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The Comprehensive Guide to Pursuing a Human Services Degree

Uncover the core of a human services degree program: a compass for compassion. Navigate your way to a fulfilling career with this comprehensive guide.

Human Services Degree

Have you ever felt a tug in your heart when you saw someone in need and knew you could help? That’s the invisible thread pulling you toward a career in human services.

Imagine the satisfaction of knowing that the papers you push and the calls you make are not just about figures and bottom lines but real people with real lives that you’re helping to improve.

Intrigued? Then let’s dive deeper into what a human services degree is.

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What is a Human Services Degree?

A Human Services degree is a bit like a Swiss Army Knife of the academic world. It’s designed to equip you with a diverse set of skills—counseling, psychology, social work, and public health—to serve individuals and communities effectively. It’s a degree that can turn empathy into action, providing a holistic understanding of the complex needs of individuals and communities.

The value of human services is experiencing tremendous growth in today’s society. With a human services degree, you can help construct the bridges that connect individuals to the resources they need, becoming a beacon of hope and a catalyst for change.

One of the latest trends making waves in the human services landscape is the increasing use of technology. Telehealth and online counseling platforms are providing unprecedented access to services, especially for those in remote or underserved areas. Imagine being able to provide mental health support to someone living miles away, right from the comfort of your home.

Furthermore, the focus on cultural competence in human services is growing. It’s no longer enough to offer help; it’s crucial to understand the diverse cultural backgrounds of those we serve. This focus acknowledges the diverse cultural backgrounds of clients and recognizes the need for services to be tailored to these unique contexts.

What are the Human Services Degree levels?

Getting a human services degree often begins with understanding the variety of academic paths available, much like exploring a roadmap before traveling.

There is a degree type suitable for anyone, whether you are new to the field or a skilled professional looking to expand your knowledge.

Explore these alternatives and gain insight into what they each bring to the table.

Certificate in Human Services

A certificate in human services is typically a short-term program that offers foundational knowledge in the field. This is an optimal launching pad for individuals seeking to rapidly penetrate the industry or for experts in related domains seeking to augment their expertise. It provides a quick and flexible entry point into the human services field.

Entry Requirements: A high school diploma or equivalent is usually required.

Associate Degree in Human Services

An associate degree in human services delves deeper into the field, typically taking two years to complete. Completing this degree can qualify you for entry-level roles in the industry or act as a foundation for further studies toward a bachelor’s degree. It’s an excellent choice for those who want to balance academic depth and timely entry into the workforce.

Entry Requirements: A high school diploma or equivalent, along with any specific prerequisites set by the college or university.

Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services

A bachelor’s degree in human services offers in-depth knowledge and practical experience in the field. It typically takes four years to complete. This degree opens up a broader range of career opportunities and earning potential. It’s an ideal choice for those seeking a comprehensive understanding of human services and a robust foundation for advanced study.

Entry Requirements: High school diploma or equivalent, satisfactory SAT/ACT scores, and fulfillment of institution-specific requirements.

Master's Degree in Human Services

A master’s degree in human services provides advanced knowledge and specialized skills, typically taking two years to complete after a bachelor’s degree. It can lead to supervisory roles, higher salary potential, and opportunities in research or academia. It’s an excellent choice for those seeking leadership roles or specialized positions.

Entry Requirements: A bachelor’s degree, typically in human services or a related field, satisfactory GRE scores, and any specific requirements of the graduate school.

Doctorate in Human Services

A doctorate in human services—highly specialized and advanced, it is the highest level of academic achievement in the field. It opens doors to top-tier positions, research opportunities, and academic roles.

Entry Requirements: A master’s degree, often in human services or a related field, satisfactory scores on advanced standardized tests, and fulfilling program-specific requirements.

Disclaimer:  The entry requirements for a degree in Human Services may vary depending on your university and state. However, here we have outlined the general qualifications that are frequently asked for.

What specialties and concentrations can you find in Human Services Degree programs?

