An associate degree in human services allows you to help people in need while expanding your knowledge, training, and skills. Human services is a rewarding field that continues to grow in importance on a national scale. For example, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 16% growth over the next decade for health educators and community health workers.
These professionals play a critical role in getting people resources they need to move toward a brighter future. You can be part of a positive trend of solving real problems for individuals, families, and communities throughout the country.
Should I Get an Associate Degree in Human Services?
If you wish to focus your career on helping people -- including those struggling with poverty, food insecurity, addiction, or various types of abuse -- seek out a human services degree. Such programs prepare you for rewarding careers in business, nonprofit, and government services, while also allowing you to transfer into a more advanced program in the future.
As you conduct your search, you'll find numerous online and on-campus associate in human services programs. Online programs tend to attract working professionals and those looking for a career change. On-campus programs, meanwhile, often work best for recent high school graduates and others looking for more traditional higher education experiences.
Through an associate in human services, you'll gain critical skills that make you an effective professional as you work to serve others. These include techniques to use when dealing with people struggling with mental illness or addiction, along with the community resources available to help individuals and families in need. You'll also learn how to resolve conflicts, interact with people from diverse cultures and backgrounds, and work well with groups.
Pursuing a human services degree also allows you to meet with and get to know your fellow learners and instructors, which can help expand your career opportunities well into the future. These programs also actively help students find jobs or transfer to bachelor-level programs as they approach graduation. Services like these may after you graduate as well.
What Can I Do With an Associate in Human Services?
With an associate degree in human services, you can explore a variety of career options that involve working with people, analyzing data, and ensuring businesses and organizations run as smoothly as possible. You'll do best in these careers if you're amicable, productive, and organized.
- Human Resources Analyst
These professionals use tools and technology to examine data on their organization's human resources processes. Then, they formulate this data into reports for managers, who decide how to find and retain talented employees. Human resource analysts may also assist with recruitment, performance reviews, benefits administration, and compensation studies.
Median Annual Salary: $47,887
- Employment Specialist
Focused on connecting employers with employees, these professionals must know how to find the right candidates for a variety of positions. This involves getting a solid understanding of an employers' needs and determining how various candidates' skills might meet those needs. Employment specialists must be extremely organized and good at reading and working with people.
Median Annual Salary: $37,317
- Front Office Coordinator
A front office coordinator ensures an office runs as smoothly as possible by scheduling meetings, answering phones, greeting guests, and performing other administrative tasks. They also regularly handle sensitive documents and information and, therefore, must be highly organized and trustworthy. They also tend to be friendly and positive members of a team.
Median Annual Salary: $32,373
How to Choose an Associate in Human Services Program
You have nearly limitless options when searching for an associate degree in human services. The challenge comes with narrowing your search from the hundreds of programs available on-campus and online across the country.
As you conduct your search, consider each program's length, including how long it would take you to graduate if you attend full or part time. See if you can take some or all of your courses online, which could allow you to take more classes each term and reduce the total amount of time you must spend in school. Fulfilling an internship or field experience may add to the length of your program.
Choosing between a traditional on-campus associate in human services program and an online option comes down to personal preference. Some students succeed when surrounded by their fellow learners in-person. Others may find the flexibility of distance learning more appealing and conducive to their busy schedules.
Another factor to consider when researching a human services degree program is the curriculum and whether it interests you. Review each program's required courses to ensure you'll remain engaged throughout your time attending school.
Tuition represents another major factor in this decision-making process. Public schools and those offering fully online programs tend to have lower tuition than private options -- although that's not always the case. Search each school's website for the tuition charged on a per-semester or per-credit basis.
Finally, eliminate from consideration any non-accredited colleges or universities. Accreditation ensures that a school meets a high standard of quality. Many employers won't consider candidates who have an associate degree in human services from a non-accredited institution.
Associate in Human Services Program Admissions
While the admissions process for on-campus and online programs may share similarities, they also come with different requirements. For example, online students must have an extra level of diligence and self-motivation than learners in a more traditional setting. To this end, some online programs require students to provide additional materials or context to support their readiness for distance learning.
Second, most associate in human services programs require applicants to submit their official high school transcripts or GED score reports, along with their ACT or SAT scores and a personal essay. You may also need to provide letters of recommendation from teachers, professors, or relatives.
To start, consider applying to at least three associate in human services programs. Taking this approach gives you a greater chance at getting accepted to a high-quality program than if you only applied to one at a time. You can determine these prospective programs making a list of a dozen or so options, and then narrowing it down to your favorite three.
- Application: The typical human services degree application takes about an hour to complete.
- Transcripts: While some high schools provide transcripts to colleges and universities for free, others charge a small amount, such as $5 or $10. Contact your high school guidance office to learn more.
- Application Fee: Schools may charge application fees of $20 to $50. However, you could have this fee waived if you demonstrate that you're facing financial hardship.
