We all need a little help every now and again. Whether it’s losing your job, struggling with physical or mental health issues, facing a complex legal battle, or getting caught up in a crisis or natural disaster, life can throw many difficult situations at us. Sometimes, it’s too much to cope with on our own.
Luckily, we live in a compassionate society where there are systems in place to assist people experiencing these types of troubles, from legal aid systems and social welfare services to non-profit organizations and youth services. Thanks to these kinds of arrangements, in most circumstances, there will be someone you can turn to when you’re struggling. Even if you never need to make use of them yourself, they also bring a huge benefit to the wider community that you’re a part of.
All of these kinds of arrangements fall under the umbrella term of ‘human services.’ This post will take a closer look at what exactly human services mean and why the field is so important for society. Hopefully, this will inspire you to think about working in this sphere yourself one day and being a part of this positive movement! If so, there’s some information towards the end about how you can get qualified, what studying for a human services degree is like, and the types of careers you can have after you graduate. Let’s get started!
What exactly do human services refer to?
As indicated above, human services refer to any type of program, system, or service that is specifically designed to meet human needs. This can be on an individual basis, at a local community level, at the national level, or even internationally. The sort of needs that these services are intended to assist with can be equally varied, from basic requirements such as food and shelter to more complex ones related to wellbeing or justice.
Human services is also an academic discipline that you can study at the college level. As you might expect, it’s an interdisciplinary subject that combines elements of social science, psychology, public policy, and many other related fields. Therefore, a human services degree is well suited to those who want to study an interesting and varied curriculum that enables you to dedicate yourself to helping others.
Why are human services important to individuals?
The unfortunate truth is that life sometimes throws curve balls at us. While often we can handle these taxing situations on our own, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes we will need a little help from others, whether it’s friends and family or specialists in a certain field such as law or healthcare. In cases like this, human services can make a world of difference to a person. They can intervene to help people get back on their feet after experiencing a natural disaster or overcome a drug or alcohol addiction and reintegrate into normal life.
Human services are frequently aimed specifically at the most vulnerable people in our society. This includes children and the elderly, people with disabilities, those who have suffered abuse or other types of trauma, and people with mental health conditions. However, regardless of the type of person they are for, these services can prevent individuals from experiencing a negative spiral into even worse outcomes such as poverty, homelessness, chronic bad health, or even death.
In addition to preventing further negative outcomes, those who have qualified from a human services degree can also work to boost positive outcomes in people’s lives. For instance, many support services aim to empower people to take control of their own lives and improve their wellbeing. It could be through encouraging positive behavior, helping people to find jobs or making other significant lifestyle changes, or becoming more independent. Whatever type of assistance people need, there will likely be a service to meet it.
The difference might not always be immediately obvious, but these services can completely change the course of a person’s life. For instance, by intervening early on in a case where an adolescent is struggling with mental health issues, a human services worker could prevent a downward spiral. Instead of that person dropping out of school and gradually suffering from worse problems such as addiction and crime, they could treat their mental health condition and stay in education, thus going on to become a healthy member of society. So you can see that the importance of human services cannot be overstated.
Why are human services important to communities?
As the above section hints at, human services don’t only help the individual that they treat directly. These services also make an important contribution to society at large. By helping those who are in desperate situations to break free of them, everyone can benefit from broader positive outcomes such as lower crime rates, safer neighborhoods, and more flourishing communities. It’s also worthwhile from a financial perspective because human services reduce the amount of money that local and national governments have to spend on dealing with issues such as crime and homelessness.
Human services also help to push societies to be fairer and treat all of their citizens ethically, for example, by striving to ensure that everyone receives just and equal treatment under the law. Essentially, they help to create the sort of society that we want to live in. They make communities healthier, happier, wealthier, and overall more pleasant places to reside.
How can I get qualified to work in human services?
If reading about the importance of this field has inspired you to become a part of it, there are many pathways you could choose to take. For instance, you could think about qualifying as a social worker, a counselor, or a psychologist. Alternatively, you could consider taking a human services degree in order to benefit from a curriculum that’s specific to the field and opens up a wide range of career opportunities after graduation. In addition to the human services degree itself, depending on the type of job role you want to progress to, you might have to take additional certifications or pass licensing exams.
To get qualified with a bachelor of science in human services degree normally takes four years if you study on a full-time basis. These days, colleges offer both traditional courses that are held on campus and online programs for which you study virtually. The latter can be a particularly good choice if you hope to take the program alongside your existing work or family commitments.
