If you value the tremendous power that goes hand-in-hand with simply treating others as helping others, you may be a good candidate for study and work in this type of service-based field. Human services could lead to careers like counseling, social work, and more that help support families, individuals, and communities alike. 

In other words, a college degree in human services can yield countless rewards that go far beyond a steady paycheck. In fact, you can work toward many different fulfilling jobs with a human service degree. But what exactly is this academic and professional discipline, what role does it play in modern society, and what can you do with a human service degree? 

Defining a Human Service Degree 

Essentially self-defining, the term “human services” describes serving all kinds of human beings in all kinds of capacities. To produce graduates who are ready to work in the real world, human service degree programs tend to take an interdisciplinary approach that instills core foundational skills in several technical areas. The human services degree path is also fueled by empathy and demands exceptional “people skills” such as communication, teamwork, and emotional intelligence. 

While no two human services degree programs are exactly alike, these programs tend to feature diverse and in-depth curricula in areas that range from human behavior and development to service-related research and case management. Cultural awareness and DEI (diversity, equality, and inclusion) measures are also integral to human services. A human services program stresses the importance of serving others regardless of demographic factors such as race, cultural heritage, gender, and age. No matter who they happen to be, “as people recognize their need for a hand up in life, human service workers step in to meet the need.” 

The Scope of Human Service Studies 

To understand the full scope of the human services discipline, it may be helpful to compare it with the related discipline of social work. First and foremost, it is key to note the relative sizes of these fields. While social work undoubtedly plays a central role in modern society, it is merely a subset of the significantly larger human services field. Social work involves directly advocating for people and groups within a specific context and specific community.  

True to its name, the human services field encompasses a much larger range of human services. Beyond this wider focus, a human services degree is particularly geared toward students who want to ascend to leadership positions in their chosen fields 

Relevance in Today's Society 

So, exactly what can you do with a human services degree? For one, you can make a real difference in the lives of others. By identifying and addressing human needs that would otherwise go unnoticed or unmet, individuals in the human services field can foster lasting social change. It is the duty and mission of the human services worker to “evaluate the needs of diverse groups of people in the community and connect them with vital resources.” If this overarching mission of service to society does not resonate with you, you are missing out on one of the most profound rewards that human services has to offer. 

Different Types of Human Service Degrees 

While some students seek a general human services degree that gives them a broad base of knowledge and skill, others will want to tailor a customized degree around one or more specific areas of emphasis — such as healthcare, criminal justice, or community advocacy. Students will also ultimately want to determine the optimal level of human services study to make their career dreams a reality, as outlined below. 

Undergraduate Level of Study 

Although many bachelor’s degree programs in human services require 120 college credit hours or more, some universities offer both a Bachelor of Science (BS) and Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Human Services that may take considerably less time to complete. Students may choose to earn either a BS or a BA with concentrations in general human services, mental health, or addictions. 

Both the BS and the BA paths require hands-on training to supplement their required coursework. However, coursework is concentrated to save students time and hassle. For example, at University of the Cumberlands, the BS in Human Services consists of only 33 credit hours of coursework, and the BA in Human Services adds just 12 extra credit hours of foreign language study. 

Graduate Level of Study 

After securing your undergraduate degree, you can greatly expand your available career options by going on to graduate school. While working in the human services sector, returning to school for a master’s degree (either an MS or an MA) can both deepen and refine your professional focus in a particular functional area like counseling or administration. It can also help you specialize in providing human services within a given demographic or cultural community. Some master’s students ultimately go on to earn a doctorate (PhD) in human services. 

Skills and Traits Beneficial for Human Service Professionals 

In the realm of human services education, there is a dual emphasis on technical expertise and the development of interpersonal aptitude. While institutions of higher learning prioritize the teaching of technical skills like research and counseling, they also recognize the essential nature of cultivating both hard and soft skills among their students. 

Human service students undergo a comprehensive training regimen that not only hones their technical abilities but also nurtures their capacity for empathetic communication and relationship-building. These soft skills are indispensable for navigating the multifaceted challenges inherent in the human services field. 

Understanding the significance of both hard and soft skills lays the foundation for effective practice in human services. Soft skills encompass a wide spectrum, including intrapersonal qualities like self-confidence and interpersonal abilities such as teamwork. Particularly pivotal in this domain are interpersonal skills, which facilitate effective collaboration and communication with others. These skills, such as active listening, task delegation, and conflict resolution, are essential for fostering meaningful connections and resolving complex issues within diverse communities. 

