Everything you need to know about taking a degree in human services


For many people, the desire to help others is a large motivating factor in choosing what subject they want to study and what career they want to aim for. Happily, these days, there are many different jobs in which you can dedicate yourself to improving the lives of those around you, from being a doctor or nurse to training as a teacher or social worker. One slightly newer field you might not have heard of which enables you to channel your compassion into a rewarding and altruistic career is that of human services.

A human services degree is an interdisciplinary course that covers aspects of social science, psychology, policy, and much more in order to prepare you for a wide range of job roles helping others. In this post, we’ll go into the nature of the subject in more detail, looking at what sort of topics you’ll study and what kind of careers it can lead to. We’ll also cover the benefits of studying for a human services degree and what sort of skills you’ll need to succeed on the program and in the job. Finally, if you’re still interested by the time you’ve read all that, there’s also some information at the end about how to apply.

What are human services?

Human services is a very broad field, and at its core, refers to providing services to meet human needs. It could be at the individual level, the family level, the community level, or even on a national or global scale. The services in question could be related to legal systems, social welfare systems, healthcare systems, crisis intervention systems, and much more besides.

Working in human services involves tasks such as researching whether the services on offer are reaching those who need them and evaluating those services to determine their strengths and weaknesses. You could also be involved with adjusting services to meet the changing needs of people and communities and recommending and implementing improvements to them.

As such, human services is a fantastic choice of subject for those who are passionate about helping others. It enables you to dedicate yourself to assisting the most vulnerable members of society or those who are experiencing a moment of crisis. In addition to helping those individuals, this also has an impact on society as a whole. Human services enable communities to flourish and boost the quality of life for everyone, not just those who utilize them directly. This is why it’s such an important field.

What will I study for a human services degree?

A bachelor of science in human services degree generally lasts four years if you study on a full-time basis and longer if you have the option to study on a part-time basis. Both online courses and courses held on campus are available, meaning you can choose the exact learning model that suits your existing obligations and life circumstances.

Due to the fact that human services is an interdisciplinary subject, you can expect to benefit from a diverse and interesting curriculum if you choose to enroll. Certain colleges also offer the option to take a specialist concentration that focuses on an area of human services that you are particularly passionate about. For example, this could be criminal justice, community leadership, crisis intervention, social policy, or child and adolescent development.

The exact modules you’ll study will depend on the college that you enroll with and the concentration you choose (if any). However, the following list gives you a good idea of the sort of titles you can expect to find on offer. Some of these will be compulsory, whereas for others, you will be able to select from a variety of electives.

  • Abnormal Psychology
  • Racial and Ethnic Relations
  • Research Design
  • Crisis and Positive Intervention
  • The Human Services Professional Practitioner
  • Mental Health Crisis Response
  • Advocacy in the Global Community
  • Measuring the Effectiveness of Human Services Delivery
  • Brain and Behavior
  • Prevention and Treatment of Addiction
  • Social Influences on Behavior
  • Trends and Issues in Adolescence
  • Proactive Intervention Strategies for People with Disabilities
  • Cross-Cultural Psychology
  • Leadership and Volunteerism
  • Ethics in Public Leadership
  • The Making of Public Policy
  • Contemporary Criminal Justice Systems
  • Restorative Justice
  • Criminology and Social Control
  • Victimology
  • People-Helping Skills
  • Survey of Human Services

As you can see, the curriculum you’ll study will cover a wide range of disciplines, including psychology, social science, and public policy. This variety makes a human services degree a particularly fascinating subject to choose. It gives you the opportunity to broaden your education in a number of different directions according to your personal interests and career goals.

Generally speaking, a human services degree doesn’t require you to complete any mandatory internships or placement hours. However, getting some real-world experience under your belt during your studies can be a real help, both in terms of your performance on the course and also your future career prospects. As such, many colleges will have support available if this is an option you wish to take.

In addition to the modules you study, you will most likely also be required to complete a research project or dissertation towards the end of your human services degree. It will be on an approved topic of your choice, giving you the opportunity to delve deeply into an aspect of the subject that you are passionate about. Choose wisely, because you’ll be spending a lot of time on it! Picking an issue that’s relevant to your future career aspirations is a good idea, as it will not only help prepare you for the work but will also look impressive on your resume.

What kind of careers can a human services degree lead to?