As well as the academic credentials of having a human services degree, there are certain skills and characteristics that will make you especially well qualified for a career in human services. Firstly you will need to be a compassionate and empathetic individual who is genuinely interested in helping others. This will enable you to put yourself in the shoes of those you work with and dedicate yourself to assisting them to the best of your ability.
Both studying for a human services degree and working in the field also require you to have excellent organization, attention to detail, and time management, because you’ll likely be dealing with many different – and complex – cases at once. Communication is also a critical skill to have because you’ll be working with people of all different ages and backgrounds and who might not have any background knowledge of whatever issue you’re helping them with. Active listening, patience, and good observation will all prove useful in this regard.
What is studying for a human services degree like?
When you study for a human services degree, you will take a series of academic modules related to the field. Some of these will be core courses that are compulsory for everyone, and for the remaining credits, you will have a choice from a list of elective courses. Some programs will offer you the choice of specialist tracks that focus on a specific part of human services, such as criminal justice or community leadership, which will have an impact on the modules you take.
The exact curriculum you follow will vary according to the college that you enroll with. Still, the following list gives you a good indication of the types of modules that you can study on a human services degree:
- The Human Services Professional
- Developing the Helping Relationship
- Person-Centered Planning and Case Management
- Measuring the Effectiveness of Human Services Delivery
- Research Design
- Abnormal Psychology
- Crisis and Positive Intervention
- Racial and Ethnic Relations
- Advocacy in the Global Community
- Social Influences on Behavior
- Prevention and Treatment of Addiction
- Human Development
- Child and Family Relationships
- Motivation and Emotion
- Advocacy, Policy and Disability Law
- Proactive Intervention Strategies for People with Disabilities
- Cross-Cultural Psychology
- Influence and Persuasion
- Making Public Policy
- Ethics in Public Leadership
- Leadership and Volunteerism
- Restorative Justice
- Mobilizing and Coordinating Community Response
- Courts and Judicial Process
- Juvenile Delinquency and Justice
Each module on your human services degree will be delivered using a blend of learning methods such as lectures, seminars, group work, reading assignments, written assessments, tutorials, and presentations. You might also have guest experts deliver teaching on occasion.
At the end of the course, you will normally be required to undertake a substantial independent project culminating in the production of a written dissertation. This will be on an approved and relevant topic of your choice and should ideally be something that you are particularly passionate about and is related to the career you are hoping to progress to after graduating. Many students find this the most interesting and rewarding part of a human services degree because you get to take a close look at a topic that means a lot to you.
In most programs, there is no requirement to complete any placement hours or internships. However, if you have the time, you might find that undertaking some community work or volunteering is beneficial. This is both because it will be helpful to your studies and because it will look great on your resume when it comes to applying for jobs after you graduate. In fact, if you can complete any community service before you apply for a human services degree, it will be a fantastic boost to your application.
What sort of career can I have after a human services degree?
As you might have guessed from the varied module list and wide range of applications discussed above, a human services degree can prepare you for a large number of career paths after graduation. You could find employment in workplaces such as hospitals, community centers, schools, correction facilities, government agencies, non-profit organizations, mental health centers, drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers, and much more besides.
To give you a better idea of just how many positions there will be open to you, here is a selection of job roles you could aim for. Bear in mind that some of these may require extra qualifications in addition to a human services degree, such as a master’s degree or specialist certificates. You might also need to sit a licensing exam.
- Director of Social Services
- Case Manager
- Social Worker
- Grief Counselor
- Child Advocate
- Probation Officer
- Juvenile Court Liaison
- Community Organizer
- Family Therapist
- Drug Rehabilitation Specialist
- Life Skills Instructor
- Group Home Worker
- Youth Worker
- Community Economic Development Officer
- Emergency Management Specialist
- Public Health Educator
- Crisis Intervention Counselor
- Community Outreach Worker
This means that a human services degree gives you a fantastic opportunity to create a career that truly suits your interests and lifestyle. Of course, having so much choice can be overwhelming. If you’re not sure exactly what sort of career you want to have after graduating, don’t worry. Try reading around online for more information about different roles, or reach out to people who are already employed in them to arrange an informal chat about the job. If possible, you could also volunteer in a number of different fields to see which type of industry and job role best suits your personality and passions. There’s no need to rush, so take your time and get as much information as possible so you can make an informed decision.