Bachelor’s degree in human services – Full guide

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What is a bachelor’s degree in human services?

A bachelor’s degree in human services is a 4-year degree that brings together, among other subjects, social work, criminal justice, public policy, psychology, and sociology, to create an understanding of the field of human services. This is a very useful degree as holders can apply for many entry-level positions within the human services sphere, and occasionally a more advanced position. 

How is a bachelor’s degree in human services different from a bachelor of social work (BSW)?

As both degrees are connected to social work they can appear to be very alike. However, the main distinction between the degrees is that a BSW student is studying specifically to be a social worker, whereas a bachelor’s in human services prepares students for a broad range of related jobs. The curriculum for a human services degree is more up to the discretion of the school, but all BSW programs must be accredited and adhere to precise conditions. Students who earn a BSW will need state licensure and ongoing testing to be employed in social work. There are no comparable requirements for students who have earned a bachelor’s in human services.

What are the prerequisites for enrolling in a bachelor’s in human services program?

The academic requirements needed to enroll for your degree will depend on the school you choose. Most human services programs ask for a minimum GPA of either 2.5 or 3.0. There may also be extra requirements for admission such as an essay, letters of recommendation, and a criminal background check before admission.

What is in the bachelor’s in human services curriculum?

Schools offer either a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) or a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in human services. Although programs will be structured slightly differently, both will cover all the areas you need, and most employers, provided your degree is accredited, have no preference for either degree.

In your bachelor’s program, through coursework and fieldwork, you will learn to communicate with clients, understand their needs and to deliver and evaluate human services. You will gain a strong basis in understanding human behavior and learn how it can be influenced by social systems. A B.S. program will most likely highlight areas of human services such as administration and healthcare management. A B.A. degree coursework might focus more on topics such as psychological development, group psychology, client evaluation, and child development.

What core classes are involved?

The core classes you take will vary depending on your school.

The following courses are common classes across most schools:

Child welfare

Conflict management

Criminal justice

Crisis intervention

Domestic violence

Social systems

Social problems

Substance abuse

What concentration subjects are there?

A concentration gives you the opportunity to gain a more in-depth understanding of a specialized field through additional classes and seminars. You might also choose to do your fieldwork, or practicum, in your concentration subject. It is important, if you have a preferred topic, to make sure that the school you are interested in offers that concentration, as not all schools offer every subject for advanced study. 

Some popular concentrations are:

Health and community services

With a concentration in health and community services, you will study the health care organizations that provide human services to individuals and communities in need. You can also learn more about the problems that negatively impact on the daily lives of clients and the communities they live in.

Criminal justice

Taking criminal justice as a concentration will involve you working with incarcerated people and with the victims of crimes. You will learn about correctional sentencing, offender rehabilitation, crime prevention, and the impact of crime on families and neighborhoods.

Counseling

A concentration in counseling will make you aware of the many causes and types of mental health issues. It will also teach you about the most effective methods of assistance and prepare you to work with clients in need of mental health services.

Substance abuse

Substance abuse concentrations prepare you to work with clients with various addictions and other behavioral issues. You will study the psychology and physiology of addiction and the different treatment methods available.

Youth and family services

Many human services organizations work with children or their families. This concentration will develop your understanding of how to deal with issues such as child abuse, domestic violence, high-risk youth, and child development.

Long-term care management

A concentration in long-term care management focuses on the policies and regulations in long-term care facilities including best patient care practices. This concentration can prepare you to work as a nursing home administrator or healthcare manager.

Gerontology

Gerontology is the study of the process of aging and the issues that affect older adults. This concentration focuses on those issues from a human services perspective and looks at ways of coping with common problems such as social isolation, unsafe home environments, or food insecurity.

What type of study options are available?

Online degree programs

Many traditional campus-based schools offer their classroom curriculum to online students. There are also accredited solely online schools that offer bachelor’s degrees in human services. You may also find both full-time and part-time online options for your studies.

On-campus degree programs

Colleges and universities around the country offer classroom-based programs available to suit a wide range of needs, including full and part-time options.

Hybrid degree programs

A hybrid program is a combination of taking some classes online and others in a classroom. These programs can be a good choice for working adults as it gives a mixture of online flexibility and on-campus experience.

Accelerated degree programs

In an accelerated program, you might be able to transfer credits from another program or earn credits for relevant work experience, which means you can earn your degree faster.

How to choose a bachelor’s in human services degree program?

With so many options — from online to on campus, part-time to full-time — selecting the right program can seem overwhelming. However, by considering key factors, you can identify the programs that will lead to the particular human services degree program that meets your future goals as well as your current lifestyle.

Time:

Bachelor’s degrees in human services usually take 4 years to complete. Students whose circumstances mean that they can only enroll for a part-time course might take longer to complete their degrees. Associate degree graduates may only need 2 years to earn their bachelor’s.

