Human Services Majors Guide

Table of Contents

What Does it Mean to Study Human Services?

A human services degree program is meant to equip students with the skills required to serve clients in a variety of public outreach organizations. Human services graduates work alongside social workers, detectives, doctors and other specialists who help individuals tackle major challenges in their lives. Many human services workers intervene on behalf of citizens who suffer from substance abuse problems or who are victims of crime or violence.

Types of Human Services Degrees

There are many colleges and universities out there, and between them all, there are a variety of human services degree programs for prospective students to choose from. With the proliferation of online learning programs, many busy professionals and working parents who could not make the commitment to an on-campus program can now complete human services degree programs on their own schedules.

If you have made a decision about the specialty you would like to pursue, make sure your chosen college or university employs experienced faculty members who share your passion. If you are uncertain as to which area of human services you would like to specialize in, investigate programs that allow you to explore multiple options before committing to a concentration.

However, as important as a concentration is how far you wish to pursue your degree. Do you want the quick, foundational grounding of an associate degree, or are you looking for the longer and more involved education of a master's degree? Let's review some of the details for each degree level and see which might suit your needs.


Certificate programs in human services give students a chance to gain some basic knowledge of this field. Not only can this program expand your knowledge when it comes to the people around you and the different challenges they face, but it can show prospective employers that you have the drive and tenacity to learn new skills, which can lead to a competitive advantage in the job market.

Since a certificate in human services is intended to deliver a basic introduction to important theories and concepts in this field, courses you might take could include:

  • Sociology
  • Social problems
  • Marriage and family
  • Crisis intervention
  • Theories of personality

Associate Degree

Associate degree programs in human services are built to present interested students with an opportunity to learn the minimum amount of specialized skills required by most entry-level positions in the human services field. Students can usually transfer credits from their associate programs toward a full bachelor's degree if they decide to pursue further study, but they may find an associate degree is sufficient for their needs as well.

An associate-level human services degree program typically focuses on a wide range of interpersonal and human conditions, from crisis counseling and intervention to case management, information systems, sociology and psychology. Generally speaking, in these programs you can expect to see courses such as:

  • Introduction to psychology
  • Principles of sociology
  • Introduction to social work
  • Social issues in diversity
  • Developmental psychology

Bachelor's Degree

If you're working to complete a four-year human services degree program, then chances are good that you're pursuing a bachelor's degree. Across all fields, these programs usually combine specific career-related courses with broad exposure to arts and humanities. The goal of a human services bachelor's program is both to help students understand different cultures and populations, and to teach students methods of advocating for individuals and families in need.

Core courses for bachelor's programs are usually similar, encompassing subjects like developmental psychology, ethics, human services, and research design and evaluation. Human services-oriented courses you may see in your curriculum include:

  • Lifespan development
  • Abnormal psychology
  • Sociology of social problems
  • Public policy and advocacy
  • Social science research methods

Master's Degree

If you're committed to improving the lives of others and determined to reach the highest level of education in your field, a master's degree in human services can help you achieve both goals. This level of degree program can help you focus on your area of interest, whether that's conflict management, mental health, crisis intervention or managing community needs. Earning a master's degree in human services can also help you to have a greater impact overall, since such a degree is often required for high-end positions within this important field.

Some of the courses commonly encountered during a master's program in human services are:

  • Conflict management and negotiation
  • Criminal justice
  • Gerontology
  • Military families and culture
  • Family studies and interventions

What Can You Do With a College Major in Human Services?

A degree in human services is relevant to a diverse category of careers. Graduates holding a degree in human services can often find employment in mental health care, group homes, adult day care facilities, substance abuse treatment centers or elderly care centers. Some of the potential positions that human services graduates might find available to apply for include:

Administrative Services Managers

An administrative services manager oversees and directs other professionals. Administrators can run entire agencies, or they can be appointed to head up temporary projects or task forces. Many administrators also spend large amounts of time lobbying politicians or other funding officials to maintain or increase project funding.

Back at the office, administrators develop budgets for their companies and keep track of whether their team members stay within budget guidelines. They also evaluate performance levels and coach individuals to work more effectively.

  • Administrative services managers typically have a bachelor's degree and some related work experience.
  • The International Facility Management Association offers a competency-based professional certification program for administrative services managers. Two different levels are available: Facilities Management Professional (FMP) and Certified Facility Manager (CFM).

