Human services degrees can offer graduates stable, rewarding, and fulfilling careers. A report from Southern New Hampshire University estimates that of all the jobs that will be added to the U.S. economy by 2022, approximately 90% will be in service-providing industries. Moreover, the U.S. News and World Report projects that jobs in this sector will grow by between 16% and 20% through 2026.
Graduates with human services degrees earn an average of $45,000 per year, according to PayScale. However, prospective students should know that salaries can vary widely in this diverse field. Human services degrees offer plenty of specialization options, giving learners the ability to choose a focus that challenges and excites them.
Should I Get a Bachelor's in Human Services?
Human services professionals must be selfless and dedicated to helping others. These professionals often help people face massive obstacles such as oppression, poverty, and illness, meaning human services workers should have notable grit and problem-solving skills. Human services programs are available both online and on campus, and aspiring human services majors should do their research to select the format that best fits their needs.
Students who are working professionals and/or parents have more obligations than the traditional student, so these learners may benefit from the flexibility and convenience of online, asynchronous courses. On the other hand, recent high school graduates may prefer the built-in community and networking opportunities found in on-campus programs.
Human services is a multidisciplinary study, so degree candidates explore a wide variety of topics in their coursework. Courses may include subjects like psychology, communications, public policy, law, ethics, and research methods. In these classes, students hone skills in writing, organization, and critical thinking. Degree candidates also gain a deeper understanding of cultures outside of their own and the capacity to make difficult decisions.
What Can I Do With a Bachelor's in Human Services?
A degree in human services can pave the way for a variety of career options. Some graduates work in hospitals and clinical settings, while others thrive as managers overseeing human services organizations. Social work and human services are similar in many aspects, but social workers tend to focus on individual cases, rather than big-picture projects. Professionals who enjoy more personal interactions may pursue social work or case management careers, while graduates who prefer to develop community-wide programs may prefer the human services field.
- Community Service Managers
This is not an entry-level position, but many human services professionals work their way into management. These workers supervise community service organizations, projects, and departments. These positions are best for strong leaders. Community service managers must have bachelor's degrees, and they may work in nonprofit organizations, government agencies, or healthcare facilities.
Median Annual Salary: $64,100*
- Medical and Health Services Managers
Medicine accounts for a large portion of the human services field. Hospitals and clinics have managers who coordinate healthcare services for those in need, and these positions often require a bachelor's degree.
Median Annual Salary: $98,350*
- Human Service Assistants
Much like social workers, these professionals work with clients to find resources to help them cope with their unique needs. Human service assistants can work in rehabilitation centers, social service agencies, healthcare settings, and nonprofit organizations. Most employers require candidates to have a bachelor's degree.
Median Annual Salary: $33,120*
- Community Health Workers
These professionals design and implement programs to encourage healthy living within a community. They often work in clinics, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations. To become a community health worker, a graduate must earn the certified health education specialist credential.
Median Annual Salary: $45,360*
- Social Workers
Social work and human services have their differences, but there is plenty of overlap. Human services graduates can become social workers. The minimum education requirement for most social work jobs is a bachelor's degree.
Median Annual Salary: $47,980*
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
How to Choose a Bachelor's in Human Services Program
Prospective human services majors should consider how much time they want to spend completing their degrees. Bachelor's degrees in human services typically take four years to complete, but many factors may impacts this timeline. Students who can only enroll part time might take longer to complete their degrees, whereas associate degree graduates may only need two years to earn their bachelor's.
Each school's curriculum may also influence a prospective student's decision. Learners should decide which specialties interest them most, and find higher learning institutions that offer those concentrations. They must also choose between online and on-campus programs. Distance education offers convenience for working professionals, but traditional students can benefit from on-campus experiences. Online programs can also offer cost savings for students, and education expenses should play a significant role in a student's choice, especially if the learner is worried about debt.
In-state public school tuition is typically much lower than tuition for out-of-state students, so location may also impact a student's choice. Finally, degree candidates should seriously consider accredited programs over those that are not accredited. Regional and national accreditation applies to an entire institution, but human services programs themselves may also earn program-specific accreditation.
