What is Human Services?

This is a field that accomplishes some very specific goals: helping people and communities.


“Human services tend to be as broad as the needs and problems of the client base,” says Robert Olding of the National Organization for Human Services.

Combining elements of psychology, social work and criminal justice studies, social and human services is, at heart, about focusing on prevention as well as remedying problems, while maintaining a commitment to improving the quality of life of people in need.

If you have a desire to help communities and people better their lives, you might be an ideal candidate for one of the many rewarding careers in human services.

Pathways to Human Services Careers

The path to a career in human services is wide open. You can begin your journey with a degree in social workpsychology, criminal justice or public administration—all of which are readily available from traditional or accredited online schools. Before thinking about school, though, let’s take a look at the qualities you’ll need to succeed in this rewarding career.

You are…

  • Compassionate
  • An effective communicator
  • A great organizer and planner
  • A people person
  • Able to time-manage
  • A problem-solver
  • A leader
  • Analytical
  • Patient
  • Responsible

Typical Careers and Education

“Human services worker” is a broad term for the people who work in many different environments, which may include group homes, halfway houses, correctional facilities, community mental health centers, and family and youth services agencies. People in this field deal with societal issues such as alcoholism and drug abuse, family violence, and aging, so you’ll need to have a thick skin while still displaying understanding and empathy in situations that are difficult to fathom for the average person.

Basically, human services workers have a three-tiered objective to fulfill:

  • Evaluate a client—or community’s—needs
  • Create a treatment plan
  • Put the plan into effect

Let’s look at the most common careers in social and human services.

Social and Human Services Assistant

As an assistant in social and human services, you may only need a high school diploma. However more and more employers seek employees who have an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree or experience in the field. In this career you’ll help people and communities get through difficult times, and you’ll aid social workers as they help their clients find the community services they need.

Social and Human Services Manager

This is an administrative role that requires at least a bachelor’s degree, but preferably a master’s degree in public administration or human services administration. You’ll supervise and coordinate social service programs and lead community groups and organizations as a manager. You’ll also direct your staff, such as the social workers who provide services to the community.

Social Worker

Most social workers in human services fall under the “direct service” umbrella. These are the in-the-field social workers who help people and communities cope with and solve problems in their lives. Counselors and case workers might also fit into this category, and it might include specializations such as rehabilitation, school, and substance abuse counselors. A bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement for social workers, but clinical social workers will need a master’s degree and to be licensed. Today, many employers actually prefer that their social workers have a master’s degree. Counselors are required to obtain a masters-level degree in order to practice.

A Necessary Career Field

With the stresses of everyday life, hardships and economic recession, careers in the field of human services are expected to grow at a faster than average rate (the national average for all occupations is 7 percent), according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ current Occupational Outlook Handbook. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.

Here are their projections through 2026:

  • Social and Human Services Assistants – 16 percent
  • Social and Community Services Managers – 16 percent
  • Social Workers – 15 percent
  • Substance Abuse Counselors – 20 percent

If you think you have what it takes to work in a career that will test you on a daily basis, but will let you reap great rewards when you succeed, human services is one field that has the power to help people and communities for individual and the common good. Start researching schools and degrees that may change your life as much as it changes the lives of others.

Sources: nationalhumanservices.org; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2018-19 Occupational Outlook Handbook.

  • Is this page helpful ?
  • YesNo