Human Services Degree and Career Guide
Bachelor’s Degrees in Human Services
About the Bachelor’s in Human Services
Degree Type:Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Arts
Location:Online, classroom, and hybrid
Duration:Usually 4 years
Total Credits:Around 120
Aid Eligible:Yes, for accredited programs
Broadly speaking, careers in human services are dedicated to improving the lives of others.
As a human services professional, you might work with individuals to help them reach personal goals, or with large communities to implement positive changes.
If you want to work in this challenging and rewarding field, the first thing you’ll need to do is earn a bachelor’s degree in human services.
What Is a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services?
A bachelor’s degree in human services is a 4-year degree that prepares you to take on entry-level roles. You’ll study a variety of topics, including psychology and public policy.
A bachelor’s degree in human services can also be a strong foundation if you choose to earn your master’s degree later on.
BS in Human Services
Many schools offer a Bachelor of Science in Human Services. A BS program will likely focus on aspects of human services such as administration and healthcare management, though each school will structure its programs slightly differently. Either a BA or BS will cover the material you need.
BA in Human Services
The coursework for a BA in Human Services will be very similar to that of a BS, though you might focus more on topics such as ethics or abnormal psychology. Most employers do not have a preference for either degree type, as long as your school is accredited. You can check accreditation through the U.S. Department of Education or organizations like the Council for Standards in Human Service Education (CSHSE).
How is a BA/BS in human services different from a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree?
Human services is often used as a broad umbrella that includes social work. Because of this, a bachelor’s degree in human services and a BSW can seem very similar. However, there are some key differences. Students who earn a BSW will prepare for any needed state licensure and testing for social work. There isn’t a similar requirement for students who’ve earned a bachelor’s in human services.
All BSW programs must be accredited and meet strict requirements. The requirements for a human services degree are more flexible and can be at the discretion of the school. For example, all BSW students must complete a fixed number of fieldwork hours. This isn’t the case for a BS or BA in Human Services.
Ultimately, the primary difference between the degrees is that a BSW prepares students to be social workers specifically, while a bachelor’s in human services prepares students for a wide range of related jobs. If you know you’d like to work in the field, but aren’t sure exactly what career path to take, earning your bachelor’s in human services can be a great start.
Academic Requirements Before Starting a BA/BS in Human Services
The academic requirements before starting your degree will depend on the school you choose. There might be additional requirements on top of those for general school admission. You’ll likely need an essay, letters of recommendation, and a minimum GPA. You might also need to pass a criminal background check before admission.
Do you need to take the SAT or ACT?
It will depend on your school. Many schools use test scores in their admissions criteria, but scores might be optional at others. Check the requirements at your top choice schools to see their policy on test scores.
Are there GPA requirements?
Many human services programs require a minimum GPA of either 2.5 or 3.0 for admission.
Can you get in with a GED?
Yes. A large number of colleges and universities in the U.S. accept students with GEDs. However, keep in mind that this isn’t a guarantee of admission. To make your application stronger, you might want to take additional steps, such as showing proof of volunteer work.
Additionally, all community colleges accept GEDs. If you’re concerned about university admission or there isn’t one near you that accepts GEDs, you can start your degree path at community college. You can later transfer the credits you earn to your 4-year Bachelor in Human Services degree.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor’s Degree?
It generally takes 4 years to earn a BA or BS in Human Services. Some programs might be part-time and take longer, while others might have accelerated options.
The Bachelor’s in Human Services Curriculum
In your bachelor’s program, you’ll take courses designed to help you assist other people. You’ll gain a strong foundation in understanding human behavior and learn how large social systems can affect that behavior. In addition to human services classes, you’ll likely need to take general courses such as writing, communication, and statistics.
What core classes are involved?
The core classes you’ll take can vary depending on your school. Some schools have programs dedicated to a specialty, such as medical administration. Common classes across schools include:
- Social problems
- Crisis intervention
- Domestic violence
- Child welfare
- Human behavior
- Social systems
- Criminal justice
- Public policy
Number of course credits
Schools generally require at least 120 credits to earn your bachelor’s degree in human services.