Child and Family Social Workers

The core focus of the child and family social worker is on helping vulnerable children and families access affordable housing, safety in the home, and government benefits like food stamps and housing assistance. Child and family social workers usually work in agencies that are concerned with the welfare of children in their community. Some of these professionals support unemployed or inexperienced parents, teaching them ways to take care of their children. Others work with children who have been removed from their homes when their parents have committed crimes or proven themselves unfit for parenting. In the most extreme cases, child welfare workers investigate reports of abuse and neglect, working with law enforcement officials to prosecute the individuals responsible.

  • Although some social workers may only need a bachelor's degree in social work to find entry-level employment, clinical social workers need a master's degree and 2 years of experience in a supervised clinical setting to seek employment.
  • All states require clinical social workers to become licensed, although licensing requirements vary by state.

Corrections Officers

Traditionally, many human services professionals who worked with prison inmates held jobs as parole officers and halfway house coordinators. These professionals came into the picture after time had been served in prison, helping ex-convicts to learn new skills and adjust to their new lives as honest citizens. However, as the emphasis in society moves towards preventing crime, many human services professionals are working as corrections officers, assisting convicts during their prison stays rather than after them. Through developing career skills workshops and behavior modification programs, corrections officers work to help inmates acclimate to their new lives long before their release dates.

  • Correctional officers typically attend a training academy instead of attending college. A high school diploma is required, but some college courses may be helpful for entry into the academy.
  • Certification is not required for this career.

Substance Abuse Social Worker

As our society begins to understand more about substance abuse, people are becoming less reluctant to seek help in their battles against drug and alcohol addiction. Whether they're assisting counselors at rehabilitation facilities or helping patients in outpatient recovery programs, there are many human services professionals who are helping to meet this demand for substance abuse social workers.

Substance abuse social workers focus on helping their clients manage or overcome mental illnesses or addictions. They supply information on available support services and guide their clients through plans designed to help them develop and maintain a basic standard of living.

  • Substance abuse social workers may only need a bachelor's degree in social work to find entry-level employment. However, clinical social workers who serve in this role need a master's degree and 2 years of experience in a supervised clinical setting to seek employment.
  • All states require clinical social workers to become licensed, although licensing requirements vary by state.

Social and Human Services Assistants

Social and human services assistants endeavor to assist individuals who suffer from mental health problems, addiction or poverty. They might be determining what type of aid their clients could benefit from; collaborating with social workers to develop treatment plans; assisting clients with daily activities such as cleaning, eating and bathing; helping clients apply for various forms of assistance; or checking in with clients to make sure they are functioning and thriving.

While many of these workers are employed in individual and family services, some work in nursing homes or rehabilitation centers or for the state or federal government.

  • These workers are typically trained on the job after earning a high school diploma.
  • Certification is not required for this career.

Human Services Associations and Organizations

As you consider the prospect of earning a human services degree, it's important to think about the certifications your future career may require. Here are some of the associations and organizations that might be able to help you earn the certification associated with the career you're aiming for.

  • National Organization for Human Services -- This organization offers conferences and continuing education opportunities for human services professionals. They also offer opportunities to earn the Human Services-Board Certified Practitioner credential, which helps workers in this field display their in-depth knowledge and understanding of human services.
  • International Facility Management Association -- This association offers resources, tools and continuing education for administrative services managers and other facility management professionals. They also award several credentials for facility managers, including a Facility Management Professional credential, a Sustainability Facility Professional credential and a Certified Facility Manager credential.
  • The National Association for Addiction Professionals -- This national agency offers resources, advocacy, education and national events for addiction professionals. Also, there are nine different credentials you can earn from them, related to different areas of drug and alcohol addiction.
  • National Association of Social Workers -- This organization offers resources, news, continuing education and special events social workers can pursue in addition to their state license. Through them, social workers can also earn certification for various disciplines within social work, such as substance abuse, gerontology or military service members and their families.
Article Sources
Article Sources


  1. Administrative Services Managers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-26 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics,
  2. Associate of Arts in Human Services, Brescia University,
  3. BA in Human Services, Southern New Hampshire University,
  4. Certificate in Human Services, Indiana Wesleyan University,
  5. MS in Human and Social Services, Walden University,
  6. Social and Human Service Assistants, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-26 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics,
  7. Social Workers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-26 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics,

Pursue your Human Services Major today…