Educational Paths for Human Services Associate Programs
Although an associate degree in human services offers a great start to opening up career opportunities, you'll likely find much greater potential when you follow it up with a bachelor's degree. The base of knowledge you'll gain in a two-year program transfers nicely to most four-year programs, and you can usually earn a bachelor's degree with only two more years of coursework. Below are the three most common bachelor's degrees that human services graduates seek.
- Human Services
A bachelor's degree in human services advances your knowledge of the field, including various social, culture, and political issues that affect communities across the country. You'll also learn about implementing culturally responsive interventions with diverse populations, meeting elevated ethical standards, and using community coalition-building techniques.
- Social Work
Many individuals with an associate degree in human services go on to become social workers. A bachelor's program offers training in providing services to children, adults, families, and groups, especially those from disadvantaged populations. It also prepares you for licensing, a requirement in most states for practicing social workers.
Because it focuses on the study of people, cultures, and societies, a bachelor's in sociology represents a natural choice for those finishing up an associate in human services. Sociology also prepares those who aim to work in social services, youth development, community organizing, politics, and education.
What Else Can I Expect From an Associate in Human Services Program?
The specifics of associate in human services programs can vary from school to school. In fact, you may find notable differences in the required courses, credits required, and tuition rates. Below you will find more information that can help in your search.
Courses in an Associate in Human Services Program
Depending on where you seek your associate degree in human services, you may find yourself taking many different courses and engaging in a variety of experiences to prepare you for a career or more advanced studies. The following represent examples of courses common to these programs:
- Introduction to Human Services
This course provides a cohesive overview of the discipline, including the various roles human services professionals within businesses, organizations, and government agencies. It often includes guest speakers who serve in the field and student volunteer experiences with human services agencies. Students also examine theories, best practices, and case studies.
- Fundamentals of Psychology
Students examine the various fields within psychology, including concepts like memory, the nervous system, sensation, consciousness, motivation, emotion, stress, intelligence, social psychology, and cognitive functions. Instructors apply these concepts and others to the work of human services professionals, who must understand psychology to serve others on a daily basis.
- Human Services Ethics
In this course, students learn about the various regulatory, legal, and ethical issues affecting the human services field. They get to understand what it means to act ethically as a professional, as well as to make sound decisions in difficult situations. Topics of emphasis include codes of ethics, individuals' right to privacy, and relevant federal, state, and local statutes.
- Introduction to Substance Abuse Prevention
Students learn how the use and abuse of alcohol, drugs, and other substances affect people from different backgrounds. They also explore historical and recent trends in substance use and the social problems it can cause. Additional subjects covered include substance abuse treatment methods, types of counseling services, and common preventive strategies.
- Child and Adolescent Behavior
This course covers a variety of common issues in childhood development, including mental health, behavioral problems, juvenile delinquency, and substance abuse. Key topics include abuse and neglect, treatment options, and the effects of mental health challenges on young people. Students also explore how they can best assist children and adolescents dealing with these issues.
How Long Does It Take to Get an Associate in Human Services?
Numerous factors influence the amount of time it takes you to complete an associate degree in human services. While full-time students can usually finish these programs within two years, those attending part time may take longer. The number of credits you can take each term and the availability of required courses could also affect the length of your program. Most human services degrees feature 60 total credit hours.
Some associate in human services programs also require their students to take part in an internship, working directly with professionals in the field. This requirement can also lengthen your program, especially if you experience difficulties finding an internship in a timely manner.
You could also shorten your program by taking as many credits as you can each term, potentially allowing you to graduate in as few as 18 months. Your ability to do this depends largely on the program structure and availability of classes.
How Much Is an Associate in Human Services?
While tuition depends largely on where you attend school, you can generally expect to pay around $10,000 per academic year, according to data from the National Center of Education Statistics.
However, numerous factors may affect the cost of higher education, including whether you enroll in a public or private school and the amount of financial aid, scholarships, and any other assistance you receive. Online human services degree programs tend to come with lower tuition, and you may also save money on other expenses, such as transportation and childcare.
In addition to tuition, consider additional expenses you will need to cover as you attend school. If you plan on enrolling in an on-campus associate in human services program, look into housing costs in the area in which you would likely live. Also do research additional fees -- including those related to technology, activities, or healthcare -- a school might charge on top of regular tuition.
Due to all the various costs and other factors, you should take some time to explore fully each associate degree in human services under your consideration. Don't hesitate to call or email your prospective programs to ensure you get answers to all of your questions before applying.
Professional Organizations in Human Services
Although seeking an associate in human services is an important step toward a rewarding career, you can further your knowledge and job opportunities by joining one or more professional associations. These groups deliver resources to their members, which include professionals serving throughout the United States. Below you'll find three of the most popular human services-related associations to explore, along with the numerous benefits they provide.
NOHS offers professional development, communication support, and advocacy to human services professionals across the country. It also hosts conferences and publishes a quarterly magazine and journal.
The APHSA represents the leadership of human services agencies nationwide. It aims to influence policies and practices that enhance the field and support the health of children and families.
NAWDP offers resources to those whose jobs require them to connect employers to employees. It maintains best practices and high ethical standards, while recognizing individual accomplishments in the field.