While the broad knowledge gained in a human services degree is invaluable, specializing or concentrating in a specific area can offer the precision of a finely-tuned instrument, enabling you to make a more profound impact in your chosen field.

Let’s examine some of the popular concentrations within human services programs.

Remember, choosing a concentration is about aligning your academic journey with your career goals and personal passions.

Child and Family Services

Child and Family Services focuses on the dynamics and challenges children and families face. Like nurturing gardeners, professionals in this field help foster healthy family environments where children can thrive.

Benefits: This specialization equips you with the skills to positively impact the lives of children and families in roles such as family support worker or child protective services worker. It’s a perfect fit for those passionate about working with children and want to make a difference.


Gerontology is the study of aging and the challenges that older adults face. Professionals in this field understand the nuances of the aging process and how best to support older adults.

Benefits: With an aging population, the demand for experts in gerontology is increasing. This specialization can lead to roles in elder care, senior housing management, and policy-making related to aging.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse

This specialization delves into the complex world of mental health and substance abuse. Like a skilled guide navigating treacherous terrain, professionals in this field help individuals find their path to recovery.

Benefits: This specialization opens doors to rewarding careers as counselors, therapists, or case managers. It’s an excellent choice for those who want to help individuals overcome their struggles and achieve mental wellness.

Public Health

Public Health focuses on the health of communities and populations. Like architects planning a city, public health professionals work to build healthier communities.

Benefits: A concentration in public health can lead to roles in health education, policy-making, and community health advocacy. It’s suitable for those interested in the macro-level impact on health outcomes.

Social Work

Social Work is about providing assistance and advocacy for individuals, families, and communities. Professionals in this field are like bridges, connecting people to the resources they need.

Benefits: Social work specialization can lead to a range of roles, including clinical social worker, community service manager, or policy analyst. It’s an ideal choice for those driven to directly influence and improve people’s lives.

Courses & Curriculum in Human Services Degrees

Imagine stepping into a library where each book offers a new perspective and a wealth of knowledge. 

The course curriculum in human services degrees is much like this. It is comprehensive and multidisciplinary, designed to equip you with a broad understanding and diverse set of skills. 

These are some standard courses that lay the foundation of human services:

Developmental Psychology

Developmental Psychology explores the growth and development of humans throughout their lifespan. This course is like a time-lapse video showcasing the fascinating changes that occur from infancy to old age. 

It equips you with insights into the various developmental stages, enabling you to cater your services to the unique needs of your clients.

Introduction to Social Work

Introduction to Social Work serves as a gateway into social work, acquainting you with its history, values, and practices. Like a compass, this course guides you through the fundamentals, helping you navigate the diverse roles and responsibilities in the field.

Sociology of Social Problems

Sociology of Social Problems examines the social, economic, and political forces that contribute to societal issues. This course is like a microscope, revealing the intricate connections between individual experiences and larger social structures. It provides you with the knowledge to identify and understand the root causes of social problems.

Public Policy and Advocacy

Public Policy and Advocacy delves into the process of creating, implementing, and evaluating policies that impact the lives of individuals and communities. This course is akin to a blueprint, teaching you how to strategize and advocate for meaningful change.

Crisis Intervention

Crisis Intervention focuses on the skills and techniques needed to support individuals and families during times of crisis. Much like a life preserver, this course teaches you how to provide immediate, short-term assistance to those in distress.

On-campus vs. Online Human Services Degrees

Choosing the correct format for your human services degree is like picking the right shoes for a long hike. Both on-campus and online programs have unique benefits, and the best choice depends on your circumstances, learning style, and career goals.

In the end, the choice between an on-campus and online program depends on what fits best with your lifestyle, learning style, and career aspirations.

On-Campus Human Services Degrees

Diving into the bustling life of a college campus can be a transformative experience ripe with opportunities for growth and discovery. On-campus degree programs offer a vibrant academic environment that stimulates intellectual curiosity and fosters deep connections. 


Interpersonal Interaction: On-campus programs provide ample opportunities for face-to-face interactions with professors and peers. These interactions can enhance your learning experience and help you build a robust professional network.

