.
Human Services Studies: In-Person, Online, or Hybrid?
There are many different types of program formats out there and you should take your interests, preferences, budget limitations, and level of flexibility into consideration when choosing a program. Though there are many online program offerings, remember that most programs have a fieldwork or practicum requirement. Needless to say, fieldwork has to take place offline in the field, so even online programs will have some kind of an in-person component. Let’s further break down these formats to help you choose the best path for you.
Human Services Online Degree Programs
Many top universities around the country like the University of Arizona and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst offer online bachelor of arts degrees in human services. Some online programs offer pre-recorded lecture sessions for optimal student flexibility. Others may require logging in to live-streamed lectures at a set time.
Online is by far the most common format for bachelor of arts degrees in human services. It’s a great option for students who need optimum flexibility to make their education a reality. When researching online programs, research whether courses will be live-streamed or pre-recorded, and check whether or not the program requires in-person fieldwork.
Human Services Hybrid Degree Programs
Hybrid programs are a great option for working professionals who want to pursue their degree online but don’t want to completely miss out on the classroom experience. There is no denying that an in-person classroom experience has its benefits. This type of program typically requires at least one in-person course per semester. This means you could take three courses per semester online and only have to go to campus once or twice per week. This works well for students who need online flexibility but who can also make in-person appearances on campus. If you already live close to a school that offers this kind of a degree program, go for this option.
Human Services In-person Degree Programs
Again, traditional classroom learning is irreplaceable. That being said, the majority of BA degree programs in human services are online offerings. Schools that do offer classroom programs tend to offer both full-time and part-time programs to accommodate all students.
Human Services Accelerated Degree Programs
An accelerated degree program will let you get your diploma faster than you would with a traditional degree program. These programs work well for students who are going back to school as working professionals in another field.
Understandably, non-traditional students pursuing a new field later in life usually want to get started in that new field as soon as possible. Typically, students who pursue this accelerated option will have transfer credits to apply toward the program. In this case, accelerated, full-time programs could take one to three years to complete.
The human services field is an especially exciting one because it is so vast. It is like an umbrella field that presides over many other fields, like social work, criminal justice, counseling, and health services.
If you are a caring, compassionate person who wants to dive into a rewarding, people-facing career, human services may be the perfect path for you. It is especially appropriate if you are not yet sure exactly where your passions lie.
By pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Human Services, you can take general coursework like introductions to human services, social problems, and human behavior that will help you gain a broad understanding of the field. Then, you can start to take more specialized courses as you decide where you want to focus.
Once you have decided to apply to a bachelor of arts program in human services, make sure to do your homework and apply to the program that best fits your needs.