Programmatic Accreditation for Bachelor's in Human Services Programs
Many colleges and universities have either national or regional accreditation, applied to the institution at large. For some areas of study, the school may also earn programmatic accreditation. This specialized accreditation applies specifically to a program within an accredited institution. For human services, the primary accrediting body is the Council for Standards in Human Services Education (CSHSE). Since 1979, this nonprofit organization has analyzed human services programs to set educational standards.
Applicants should make sure their prospective programs are CSHSE-accredited. In most cases, schools display this information on their website. Learners can also search the CSHSE website for endorsed programs. Credits earned from accredited programs are more likely to transfer, and employers have greater respect for degrees from accredited programs. Moreover, some certifications require such credentials.
Bachelor's in Human Services Program Admissions
College applications are nerve-wracking, but a little preparation can make the process much more manageable. Applicants should begin by ranking programs based on which they would most like to attend, taking into account factors like accreditation, location, cost, and minimum admissions requirements. Learners should then find the applications fees for their prospective schools, and submit applications to as many schools as they can afford, starting with the first on their list.
Students can further simplify the process by gathering the required documents, which usually include test scores, transcripts, and letters of recommendation. Many schools also require an essay. Learners should submit different essays for each application to make sure each meets the school's individual standards.
- Minimum GPA: Depending on the student's previous level of education, schools may require either their high school or college GPA. The minimum GPA is usually between 2.5 and 3.0. Students who do not meet the minimum can sometimes get this requirement waived with high test scores or significant work experience.
- Application: Each school's application may ask for identifying information, an essay, and any of the admissions materials mentioned below. Students can use CommonApp to expedite this process and apply to multiple schools at once.
- Transcripts: Applicants must submit transcripts from each of their schools from high school onward. Many public schools offer official transcript copies for free. College transcripts and additional high school documents may cost a small fee.
- Letters of Recommendation: Students can ask anybody who can speak to their character, work ethic, or academic success to write letters of recommendation, as long as that person is not a family member. Learners should give these people at least two weeks' notice.
- Test Scores: For undergraduate applicants, the SAT and ACT are the standard admissions exams. Many schools will accept scores from either test or both. Students can choose which schools to send scores to when they sign up for the tests.
- Application Fee: Application fees range from $20 (for community colleges) to $90 and higher (for elite private schools). Many schools offer fee waivers for low-income students.
What Else Can I Expect From a Bachelor's in Human Services Program?
Schools offer varying concentrations, courses, tuition rates, and locations, but there are a few commonalities among most human services programs. Details vary, but learners usually take classes in certain core subjects and can expect to earn about four years' worth of credits.
|Youth Services||In these programs, students learn how to help troubled and at-risk youth to reach their full potential. Courses may include developmental psychology, case management, and youth services administration. Graduates may work with individual children in foster care, nonprofit organizations, schools, or after-school programs.||Program Administrator, Family Services Case Worker, Human Services Manager|
|Addiction||In human services programs with an addiction concentration, students learn to help people who are addicted to drugs, alcohol, or gambling rehabilitate. Classes cover topics such as developmental psychology in adults, how social lives influence addiction, how to assess addiction, and best practices for treatment. Graduates often go on to work in rehabilitation facilities.||Addiction Counselor, Rehabilitation Program Manager, Addiction Services Director|
|Criminal Justice||With this specialization, students learn about the complex criminal justice system and how best to serve those in the system and victims of crime. Courses often focus on social justice and crime, criminal law, corrections, law enforcement, and the judicial process. Graduates with this concentration can work within any part of the criminal justice system.||Court Advocate, Law Enforcement Officer, Corrections Specialist, Victim Advocate|
|Healthcare||This concentration teaches students how to help patients navigate an increasingly complex medical system. Learners take courses in healthcare policy, information management, cultural competency, and psychology. Upon graduation, these candidates are ready to work in hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, surgery centers, and medical offices.||Patient Advocate, Health Services Manager, Residential Coordinator, Health Program Director|
|Cultural Studies||A degree with this specialization prepares students to advocate for members of minority groups. Students learn about how racism, sexism, homophobia, and other discrimination affects people's daily lives. Courses may include subjects like gender studies, racial identities, and global perspectives.||Program Director, Human Services Manager, Human Services Assistant, Social Worker|
Courses in a Bachelor's in Human Services Program
- Case Management
Case management is fundamental to most human services professions. In these courses, students learn best practices for taking on human services cases and managing all their moving parts. Successful degree candidates understand ethical, legal, organized, and culturally sensitive practices.