Access to Campus Resources: Physical access to libraries, labs, study spaces, and other campus resources can enrich your learning experience.

Structured Environment: The structured environment of on-campus programs can provide a consistent routine and help you stay disciplined and focused on your studies.


Less Flexibility: On-campus programs usually have a fixed schedule, which may not be ideal for students who have work or family obligations.

Commuting and Relocation: Imagine campus life as a road trip. Depending on where your campus is plotted on the map, you might have to fill up the gas tank for daily commutes or pack up your life's suitcase to move.

Online Human Services Degrees

The digital revolution has ushered in a new era of learning, making education accessible beyond the traditional campus boundaries. Online degree programs offer a flexible and convenient alternative for individuals juggling multiple responsibilities or residing in remote locations.


Flexibility: Online programs usually offer more flexibility, allowing you to learn at your own pace and schedule your classes around your personal and professional commitments.

Accessibility: Online programs are like a universal remote for education - they can turn on learning from any corner of the world. This makes them a top pick for students who are miles away from campus or have hurdles that limit their mobility.

Cost-Effectiveness: Online programs can often be more cost-effective, as you save on commuting, housing, and other campus-associated costs.


Limited Face-to-Face Interaction: Online programs offer fewer opportunities for in-person interaction, which could affect your networking opportunities and learning experience.

Self-Discipline Required: The flexibility of online programs requires a high level of self-discipline and practical time management skills.

What to consider when choosing a Human Services Degree?

Choosing a human services degree can feel like you’re standing at the crossroads of your future, trying to read a map that’s yet to be drawn.

But don’t worry; it’s not a shot in the dark.

With the proper considerations, you can illuminate your path and stride confidently toward your academic and career goals.

Below, we’ll explore key factors to keep in mind when selecting a human services degree program.

1. Accreditation

Think of accreditation as the ‘seal of quality’ for your education. Accredited programs have been evaluated and recognized by relevant educational authorities. Earning a degree from an accredited institution can enhance your job prospects and ensure your qualifications are widely accepted.

2. Cost

Higher education is an investment. Think of the cost of the program and available financial aid like the scales of justice. The aim is to weigh quality education on one side without tipping the other side into a sea of debt.

3. Career Services

Look for programs that offer strong career support services. This could include career counseling, internships, job placement services, and opportunities to network with alumni and professionals in the field.

4. Curriculum

The heart of any degree program is its curriculum. Review the courses offered in the program. Are they aligned with your career goals and interests? A well-rounded curriculum should cover essential areas of human services, including social work, psychology, public policy, and more.

5. Faculty

Your professors will be your guides on this academic journey. Look for programs with faculty who have relevant real-world experience, advanced degrees, and a track record of research in the field of human services.

6. Flexibility

If you’re juggling other responsibilities, such as work or family, you’ll need a program that fits your schedule. Online programs can sometimes be like your favorite streaming service – watch (or study) anytime, anywhere. That said, don’t write off on-campus programs just yet. Many also offer part-time options.

7. Student Support Services

College can sometimes feel like trying to solve a Rubik’s cube, and having a strong network of support can be the cheat code you need. Check what support services the school offers, such as academic advising, tutoring, and mental health resources.

What can you do with a Human Services Degree?

Did you know that one of the earliest records of organized human services dates back to ancient Rome, where they established an Annona system to distribute grain to citizens? 

Today, human services has evolved into a multifaceted field with a wide array of careers dedicated to helping individuals and communities.

Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects promising growth for many human services occupations. For example, jobs for community and social occupants are expected to grow 10% from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Salary Potential

Salaries in the human services field can vary widely based on the specific role, education level, and geographic location. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for community and social occupants was $48,410 in May 2020. 

But numbers are only part of the picture. The true value of a human services degree is measured not just in dollars and cents but in the positive impact you can make on people’s lives and your community.

