5 Compelling Reasons to Pursue Human Services Training
Are you eager to help others? Do you want a fulfilling career with a positive employment outlook? If you answered "yes" to both questions, human services training is a good option. This sector offers plenty of opportunities for caring people like you. Plus, these programs are very diverse, so you can focus on the areas of human services work that are most meaningful to you.
Check out these awesome benefits of training for a career in human services:
1. A Wide Variety of Opportunities to Make a Difference
You can pursue many possible careers with training from a human services program. And the wide range of job options might surprise you. In fact, the typical human services definition applies to dozens of different jobs in many settings. But people who work in human services share a common goal. Simply put, a human services worker is someone who helps individuals and communities by improving the lives of those in need.
With such a far-reaching purpose, it isn't surprising that these caring professionals can be found in many types of human services organizations and settings, including:
- Addiction treatment centers
- Family and child services agencies
- Group homes
- Halfway homes
- Correctional facilities
- Mental health centers
- Community centers
- Residential care facilities
- Adult day cares
- Juvenile detention facilities
- Private practices
- Social services agencies
- Shelters for the homeless
Within these settings, you can help some of the most vulnerable people in our society achieve a better quality of life. And a human services program can prepare you for many roles that make a difference. Some rewarding jobs in the human services field are:
- Child welfare advocates—Help ensure that young people stay safe and that their rights are met. These advocates provide legal and emotional support for children and teens who have experienced trauma or abuse.
- Domestic violence counselors—Provide counseling to domestic violence survivors and help them develop plans to create and maintain safe living situations.
- Addictions counselors—Help people overcome addictions. They provide support through private counseling, group counseling, and emergency interventions.
- Disability specialists—Assist people who have disabilities and act as advocates for greater accessibility in public spaces.
- Halfway-house counselors—Oversee residents in homes where recovering addicts or people with disabilities learn to transition to independent and/or sober living.
- Probation officers—Monitor and provide guidance to people who have been placed on probation. They often also supervise drug testing for their clients.
- Community outreach workers—Work with nonprofit organizations to educate people about physical, emotional, or mental health issues.
- Social and community services managers—Coordinate the services provided by social service agencies and communities.
- Case managers—Oversee the services that a client requires to improve his or her social, medical, or emotional well-being. A case manager often acts as an advocate for people in need and coordinates the various aspects of available assistance.
- Group-home workers—Assist and supervise residents of community living environments. People with human services backgrounds work in many different kinds of group homes, including facilities that house the elderly, juvenile offenders, substance addicts, or people with physical or emotional disabilities.
- Adult day-care workers—Work with adult day-care participants, who are often experiencing symptoms of dementia. Day-care workers provide supervision and client-appropriate activities.
- Youth workers—Help young people in a variety of ways, with the ultimate end goal of helping them transition to independent adulthood.
- Community health workers—Teach people how to have healthier lifestyles. They also help people access healthcare programs. Their duties can include helping disadvantaged people enroll in Medicare or Medicaid.
- Social and human services assistants—Work with social workers, case managers, and other professionals to ensure that people in need get appropriate help. Some of their duties can include assisting clients with the basic tasks of living, helping them fill out paperwork, or finding the resources necessary to carry out treatment plans.
2. Rewarding, Challenging Work With Real Purpose
As you can see from the list above, human services careers involve improving the lives of people who are experiencing many different types of problems.
As a result, this can be challenging work. So, what motivates human services workers to keep helping others? Simply put, as a human services worker, you can feel confident in the knowledge that, despite the challenges, you've helped the world become a better place, one person at a time.
What are human services jobs' biggest challenges? Careers in this sector often involve working with people who are dealing with very tough circumstances. And sometimes people who are going through hard times don't always accept the help that is available. They might feel too proud, or they might be afraid to make changes, to name just a couple possible reasons. So accepting that you can't always control the outcome of a problem is just part of human services work.
But even when clients' situations are difficult, treating people with respect is an essential element of any human services job description. As a human services professional, well-developed compassion and empathy will help you connect with others. That's why human services training programs emphasize the importance of having healthy boundaries, maintaining confidentiality, and valuing diversity.
Human services workers often collaborate with other professionals to help make sure that their clients get the services they need. As one example, working with individuals who are homeless could involve these three careers in the field of human services:
- Outreach workers—To deliver food on the street
- Case workers—To assist people who are homeless in applying for housing
- Group-home workers—To staff homeless shelters
Connecting disadvantaged people such as those who are homeless to available social services is often an important element of human services work. The difference between social services and human services is generally that human services workers help people in need access specific social services like food banks, subsidized housing, and medical care.
Accessing those services sometimes requires completing complex paperwork. A human services program can teach you how to navigate the social-services world in order to obtain assistance so that the people who most need help can receive necessary benefits.
3. Focused Programs With Options for Advancement
In order to work in the human services field, you don't always need a degree in a specific subject. But most jobs require at least a high school diploma, and many require a post-secondary certificate or higher credential in human services. However, just as the range of job titles is extremely varied in this sector, so are the educational options. You can pursue many different specialties during your training, at different levels of education.
