While a human services degree is not widely publicized, the program does exist within many college and certificate programs. Community colleges and certificate programs offer a great way to get acquainted with the field without a full four-year commitment. Human services workers help people improve their quality of life. People in this field help identify and correct personal and socialization problems. Many human services programs assist people with substance abuse problems or recovery from being a victim of crime or violence.
Jobs in this field take on many forms including mental health assistant, case manager, intake specialist, community organizer, domestic violence worker, advocate, substance abuse worker, residential staff, counselor, or social service aide. At this time, most human services professionals work in health care, social services, state or local agencies assisting mentally and physically challenged individuals.
It is possible that career opportunities in this area will grow due to increased funding by health care companies and government agencies that place a greater emphasis on prevention instead of treatment. Current research shows that the human services field will expand to take care of the influx of baby boomers in the coming years. A lot of human services work is contracted to independent agencies to assist a targeted audience. There are many advantages to this type of employment, in that wages are typically higher with a higher quality of life; however these positions will typically lack benefits. The case load of a human service’s professional will be less because these programs are usually under constant evaluation for continued funding.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects employment opportunities for human services to grow by 34% through the year 2016. This might be a good time to obtain a human services degree as employers increasingly search for prospects. Many people can break into the field with only a certificate in early childhood education, substance abuse counseling, child development, or human services. Should a individual later decide to increase her career opportunities and earnings potential, she can continue her education with an associates or bachelor’s degree. These degree programs will introduce the student to career related courses such as abnormal psychology, group dynamics, developmental psychology, ethics and human services, research design, and evaluation. In these classes, students will learn how to relate to clients on multiple levels with the ability to serve clients in a variety of public outreach organizations. Many times the graduate will work alongside other professionals, such as doctors, detectives, or social workers to assist a client.
Individuals in this field should possess patience, be empathetic, and show an interest in helping others accomplish their goals. These skills allow the human services professional to assess and provide the appropriate intervention for a client. Another skill that is helpful to be successful in the profession is training in crisis prevention. This skill will be used in many avenues with diverse populations throughout the profession. A good understanding of the basics of child development is helpful when treating clients under the age of eighteen. Human services agents may directly assist children or indirectly by supporting their parents.
A human services degree will provide an understanding of human services administration and focuses on the complexity that exists within private sector and government agencies. Through volunteerism and other course-related, leadership opportunities the student will learn how to manage and oversee staff. Organizational and planning skills are usually acquired through role-playing and team-building activities. Grant writing and research skills are essential in this role, and most degree programs will teach the student techniques to write complex funding proposals and digest important information from research studies and academic journals.
While there are rewarding aspects to the job, salaries at this point have not increased to the levels one would hope. Associate and bachelor degree graduates can earn from $20,000 to $32,000 a year for entry-level positions. Salaries might be somewhat higher for those individuals who have more experience.