Career Options with a Bachelor's Degree in Human Services
It seems to be a recurring question: What can you do with a bachelor’s degree in human services? I think some of the confusion comes in defining what human services really is. During the undergraduate course work, a human services major is taught psychology, sociology, communication, and other courses that complement the helping professions. By combining each of these subjects, you could define human services as a helping profession that allows you to work with clients and assist them with needs, goals, or other tasks. There is no one set field that you go into or one specific title you work under.
Although a bachelor’s degree in human services is not going to get you licensed like a bachelor’s degree in social work would, you still have the opportunity to work in a variety of settings, depending on your interests. In order to assist you in discovering some potential career options, I have listed some below with a brief description of what you would expect in that position. Remember, it’s up to you to decide what career option is best for you and which direction you would like to go. Take some time to participate in internships and volunteer work while you are going to school so that you can gain experience and find your niche!
Top 5 Reasons to Work in Human Services
- You get the opportunity to make a difference in the world
- Human Services offers a wide variety of jobs
- You feel good about the work you do
- Organizations can be found all over the world in rural, suburban, and urban areas
- Provides you with the chance to build skills that are useful in all aspects of life
Case managers work in a variety of settings, including behavioral health clinics, nonprofit organizations, the government, and foster care agencies. The caseload is going to vary from place to place and it can also depend on the needs of each client. For example, an intensive case manager who meets with families at least once a week for a face-to-face meeting may only have 15 clients on his/her caseload whereas a case manager who only meets with clients on a monthly basis may have 50.
- Good communication skills
- Manages time well
- Comfortable with verbal de-escalation
- Thorough documenting skills
Being a case manager is a good career option with a bachelor’s degree in human services because it allows you to work with a variety of populations and departments. In this role, you will most likely be collaborating with other individuals from both inside and outside of your employer, so you get the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of the system and what interests you may have.
Parent Educator/Family Support
Parent educators and family supports work with parents and their children to assist them in implementing positive discipline techniques while also helping them to build skills so they can make the home a better and safer place to live. Parent educators can be found in a variety of organizations and often teach parenting classes and child development classes, so these roles are great if you enjoy working with the birth to 5-years-old population.
Family supports may see their roles vary based on the needs of each parent. You may need to act as an advocate, help parents navigate through Medicaid applications, be the voice of reason when times get tough, or teach classes. Family supports are typically versed in how referrals work and are good at establishing professional boundaries with each family.
- Ability to establish boundaries and enforce them
- Desire to help families succeed
- Teaching spirit
- Enjoys being around children
Youth Worker or Director
If you’ve heard of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Big Brothers Big Sisters, or the YMCA, then chances are that you’ve seen something about youth programs. There are numerous other organizations scattered throughout the world and each has its own activities, programs, and events. If you are wanting direct experience with children, then applying to be a youth worker is a great career option for you. If you have some previous experience with youth and are looking for more of a supervisor role, then a youth director may be the best career option for you when you complete your bachelor’s degree in human services.
As a youth worker, you may be responsible for creating games, planning a daily schedule, and enforcing rules. Some programs offer after school care in which children complete their homework, so you may function as a tutor during this time. If your organization has different programs, such as sports or crafts, you may be assigned to a specific area. For example, someone in a sports program may need to teach the basics of basketball one week and then volleyball the next. Successful youth workers know how to think on their feet and manage a large group of children without feeling completely overwhelmed.
Depending on the program you are interested in applying for, you may be required to work irregular shifts. For example, youth workers at residential facilities may be asked to work one week on and one week off. There may also be a need for second or third shift staff or weekend work, so be sure to ask questions about the shift hours prior to accepting a job.
- Enjoys being around children
- Can establish authority without being condescending
- Good communication skills
- Creative mindset
Which Population Appeals to You Most?
Senior Living Assistant or Gerontology Aide
If you enjoy working with the senior population, then I suggest looking into senior homes, home health agencies, or gerontology/geriatric clinics. If you are interested in planning activities for the elderly, then there are activity planner roles that are available at assisted living homes and nursing homes. For those students who plan on pursuing their education further, a healthcare management degree may be a good step for those individuals who wish to be directors in the future.
- Active listening
- Gentle spirit
- Can handle death and trauma well
- Knowledge of medications and diseases that are found in the elderly population
Other Career Options
Since human services incorporates more than just helping people, there is a possibility for office work. For example, you may be able to get into the human resources field if you would like to learn more about personnel procedures and company policies. You could also use your human services skills to be a quality assurance inspector who reviews files and notes for any errors. One other option is to be an admissions counselor or academic advisor at a community college or university and assist other students with achieving their dreams.
Human Services Certification
One important thing to note about a degree in human services is that it does not give you the ability to test to be a licensed social worker. If you wish to be a BSW or MSW, you will need to major in social work during your undergraduate program or enroll in a master’s of social work program. MSW programs accept students from a wide range of disciplines, but a degree in human services will give you the edge over someone who has a degree in English.
Although licensure is not available, there is a human services certification that is offered through the National Organization for Human Services. To obtain this certification, you need at least an associate’s degree and three years of work experience to sit for the exam. If you have your bachelor’s degree, you will need two years of experience and those with a master’s degree will need one year. After successful completion of the exam, you will be a Human Services Board Certified Practitioner.
How to Effectively Find Job Listings for Human Services Careers
As stated before, career options for people with a bachelor’s degree in human services come in a wide variety of roles. The next time that you go to Indeed or CareerBuilder to search for work in your area, use different keywords to get more job listings.
Here are some suggestions:
- Social services
- Family worker
- Support specialist
- Residential treatment
- Activity assistant
- Program director
- Parent educator
- Case manager
- Child development
- Family support partner
- Behavioral specialist
- Behavior coach
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2014 Tori Canonge