As is often the case with a subject as broad as this, a human services degree can lead you to a very wide range of careers. You could find yourself working in a school, a hospital, a non-profit organization, a government agency, a mental health center, a drug rehabilitation center, or a correctional facility – to mention just a few.

Your job path will be linked to the specialist concentration you choose in many cases, although it doesn’t have to be. So, for instance, if you decide to focus on criminal justice during your studies, this could progress to a career as a probation officer, a juvenile court liaison, or a caseworker striving to ensure that everyone receives fair and ethical treatment under the law.

Some of the many other possible job titles open to you include:

  • Drug rehabilitation specialist
  • Family therapist
  • Child advocate
  • Life skills instructor
  • Youth worker
  • Community organizer
  • Group home worker
  • Case manager
  • Social worker
  • Counselor
  • Director of social services

What’s great about a human services degree is that it gives you the chance to tailor a career that truly excites you. There are opportunities to work with people of all different ages and backgrounds, helping them with an unbelievably broad range of challenges. So whether you are hoping to work with those struggling with addiction, those who have lost everything in natural disasters, those with disabilities, or those who have just returned from active military duty, you’re sure to find a path that suits you.

What are the benefits of studying for a human services degree?

In addition to the fascinating nature of the subject and the many career opportunities it brings you, there are plenty of other benefits to studying for a human services degree. Firstly it prepares you to work in a field that will always be necessary. People will always require services and support, so you can expect to enjoy good levels of employability and job security once you graduate. It’s also a constantly evolving field, meaning it can be an exciting industry to work in. Plus, of course, there’s the fact that a human services degree enables you to help others and your local community effectively. For many people, this is the driving force behind choosing to study the subject and brings high levels of job satisfaction and fulfillment.

The course will also do wonders for your personal development because you’ll gain many skills that will be useful to you in both your work and home life. These include communication (both written and verbal), organization, time management, teamwork, leadership, independence, critical thinking, analytical skills, problem-solving, self-discipline, and decision making.

In addition to these subject-specific benefits, there are a wealth of advantages to gaining a college degree in general. For example, you can expect higher earning potential, lower risk of unemployment, and even better mental and physical health. Then there’s the opportunity for networking that college study provides. You’ll be meeting plenty of like-minded students on your course, as well as expert faculty staff and external specialists. To gain as much benefit as possible in this regard, consider undertaking some placement hours or volunteer work too.

What skills do I need to succeed in a human services study program?

In order to be truly successful on a human services degree and the careers that it leads to, there are a number of skills and characteristics that will prove useful. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, you need to have high levels of compassion and empathy as well as a desire to help others. After all, this is what human services are all about. These traits will enable you to put yourself in the position of those you are working with and strive to do your best for them.

Linked with this is the need for mental toughness. Depending on the specific role you work in, you might have to deal with troubling cases or people who test your patience. In addition to remembering why you’re doing the job in the first place, you’ll want to be able to draw a clear boundary between your work life and your home life in order to protect your own mental health and wellbeing.

Many human services jobs involve a lot of administration and paperwork, so you’ll also benefit from having good organizational and time management skills. You will likely be required to keep detailed records of every case you work on, as well as work on multiple cases at the same time. As such, attention to detail and a conscientious attitude will also serve you well. Of course, all of this applies to your human services degree, too, as you’ll have plenty of reading to do and written assignments to complete in order to graduate.

Finally, strong communication abilities are key to working in human services. For instance, you might find yourself having to explain complicated systems to people with no background knowledge of them or needing to find ways to get reluctant clients to open up to you and trust you. Patience, good listening skills, and being observant will all help you with this.

How do I apply for a human services degree?

If reading this post has got you interested in studying for a human services degree, let’s talk about how you apply. The first step is to research all the different programs that are available. Have a think about whether you want to study online or in-person and whether you want to take a general human services degree or choose a specialism to concentrate on. You should spend some time looking at the curriculums offered by different colleges in order to find two or three that appeal to you the most and suit the career that you are hoping to go on to have. Once you’ve confirmed that you meet the entry requirements, you can start to put together your applications.

For your application, you might need to submit a personal essay about why you want to take a human services degree and what you are hoping to do after you graduate. You may also be invited to an interview either at the college or online. Having some relevant volunteer work can be a helpful boost to your application, so try and arrange something in your local community if you can. Don’t worry if that’s not possible, though – as long as you let your passion for the subject and for helping others shine, you’re sure to have a good chance at being accepted.