A concentration allows you to gain a more in-depth understanding of a specialized field. You might do your fieldwork in your concentration, take additional classes, or attend seminars dedicated to the topic. Keep in mind that not all schools offer every concentration. Some popular concentrations are detailed in the headings below.
Health and community services
With a concentration in health and community services, you’ll learn about the services provided by healthcare organizations. You’ll study the delivery of those services and their impact on clients’ lives.
If you’re interested in working with incarcerated people or with the victims of crimes, you might consider a concentration in criminal justice. You’ll learn about sentencing, rehabilitation, crime prevention, and the impact of crime on families and neighborhoods.
A counseling concentration will prepare you to work with clients in need of mental health services. You’ll learn about the impacts of mental health and the most effective types of assistance.
Drug and alcohol abuse
Substance abuse concentrations prepare you to work with clients with addictions. You’ll learn about the physiology and psychology of addiction, as well as various treatment methods.
Youth and family services
Many human services organizations work with children or their families. This concentration can prepare you for roles that tackle issues such as child abuse, domestic violence, and child development.
Long term care management
A concentration in long-term care management can prepare you to work as a nursing home administrator or healthcare manager. You’ll learn about the regulations for healthcare facilities and about best practices to improve patient lives.
Gerontology is the study of issues that affect the elderly. This concentration focuses on those issues from a human services point of view. It addresses techniques for combating common issues such as social isolation, unsafe home situations, or food insecurity.
Is a practicum or fieldwork required?
This will depend on your school. Most schools do require fieldwork, but some might not. Fieldwork can help you determine the type of human services work you’d like to do and allow you to meet the professionals who do it every day.
Can I Get an Online Bachelor’s in Human Services?
You can. Colleges and universities around the country offer both online and in-classroom programs. Keep in mind that you might still need to do field placement with an online degree program.
There are online degree programs offered at many different schools.Several of these programs are offered by traditional campus-based schools and provide their classroom curriculum to online students. Additionally, there are many accredited online schools that offer bachelor’s degrees in human services. You might be able to find options for both full-time and part-time learning, as well as for degree completion.
You can find classroom-based programs to suit a variety of needs. Many schools have options for part-time learners as well as non-traditional students.
In a hybrid program, you’ll take some classes online and take others in a classroom. These programs are offered by schools in many locations and can be a good choice for working adults. In a semester, you might take 3 classes online and 1 in the classroom. This can mean you’ll only need to go campus once or twice a week.
Accelerated programs can allow you to earn a degree faster. These are often designed for adult learners going to back to school after years of work experience. In an accelerated program, you might be able to transfer credits from another program or earn credits for applicable work experience.
How to Pick a Degree Program
You’ll need to decide what’s important to you when you’re selecting a degree program. You should consider your future goals as well as your current lifestyle.
School accreditation is an important consideration for all degrees. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE) maintains a database you can use to make sure a school is accredited.
In addition to accreditation, here are some questions to ask yourself when choosing a school:
- What financial aid is offered for this program?
- Does this program have a part-time option?
- Can I take classes online with this program?
- Are job placement services available?
- Where do graduates of this program work?
- Will this program prepare me for admission to an advanced degree program?
Human Services Careers with a Bachelor’s Degree
There are several career paths you can follow after earning your bachelor’s. The jobs available to you will depend on where you live and the populations you want to work with. Employers for human services workers at the bachelor’s level include nonprofit agencies, community service organizations, healthcare settings, and correctional facilities. Some common careers are discussed in more detail below.
Community service manager
A community service manager is a professional who ensures an organization is meeting the needs of its clients. You might schedule sessions, organize outreach, plan events, supervise staff, or teach classes.