Top Jobs you can get with a Human Services Degree:

Social Worker

Social workers act as advocates and guides, helping individuals, families, and groups grapple with everyday issues. They may provide direct client services, including counseling and therapy, or work in social planning and policy development.

Average Salary - Job Positions

Average Salary

$50,390 per year

College Degree Type Needed For Job Position

Degree Level


Community Service Manager

Their role involves coordinating and supervising social service programs and community organizations. Their job is to oversee the employees who offer social services to the public, ensuring that these services cater to the needs of the community.

Average Salary - Job Positions

Average Salary

$74,000 per year

College Degree Type Needed For Job Position

Degree Level


Probation Officer

Probation officers work with individuals in the criminal justice system. They help rehabilitate offenders and prevent them from committing new crimes, providing resources such as job training or drug rehabilitation.

Average Salary - Job Positions

Average Salary

$60,250 per year

College Degree Type Needed For Job Position

Degree Level


Health Educator or Community Health Worker

These professionals provide and convey health-related information to the public. They devise and execute effective strategies aiming at enhancing the health quotient of individuals as well as entire communities.

Average Salary - Job Positions

Average Salary

$48,860 per year

College Degree Type Needed For Job Position

Degree Level


Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselor

Counselors in this field support individuals wrestling with various challenges like drug addiction, eating disorders, alcoholism, and other behavioral issues. Their role revolves around extending necessary treatment and support, facilitating the client’s journey toward recovery and behavioral modification. 

Average Salary - Job Positions

Average Salary

$48,520 per year

College Degree Type Needed For Job Position

Degree Level


Rehabilitation Counselor

Rehabilitation counselors engage with people contending with different forms of disabilities – these could range from emotional to developmental, from physical to mental. The counselor aims to equip these individuals with the necessary tools to lead an independent life through personal counseling and vocational guidance.

Average Salary - Job Positions

Average Salary

$38,560 per year

College Degree Type Needed For Job Position

Degree Level


*Please be advised that the average salary provided by the BLS may deviate significantly from state to state and occupation to occupation, depending on various factors.

Popular Colleges with Human Services Degree Programs

Stepping into the realm of human services requires not only passion but also a solid educational foundation. Choosing a reputable university is crucial for acquiring the skills and knowledge you’ll need to succeed.

Here’s a list of some of the most recognized universities in the U.S. offering stellar programs in human services.

Pennsylvania State University

With its rich history and commitment to academic excellence, Pennsylvania State University offers a comprehensive Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Studies. This program equips students with a broad understanding of human services, preparing them for various careers or further studies in social work, counseling, or health policy.

University of Illinois at Springfield

Students can pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Human Services at the University of Illinois at Springfield. The program focuses on practical experience, requiring students to complete internships and engage in community-based learning, which equips them with real-world skills needed in the human services field.

University of Delaware

The University of Delaware offers a Bachelor of Science in Human Services with an emphasis on field experience. Students get the opportunity to engage in internships and research projects, providing them with practical experience that complements classroom learning.

George Washington University

George Washington University offers a Bachelor’s and a Master’s in Human Services degree. The program’s location gives students unique opportunities for internships and networking in various government and nonprofit organizations.

University of Phoenix - Arizona

Recognized for its flexible learning options, the University of Phoenix – Arizona, offers a Bachelor of Science in Human Services. The program focuses on providing students with a robust foundation in human services, preparing them for a multitude of roles in community and social service settings.

Featured Colleges

FAQ about Human Services Degree Programs

Studying in a human services degree program prepares you with a diverse skill set, enabling you to effectively tackle various roles within the community and social service sector. These include:

  • Interpersonal Skills: Learn how to communicate effectively and empathetically with diverse individuals and groups. This includes active listening, empathy, and conflict-resolution skills.
  • Problem-Solving Skills: Human services professionals often encounter complex situations that require critical thinking and innovative solutions. You’ll learn to evaluate and analyze these situations to develop effective strategies for intervention.
  • Cultural Competence: With diverse populations being served, learn to appreciate and respect cultural differences, developing strategies to work effectively in multicultural environments.
  • Administrative Skills: From case management to program development and evaluation, you’ll acquire the necessary organizational skills to manage and coordinate services effectively.
  • Ethical and Legal Knowledge: Get educated on the ethical principles and legal issues related to human services, ensuring your practice aligns with professional standards and regulations.