School’s curriculum:

If you have particular areas that interest you, you will need to find a program that offers concentrations in these areas.

Delivery method:

If you have particular areas that interest you, you will need to find a program that offers concentrations in these areas.

Location:

In-state public school tuition rates are typically much lower than tuition costs for out-of-state students, so location may also impact a student’s choice.

Costs:

Online programs can offer significant cost savings for students compared to on-campus programs, which can entail costs for accommodations and other expenses, especially if the learner is worried about incurring debt.

Financial Aid:

Students studying a bachelor’s degree 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.

Accreditation:

Students studying a bachelor’s degree 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.

Schools may hold regional or national accreditation, with regional accreditation considered the more respected of the two. This endorsement is for the whole school and not individual programs. Human services programs may also hold programmatic accreditation from the  Council for Standards in Human Services Accreditation (CSHSE). To keep your future employment and educational options as open as possible, it is recommended that you enroll in CSHSE accredited programs.

What jobs can I do with a bachelor’s degree in human services?

As this degree extends over the healthcare and social services fields, graduates have several career paths open to them. Employment can be found in non-profit agencies, healthcare settings, community services organizations, and correctional-facilities. Where you decide to work will depend upon the groups of people that you want to work with, and the type of organization you prefer, and the geographic location. 

Some common career examples are:

Social and community service managers develop, coordinate, and oversee programs. They measure the efficacy of programs to see whether they are meeting the needs of clients. Supervision of staff, managing budgets, planning events, and grant proposals to secure additional funding are all parts of this position. 

Other requirements:

Work experience is generally a requirement for these positions. Depending on the community, a second language, generally Spanish, may also be a requirement.

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), social and community service managers make an average annual salary of $67,150 (2019). 

In these positions, you will work with law offenders in custody or recently released to help them integrate back into the community. Your tasks will include supervising work programs and ensuring that people meet the requirements of their probation or parole.

Other requirements:

In addition to your degree, most employers require candidates to undergo some additional training and pass competency exams. Drug testing and a criminal background check are also carried out. A valid driver’s license is often required.

Corrections professionals earn an annual salary of $54,290, according to the BLS.

Social workers help people cope with and solve problems in their everyday lives. Social workers operate in a wide range of healthcare settings including, hospitals, schools, non-profits, and government agencies.

Other requirements:

Advancing in the profession entails additional study and sometimes obtaining a state license to practice. Clinical social workers, for example, must have a master’s degree and 2 years of experience in a supervised clinical setting after they have completed their degree.

According to BLS data, social workers make an average annual salary of $50,470  (2019).

These professionals work with people suffering from addictions to alcohol and drugs, other mental or behavioral problems. They provide advice and treatment to help clients recover from addiction or modify problem behaviors while working with them through the psychological aspects of their disorder.

Other requirements:

If you want to work as a mental health counselor, you may need additional licensing. The requirements vary from state to state but often include supervised work and assessment.

According to BLS data, mental health counselors make an average annual salary of $46,240  (2019).

What are the career and study paths after a bachelor’s degree in human services?

Once you have your bachelor’s degree and have found employment, you may want to continue your education. Having an advanced degree can allow you to step into 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 will learn the techniques and skills needed to manage a human services agency, or if you prefer more client-facing roles, a chance to focus on specific areas such as marriage and family counseling or working with a specific subgroup of the population.

Doctoral degree in human services:

 At this level, you can earn either a Ph.D. in Human Services or a Doctor of Human Services (DHS) degree. A Ph.D. focuses on developing research. A DHS works on using existing research to deal with real-world problems in human services. Both degrees allow you to hold leadership positions in human services, healthcare, social work, and community organizations.

Council for Standards in Human Services Education
The CSHSE focuses on improving the quality, consistency and maintenance of best practices in human service education. The council accredits courses and provides details of certified programs and member organizations. The CSHSE also offers resources to students, educators, and professionals who need to keep up with current trends, standards, and research in human services education.

National Board of Certified Counselors
The APHSA assembles local, state, and private health services to work together at the national level to influence policymakers and build expertise. Members can network, exchange ideas, and join conferences and online events. Students can keep up to date with policy and practice via updates on the association’s website.

American Counseling Association
The ACA represents professional counselors by promoting their development and advocating for the profession. Members of the ACA can benefit from insurance discounts and access other benefits such as educational opportunities, career announcements, publications and resources, and networking opportunities.

NAADAC, The Association of Addictions Counselors
NAADAC represents the professional interests of addiction counselors through education, advocacy, collaborative efforts, and policy. NAADAC also provides continuing education programs offering 9 different credentials, a career center, and discounts on professional books and other materials plus insurance.

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