Community service manager salary
According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), community service managers make a median salary of $74,000 per year. Job opportunities are expected to grow by 11.7% through 2031, twice as much as the national average for all occupations.
Other requirements will vary by employer but might include a few years of experience in another human services role. Speaking a second language, generally Spanish, can also be a requirement for some employers.
Probation officers or correctional treatment specialists
In these roles, you’ll work with incarcerated or recently released clients. You might supervise work programs, help people integrate back into the community, or ensure that people meet the requirements of their probation or parole.
Probation officer or correctional treatment specialist salary
Corrections professionals earn a median annual salary of $60,250, according to the BLS. Job opportunities depend on the amount of state and local government funding, though are projected to remained unchanged at 0.1% as far as jobs through 2031.
There will likely be additional training required once you’re hired. You might need to take classes during the first few months of your employment and take exams to maintain your employment.
Healthcare services manager
A healthcare services manager works with patients and staff in a medical facility. In this role, you’ll ensure that patients’ needs are being met and that they’re well cared for. You’ll also make sure that the facility is following state and national regulations.
Healthcare service manager salary
The BLS reports that healthcare service managers make a median annual wage of $101,340. Employment for these positions is projected to grow by a 28.3% through 2031.
Some healthcare service manager roles might require additional licensing such as an RN or LSW. Others might require experience in the field or classwork specific to healthcare administration.
Mental health counselor
Mental health counselors provide treatment to patients with behavioral concerns or mental health issues. For example, you might work with patients who have eating disorders to help them learn healthy and safe eating practices.
Mental health counselor salary
According to BLS data, mental health counselors make a median annual salary of $48,520. Job opportunities for these roles are expected to grow by 22.1%, more than 3 times that of the average for all occupations.
You might need additional licensing to work as a mental health counselor. The requirements will depend on your state but often include supervised work and testing.
Typical Degree & Career Paths in Human Services
Many people who work in human services eventually earn advanced degrees. Having an advanced degree can allow you take on leadership roles or work on the administrative level. A typical career path after earning your bachelor’s degree might take the following steps:
- Master’s degree human services: In a master’s degree program, you’ll focus on a specialty and prepare for advanced practice. With this degree, you can take on roles such as marriage and family counseling or direction of a human services agency.
- Doctoral degree in human services: At this level, you can earn either a PhD in Human Services or a Doctor of Human Services degree. Both degrees focus on foundational theory. In a PhD program, you’ll focus on research, while in a Doctor of Human Services program, you’ll learn practical applications of theory. Both degrees will allow you to hold high-level roles in human service, healthcare, social work, and community organizations.
Financial Aid for Human Services Students
Students seeking a BA or BS in Human Services can qualify for multiple types of financial aid. Many national and university-based organizations offer scholarships, fellowships, and grants to undergraduate students. There are loans available from the government and from private lenders for expenses not covered by scholarships or grants.
All students need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in order to receive financial assistance.
Do Human Services Jobs Qualify for Student Loan Forgiveness?
It depends. Student loan forgiveness is offered by the federal government under its Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF). You could be eligible for the PSLF as a human services worker if:
- you have a direct federal loan, and
- you find full-time employment at a government or not-for-profit agency.
What Professional Organizations Are There for Human Services Careers?
Professional organizations provide many benefits to members. You might find exclusive networking opportunities, job listings, or other resources. Some prominent organizations include:
- National Organization for Human Services (NOHS): The NOHS offers many professional resources as well as grants and scholarships for students. NOHS also awards a Human Services-Board Certified Practitioner (HS-BSP) certification.
- American Public Human Services Association (APHSA): The APHSA offers membership to organizations as well as individuals and is dedicated to improving public policies.
- American Counseling Association (ACA): The ACA provides career services and other resources to members.
- The National Council on Family Relations (NCFR): The NCFR awards certifications such as Certified Family Life Educators (CFLE) to professionals who work with families.
- American Probation and Parole Association (APPA): The APPA offers training programs and career services to members.