Yes, most human services degree programs strongly encourage or even require internships as part of their curriculum. Such experiential learning opportunities allow students to put classroom-taught theories into practice, all under the watchful eyes of seasoned professionals.

Internships range from social service agencies and community organizations to governmental entities and healthcare facilities.

Financial aid for students in human services degree programs can come from a variety of sources. Federal student aid, which includes grants, work-study funds, and loans, is often a primary source. State and institutional aid, such as scholarships and grants, is also available.

Numerous schools also put forth work-study arrangements that serve as part-time employment options, helping students offset their educational expenses.

Plus, exclusive scholarships are offered for those choosing to study human services or similar fields.

While both degrees prepare students for careers helping individuals, families, and communities, they differ in focus and scope. 

A Human Services Degree is typically broader, providing a foundation for work in various areas of community and social service, from case management to community outreach. It’s often multidisciplinary, incorporating elements of psychology, sociology, and management.

In contrast, a Social Work Degree is more specialized, focusing on providing social services in fields such as child welfare, mental health, and substance abuse. It places a greater emphasis on social advocacy and policy change. 

Both degrees can lead to fulfilling careers, but the best choice depends on your specific career goals and interests.

While a bachelor’s degree might pave the way for initial roles within the human services sector, many positions, especially those involving leadership, clinical, or specialized responsibilities, necessitate a master’s degree.

Pursuing a higher degree, like a Master’s in Human Services or a related discipline, provides an in-depth understanding of chosen areas and can boost career opportunities and earning capacity.

Still, whether you need a graduate degree largely depends on your chosen career trajectory.

Certain professions, such as applied behavior analysts, mandate state licensing. The most prevalent certification attained is the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) certification from the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB).

Becoming a licensed occupational therapist requires completing a specific amount of supervised work experience, with state requirements varying. However, certification through the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) is mandatory in all states.

Social workers also need to be state-licensed to practice, and many states use the Association of Social Work Board (ASWB) exam to verify competence in this field.

You can find employment opportunities in various settings with a human services degree. These include:

  • Nonprofit Organizations: Many human services professionals work in nonprofit agencies that provide counseling, education, and community outreach to diverse populations.
  • Government Entities: Human services professionals find employment opportunities across various local, state, and federal government departments. These include but are not limited to, child and family services, veteran affairs, and public health.
  • Healthcare Facilities: Hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation centers, and other healthcare facilities often hire human services professionals to provide patient advocacy, case management, and community health education.
  • Educational Institutions: Schools and universities employ human services professionals as counselors, program coordinators, and student affairs specialists.
  • Community Centers: These organizations often employ human services professionals to coordinate and implement programs that meet the needs of local communities.
  • Correctional Facilities: Some human services professionals contribute to the criminal justice system by offering rehabilitation and reintegration services to inmates in correctional institutions.


  • Human services degree is a multidisciplinary field of study that prepares students to serve communities and improve individual lives by addressing social issues and providing assistance.
  • Areas of focus such as child and family services, gerontology, mental health and substance abuse, public health, and social work offer opportunities to specialize in sectors that align with individual career goals.
  • Core courses include developmental psychology, introduction to social work, sociology of social problems, public policy and advocacy, and crisis intervention, providing a comprehensive understanding of the field.
  • Both on-campus and online programs provide quality education, with the choice depending on personal circumstances, lifestyle, and learning preferences.
  • Factors like accreditation, faculty credentials, flexibility, cost, and support services play a crucial role in choosing the right program.
  • Careers range from case managers and social workers to counselors and public health educators, with the potential for substantial salaries and rewarding work.

Remember, the journey to a fulfilling career in Human Services starts with choosing the right educational path. So why wait? Find the right college for you today!

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