Human Services Degree

Human Services is a distinct professional field of study just like Psychology, Sociology, and Social Work are.

  •  Many people do not realize that Human Services is a field that is similar to but different from the field of Social Work just like the field of Psychology is similar to but different from the field of Sociology.
  •  The field of Human Services is one of many different types of “helping” disciplines and has its own unique professional code of ethics which can be found through the National Organization for Human Services (NOHS) website at www.nationalhumanservices.org.
  • Human Service professionals can find employment in a variety of settings including, but not limited to, those that address issues related to: health, mental health, substance abuse, developmental delays and disabilities, public assistance/ welfare, case management, civil and criminal justice, domestic violence, homelessness/ housing, grief, death and dying, trauma, abuse and neglect, immigration, religious-based social service assistance, school-based assistance, recreation-based assistance, veteran’s services, women’s services, vocational training and placement, entry-level counseling, social service management, and service provision to the elderly, children and families, teens, and adults, as well as those issues related to outpatient, residential, and inpatient service delivery.

 Please refer to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ “Occupational Outlook Handbook” to learn more about what human services workers do and about the field of Human Services in general, including the nature of the work and its conditions, earnings, education/ training requirements, qualification requirements, advancement opportunities, job outlook, projections, earnings, related occupations, etc.

  •   The website for the “Occupational Outlook Handbook” is http://www.bls.gov/oco/.
  •  Once there, perform a search on specifically on “human services”.

  The National Organization for Human Services (NOHS) website is another good source of information for learning about the field of Human Services.

 Employment opportunities working with individuals with human service types of issues do exist for individuals who do not hold a degree in the field of Human Services. Some of these jobs require an associate’s, bachelor’s, or graduate degree in a helping discipline (e.g., Human Services, Sociology, Human Services, etc.). Some do not, especially entry-level positions.

It is possible to earn an associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and a doctorate degree in the field of Human Services.

The nationally recognized accreditation organization for programs offering degrees in the field of Human Services is the Council for Standards in Human Service Education (CSHSE).

Making certain that a degree in “Human Services” is earned from an CSHSE approved program is not necessary because:

  1.  Employers and state registration, certification, and licensure boards have yet to require that a degree in Human Services is earned from a CSHSE approved program before an applicant will be eligible for employment and registration, certification, and/ or licensure as a human services worker in a state.
  2. Registration, certification, and/ or licensure is not required by a state in order for a human services worker to practice legally.
    1. Undergraduate degree (associate’s or master’s degree) practice is not regulated and is typically limited to entry-level work that virtually anyone with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree or significant experience in a helping profession can perform.
    2. Although less likely as time goes by, in some states a worker might be eligible for registration, certification, and/ or licensure in a field that is similar to but different from the field of Human Services, particularly if he/ she holds a graduate degree (a master’s or doctorate degree) in Human Services.
      • E.g., in some states such a worker might be eligible to become a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist or a Licensed Professional Counselor if he/ she has earned a master’s degree in the field of Human Services and meet other state licensing criteria.
    3. State registration, certification, and licensure requirements for professionals with an associate’s degree in Human Services and in fields similar to but different from the field of Human Services are generally nonexistent.
    4. Standards for registration, certification, and licensure for the various types of helping professions vary by state.
    5. There are differing types of registration, certification, and licensure for helping professionals across the states and even within states.
    6. To learn about the registration, certification, and licensure requirements in fields similar to but different from the field of Human Services, you should investigate these requirements by researching state laws and by contacting professional practice boards for each of these professional fields in the particular state that you are interested in practicing in.
    7. If you plan to practice in the field of Human Services and/ or in a field that is similar to but different from the field of Human Services, it is a good idea to check on any registration, certification, and licensure requirements in the state that you desire to practice in before committing to a Human Service degree program, especially a graduate program; this should be done to make certain that you are aware of how the practice of Human Services and professions similar to but different from the field of Human Services are regulated in the state and to make certain that the degree you plan on earning will satisfy such criteria.

To learn more about the CSHSE and its standards and to find a list of its approved programs:

  •  Perform an internet search on this organization.
  • Or go directly to www.cshse.org

Earning an associate’s degree in Human Services from a school that is not accredited by the CSHSE does not affect a student’s eligibility to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Human Services from a school that is CSHSE approved or a bachelor’s degree in a field that is similar to but different from the field of Human Services.

Earning a undergraduate degree in Human Services from a school that is not accredited by the CSHSE does not affect the students eligibility to pursue a graduate degree in Human Services from a school that is CSHSE approved or from a graduate program offering a graduate degree in a field that is similar to but different from the field of Human Services if that program is willing to recognize the student’s bachelor’s degree in Human Services.

  • Since the field of Human Services is its own distinct field relatively few, if any, course credits from programs offering associate degrees in Human Services might transfer into a bachelor’s degree program in a field different from but similar to the Human Services field-- although a college offering an associate’s degree in Human Services might have some sort of transfer agreement with a 4 year institution offering a bachelor’s degree in a field similar to but different from the field of Human Services.

  Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College (A-B Tech) has such agreements through its Human Services Technology program.

  1. To review these agreements, please refer to the Human Service Technology program website at http://www.abtech.edu/ah/ss/default.asp, click on “Information for Human Services Technology Students”, and then click on “Transfer Agreements”.
  2. The courses that are required from departments outside of A-B Tech’s Human Services Technology Department are recognized as courses that will transfer by colleges and universities that recognize the “Comprehensive Articulation Agreement” in North Carolina.
  3. Different colleges and universities might recognize select courses taken from within A-B Tech’s Human Services Technology Department- depending on the student’s intended major at that college or university.
 How to earn an associate’s degree in Human Services:

Many colleges and universities do not offer an associate’s degree in Human Services.

 However, some do, and, in such a case, a student can apply directly to a college or university that does.

  • Often this type of degree is listed as a “Human Services Technology” degree and might include a concentration option in a subfield such as “social services”, “gerontology”, “substance abuse, “mental health”, or “developmental disabilities”.
  • Some offer such a degree in a closely related field of study such as “Social Work Technology”.

All undergraduate and graduate programs, including online programs, should be accredited by their regional association of colleges and by the U.S. Department of Education.

  • If a college or university is not sanctioned by these two accreditation bodies, the course work that a student takes to earn a degree and the degree itself will likely lack credibility with colleges and universities that are and probably with employers and state registration, certification, and licensure boards as well.
  • This can be problematic when a student desires to transfer course credit or is applying to a college or university for a graduate degree.
  • In the case of colleges and universities that exist in North Carolina, the Southern Association of Colleges & Schools (SACSCOC) is the recognized regional association of colleges accreditation body for both undergraduate and graduate degree programs.
  • The SACSCOC accredited Human Service associate degree program in the Asheville-area is:
  • Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College at http://www.abtech.edu/ah/ss/default.asp.

Such associate degrees are designed mainly as professional working degrees and not as transfer degrees, although some graduates go on to pursue a bachelor’s degree in a helping profession and, in some cases, some of such associate degree coursework might be recognized for transfer credit.
Individuals with an associate’s degree in Human Services are eligible for entry-level professional employment in a variety of settings including those that are local, county, state, federal, nonprofit, for profit, and public in nature.

Some of the advantages of pursuing an associate’s degree in Human Services include:

  • Earning an associate’s degree in Human Services Technology is a less expensive way for a person to obtain entry-level status as a helping professional than is earning an bachelor's degree.
  • Earning an associate’s degree in Human Services Technology takes less time to complete than does earning a bachelor's degree.
  • Earning an associate’s degree in Human Services Technology provides a person a less expensive way to test out his/ her ability to succeed in college than does earning a bachelor's degree.
  • Earning an associate’s degree in Human Services Technology is less expensive way for a person to test out his/ her ability to work long-term as a helper than is earning a bachelor's degree. 
  • Earning an associate’s degree in Human Services Technology tends to increase a person’s chance of securing entry-level employment as a helper over those who lack a formalized academic training in a helping profession.
  • Earning an associate’s degree can provide a person with a means to support him/ herself while he/ she works as a helper and pursues a bachelor’s degree.
  • For a person whose college financial aid  is limited to a couple of years' worth of coverage, earning an associate’s degree in Human Services Technology offers an opportunity to earn a professional degree in a helping field without exceeding the limits of coverage.
  • Several of the credits that a student can earn through the associate’s degree in Human Services Technology program are applicable toward the education credentialing requirements needed for qualification as a substance abuse professional in North Carolina.
  • In comparison to earning a bachelor’s degree in a helping profession, earning an associate’s degree in Human Services Technology often means that a student has received more classroom practice utilizing several of skills that professional helpers rely on.

Depending on the type of bachelor's degree that a student is interested in pursuing, several course credits from the associate's degree in Human Services Technology program might very well transfer toward that degree.

According to labor statistics, the job outlook for “human services” or “social services” assistants both in North Carolina and nationally is good.

How to earn a bachelor’s degree in Human Services.

Most bachelor’s degree programs usually do not require an applicant to have earned an associate’s degree first.

  • This is true for the field of Human Services.

One way to earn a bachelor’s degree in Human Services is for a person to apply directly to a four year institution that offers a bachelor’s degree in Human Services.

  •  The SACSCOC accredited bachelor’s degree Human Services program in the Asheville-area is: Montreat College at www.montreat.edu

Another way to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Human Services in North Carolina is for a person to earn an general Associate in Arts (A.A.) degree or an Associate in Science (A.S.) degree from a North Carolina Community College and then to transfer this degree to a four year institution which will count it as the first two years of college toward a bachelor’s degree.