- Crisis Intervention
All human services professionals find themselves intervening in crises at some point. These classes teach students best practices for managing crisis situations. Learners hone communication skills, such as active listening. Successful students understand several strategies for effective crisis intervention.
- Planning and Budgeting
Any student who wants to work at or above the managerial level must understand budgeting and planning. Human services programs often have limited resources, meaning students must learn to be effective with each dollar. This class teaches skills that carry through to careers both in or outside of human services.
- Human Development
Human services is largely rooted in psychology. To better serve their clients, human services professionals must understand basic human development and how it differs between people. These courses lay the groundwork for that understanding.
- Social Advocacy
Human services professionals see clients from diverse backgrounds. These classes teach degree candidates about the institutional biases these clients may face, and how to best advocate for their success.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor's in Human Services?
Generally, students need four years' worth of credits to complete a bachelor's program, and human services degrees are no different. Courses include core education, major-specific topics, specialization-specific classes. Students may speed up the degree process if they have already earned an associate degree or other prior college credits. Furthermore, some institutions offer accelerated courses and summer semesters to help students graduate sooner.
The number of courses students can take at once may affect their timeline, as well. Degree candidates who have other obligations may only be able to commit to part-time courses, which might stretch out the length of their program.
How Much Is a Bachelor's in Human Services?
The College Board estimates that students should budget about $25,290 per year to attend a public, in-state, four-year university. This figure includes tuition, fees, room, board, books, supplies, and miscellaneous expenses. External factors may also affect the cost of college. For example, students who attend two-year, public colleges pay an average of $17,580 per year. Learners who take core classes at community colleges before transferring to a university can save tens of thousands of dollars on their education. On the other hand, students who choose to attend private universities pay an average of $50,900 per year.
Moreover, online education often costs less than on-campus counterparts. Distance education students save money on tuition, transportation, and books. These expenses may vary for on-campus students depending on their school's location: For example, degree candidates who attend schools in big cities like New York and San Fransisco can expect to pay much more for housing than their peers in more rural areas.
Certifications and Licenses a Bachelor's in Human Services Prepares For
- Human Services Board-Certified Practitioner
The National Organization for Human Services (NOHS) works with the CSHSE and the Center for Credentialing and Education to issue this certification to qualified professionals who pass the exam. Although not legally required, the HSB-CP credential is impressive to human services employers.
- Certified Health Education Specialist
Professionals who want to work as health educators or community health workers should earn this certification from the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing. Workers must complete an accredited degree program and pass a standardized exam to earn this credential.
- Certified in Human Development and Family Studies
Students who specialize in family or children's services may go on to earn this certification from the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS). Applicants must pass an exam, submit an official transcript, and pay the initial certification fee. This credential can set applicants apart for many human services positions in the family and childcare concentration.
- Certified Nutrition & Wellness Educator
The AAFCS also offers this wellness and nutrition certification for qualified professionals who pass the exam and pay the application fee. Community health educators and professionals who administer food stamps may benefit most from this certification.
- Certified Community Action Professional
Professionals who have held management positions in community action professions for two years can apply for this distinguished certification. Those who do not yet meet the qualifications can sign up for the committee's pathways program and ensure they are on the path to earning this credential.
Resources for Human Services Students
This federal department offers internships for human services students at all levels. Students can also find career information on this website.
Students who wish to complete research in their undergraduate degree can apply for funding through this foundation.
It's important for learners to stay up-to-date on trends and news in human services. This professional journal helps students do so through articles, brief notes, and research.
The CSHSE sets the standard for human services programs throughout the country. On this site, degree candidates can search for accredited programs and learn about the importance of accreditation.
Students who wish to work in the healthcare field after graduation should keep up with the Health Affairs blog. This site covers topics like health equity and policy, which human services professionals in this sector should stay updated on.
Professional Organizations in Human Services
Students and graduates alike can benefit from the many services that professional organizations offer. Through these organizations, human services workers can network with peers, complete continuing education courses, stay updated on trending topics, and attend conferences. Each of these benefits can help professionals thrive in their careers. Many of these associations offer scholarships and student membership options as well.