Furthermore, emotional resilience emerges as a critical component in the arsenal of human service professionals. The ability to effectively manage one's own emotions, especially in high-stress environments, is vital for long-term success and sustainability in this field. As human services often entail confronting challenging circumstances and providing crisis intervention, developing emotional resilience is paramount for mitigating burnout and maintaining well-being. 

Interpersonal Skills 

Soft skills can be intrapersonal (within the individual), like self-confidence, or interpersonal (between individuals), like teamwork. Also commonly called “people” skills, interpersonal skills are especially crucial in human services because they revolve around working effectively and efficiently with others. Therefore, a good human services professional must place a high value on relevant interpersonal skills such as active listening, task delegation, and conflict resolution. As a key characteristic that resonates interpersonally in the world of human services, empathy — the ability able to understand and share the feelings of others — is also an absolute must. 

Emotional Resilience 

Being able to effectively compartmentalize and process your own thoughts and feelings in a healthy way is essential if you want to succeed and endure in the human services field. Because many human services professionals routinely work under stressful circumstances and deal with tragic events along with crisis intervention, they are quite likely to suffer from burnout if they cannot develop an appropriate level of emotional resilience. 

Exploring Career Paths With a Human Service Degree 

What jobs can you get with a human services degree? Whether they work for a nonprofit organization, a for-profit company, or a government agency, human services professionals can pursue careers in numerous areas of focus. Here are just a few jobs with a human services degree you may want to consider: 

Job Roles in Child and Family Services 

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), human services professionals in the world of child and family services “provide social services and assistance to improve the social and psychological functioning of children and their families and to maximize the family well-being and the academic functioning of children.” In pursuit of this goal, they might work directly with children, adolescents, parents, guardians, and officials in both the nonprofit and government sectors to facilitate functions that range from adoption arrangements to foster home placement. 

Opportunities in Geriatrics 

From applying for government benefits to coordinating eldercare, many senior citizens need a great deal of help as they navigate the challenges of the aging process. As part of the general assistance they provide to the geriatric population, human services professionals often advocate for their clients on important issues such as late-life autonomy and dignity. They might also join the fight against ageism, ableism, and other negative societal forces that the elderly experience. 

Careers in Mental Health Services 

Although the stigmas surrounding therapy still dissuade many people from getting the help they so desperately need, mental health services are becoming increasingly popular and normalized among the public at large. Simultaneously, the demand for essential mental health services is skyrocketing within our most vulnerable populations. From post-traumatic stress to substance abuse problems to bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety, there are ample opportunities for human services professionals to provide critical aid to others and make a true difference in the mental health realm. 

Future of Human Service Careers 

As long as human beings continue to exist, we will need helpful, compassionate, and often life-saving human services. For this reason, the demand for skilled and knowledgeable human services professionals is unlikely to disappear anytime soon. 

Predicted Growth and Demand 

The latest figures from the BLS confirm the enduring nature of human service, singling it out as a field of significant employment growth. With a baseline of 415,100 social and human services professionals in 2022, the BLS projects a total gain of 35,600 additional positions by 2032. Constituting a 9% rise in the human services employment sector, this increase in jobs presents a growth outlook that is three times faster than the average of American occupations overall. 

Impact of Technological Advancements 

As modern technology evolves, it is helping professionals across a broad spectrum of fields meet the steady rise in demand for human services. Websites and apps have made acquiring human services easier than ever, and these professionals have effectively employed digital tools in areas ranging from information management to training and education. Different forms of technology bring many specific benefits to different areas of human resources.  

For example, the international personnel firm Strategic Systems examines telehealth technology, electronic health records, diagnostic artificial intelligence, and wearable digital monitors as just a few forms of advanced tech that have revolutionized human services in the healthcare sector. 

Learn More About Earning Your Human Services Degree  

A career in human services can take you in any number of exciting and rewarding directions. If you want more information about the human services field or college degrees in human services, take a close look at the various on-campus and online human services degree programs offered by University of the Cumberlands. If you still have questions or want to begin the application process, fill out our brief contact form online; a knowledgeable representative will review your submission and get in touch with you.