  1.  The person would then work on finishing the rest of the requirements for the bachelor’s degree at that four year institution.
  2. Institutions that are SACSCOC accredited and that offer recognition of such transfer credit are:
    1. Mars Hill College at www.mhc.edu
    2. Warren Wilson College at www.warren-wilson.edu
    3. Western Carolina University at www.wcu.edu
    4. The University of North Carolina at Asheville at www.unca.edu
    5. Montreat College at www.montreat.edu

Some community colleges might offer a “Human Services transfer track” which allows a person to earn an Associate in Arts (A.A.) degree or an Associate in Science (A.S.) degree along with some specific course credits that will transfer specifically toward a bachelor’s degree in Human Services or in a field similar to but different from Human Services at a four year institution. 

  • Essentially this type of associate’s degree counts as the first two years of college toward a four year degree. 
  • The other courses taken under such a track are counted toward the specific course credits needed for the completion of a bachelor’s degree.
  •  The rest of the requirements for the degree are finished at that four year institution.
  • An institution that is SACSCOC accredited and that might offer such transfer recognition is:  Montreat College at www.montreat.edu

Another way to progress toward a bachelor’s degree in Human Services is for a person to earn an associate’s degree in Human Services (“Human Services Technology”) and then to transfer as many credits in as a bachelor’s degree in Human Services or a field similar to but different from Human Services program will accept.

Institutions that are SACSCOC and that might offer such transfer recognition are:

  1. Mars Hill College at www.mhc.edu
  2. Warren Wilson College at www.warren-wilson.edu
  3. Western Carolina University at www.wcu.edu
  4. The University of North Carolina at Asheville at www.unca.edu
  5.  Montreat College at www.montreat.edu

Some students who desire a bachelor’s degree either in Human Services or in a closely related field elect to earn the general A.A. or A.S. degree and an associate’s degree in Human Services.

Among other things in such a case, they are attempting to maximize the amount of transfer credits that they can apply toward a bachelor’s degree in a helping field.

  1.  Many schools have limits on the amount of transfer credit that they will count toward an undergraduate or graduate degree, thus requiring a student complete a certain portion of his/ her major course work at the school in order for the student to be eligible to earn a degree at the school.
  2. Courses required from departments outside of A-B Tech’s Human Services Technology Department are recognized as transferrable courses by colleges and universities that recognize the “Comprehensive Articulation Agreement”.
  3. Different colleges and universities might recognize select courses taken from within A-B Tech’s Human Services Technology Department- depending on the student’s intended major at that college or university.

If a person earns an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in Human Services, he/ she is not obligated to pursue an advanced degree in Human Services.

  • He/ she can find entry-level employment as a human services worker in human services settings.
  • He/ she also has the option of pursuing advanced degrees in other fields of study including other helping disciplines such as Psychology, Human Services, Sociology, Counseling, etc.

Earning a masters degree in Human Services requires a person to earn a bachelor’s degree first, usually in some sort of helping discipline (e.g., Social Work, Human Services, Human Services, Sociology, etc.).

  •  Many institutions do not require applicants for master’s degree programs in Human Services to hold a bachelor’s degree in Human Services; however, they may prefer it.

It is possible to earn a doctorate degree in Human Services.

When pursing a degree in Human Services, it is possible, depending on the selected institution, to earn the degree with one or more specializations and even concentrations or certificates; this occurs commonly at the graduate level.

  • Such specializations, concentrations, and certificates are offered in a variety of unique areas of practice, including gerontology, mental health, substance abuse, developmental disabilities, Social Work, social and community services, counseling studies, health care administration, management of nonprofits, social and community services, etc.
  • A person who earns a graduate degree in Human Services might not elect to practice in the area of Human Services that they have been trained in; instead, he/ she might elect to teach Human Services at a college or university.

Well in advance of committing to any academic program in Human Services, it is a good idea to:

  1. Become knowledgeable about and committed to the field of Human Services and its subfields.
  2. Know how the field of Human Services and its subfields are unique in comparison to other types of helping fields.
  3. Know which specialization of Human Services you are interested in, particularly if you desire to pursue a graduate degree in the field.
  4. Know state requirements for any registration, certification, and/ or licensure that might affect the type of professional practice that you desire to perform.
  5.  Become informed, at the very least, about the program’s:
    1. Admission requirements
    2. Policies on transferring in credits
    3. Costs
    4.  Specializations, concentrations, and certifications
    5. Time-limits on degree completion
    6. Standing with the SACSCOC and potentially the CSHSE.

Various professional organizations in Human Services exist, including the CSHSE and the NOHS which has affiliated organizations in various parts of the country and which publishes a list of ethical standards.

  • Such professional organizations exist for many purposes, including for research, advocacy, education, lobbying, setting standards, publishing, information and referral, etc.
  • Again, the NOHS website can be found at www.nationalhumanservices.org.
  • Covering various southern states, the Southern Organization for Human Services at www.sohse.org.

 

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