For example, a human services certificate is a credential that leads to entry-level work with social services agencies or community organizations. In general, it takes about one year to earn a certificate in human services.
In contrast, getting a human services degree takes two years at the associate level or four years at the bachelor's level, on average. With a bachelor's degree in human services, you can get the kinds of jobs that require less supervision and carry more responsibility.
At every level of education, a human services major is typically an interdisciplinary program that includes classes in psychology, social work, and legal issues. Topics taught in a human services class may also include:
- Interviewing techniques
- Crisis-management planning
- Communication skills
- Professional ethics issues
- Child-development theory
- Nonprofit administration
Some programs include an internship (i.e., a period of supervised work experience that is often unpaid). An internship can be a great way to gain some exposure to what life is like as a human services worker. Plus, an internship with a social or community services agency qualifies as human services experience, so you'll have something to put on your resume when you apply for jobs.
A human services major can also prepare you for graduate programs in other areas. For example, although social workers do similar work, a human services degree or certificate won't necessarily prepare you to be a social worker. That's because licensed social workers typically need to complete a program specifically in social work.
However, many social work jobs require a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree. And it's often possible to enter an MSW program with a related first degree, which means that you don't necessarily need a bachelor's degree in social work first. So you can be a social worker with a human services degree if you go on to get an MSW after earning your bachelor's degree.
Because of the interdisciplinary nature of human services work, students are sometimes confused about exactly what a human services degree is. Although some related programs share a similar focus on helping others, a human services major is a specific degree program. With a human services degree, jobs you can enter after graduation are in the human services field. But some similar careers require different majors.
For example, although teachers and human services workers share many common goals, education is not a human services field, so a teacher is not a human services worker. For most jobs in the public school system, you need to complete specific teacher training.
However, depending on the requirements in your state, you can become a guidance counselor with a human services degree. That's because in some states, a school counselor must have a master's degree in counseling or a related field, and human services is a good degree that may qualify as being from a related field. But be sure to research the requirements for your state if you're interested in a school counseling career.
Similarly, although psychology and human services programs both offer classes in counseling, psychology isn't a human services field in terms of the required education. Psychology is a separate major, focusing on the science of human behavior. In general, studying psychology involves more research and theory than studying human services does. Programs that lead to human services degrees typically place more emphasis on learning how to access social service systems in order to obtain the necessities of life such as shelter, food, and healthcare.
4. A Bright Job Outlook
What's behind the promising outlook? One big factor is the aging population. Consider this: The number of Americans who are older than 65 is expected to increase from just over 49 million in 2016 to 77 million by 2034.1 That demographic shift should result in more adult day cares and other services for the elderly that need human services workers.
In addition, the number of job opportunities for human services workers who treat addictions is expected to increase. That's partly due to the trend of directing drug offenders into treatment programs instead of into prison, in the hope that by getting to the root of their addictions, they won't reoffend.
The opioid crisis is also leading to an increase in the number of opportunities for human services workers. In 2017, about 1.7 million Americans were addicted to opioids, and the government has named increased access to effective treatment programs as one of the top priorities for addressing this epidemic.2
Check out the projected rates of job growth between 2016 and 2026—and the number of new job openings during that same time period—for each of the following occupations:3
- Substance abuse counselors—23 percent / 23,800 new jobs
- Social and community services managers—18 percent / 26,500 new jobs
- Community health workers—18 percent / 10,400 new jobs
- Social and human services assistants—16 percent / 63,900 new jobs
- Probation and correctional officers—6 percent / 5,200 new jobs
5. Good Salary Potential for Those With the Right Education
For workers in human services, salary potential often rises with higher levels of education. So if you have a human services degree, jobs will tend to pay better than if you have a certificate. (Still, how much you make with a bachelor's degree in human services depends a lot on your specific career area.)
Social services management is one of the highest-paying jobs in human services, with the top 10 percent of earners making $109,990 or higher.4 Such positions typically require a bachelor's or master's degree.
Pay also varies by workplace. For example, government employees in a state's department of human services (DHS) often earn good pay and benefits. A DHS worker makes a median yearly wage of about $42,000, with some case workers earning as much as $58,000.5 And substance abuse counselors employed by local governments earn $54,490, on average. In contrast, substance abuse counselors who work in residential facilities earn an average of $39,940.4
Take a look at the average salaries for these human services careers (rounded to the nearest thousand):4
- Social and community services managers—$71K
- Probation officers—$57K
- Substance abuse counselors—$47K
- Social and human service assistants—$35K
Create a Brighter Future
Human services training can help you achieve your dream of helping others improve their lives. So take the next step toward achieving your goals by exploring nearby schools. Just enter your zip code into the school finder below to see a list of programs close to you!
1 United States Census Bureau, "The Graying of America: More Older Adults Than Kids by 2035," website last visited on October 8, 2019.
2 National Institute on Drug Abuse, "Opioid Overdose Crisis," website last visited on March 19, 2019.
3 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, website last visited on March 19, 2019.
4 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, website last visited on March 19, 2019.
5 PayScale, website last visited on March 19, 2019.