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Human Services Major Overview

By Lisa Freedland

Lisa Freedland is a Scholarships360 writer with personal experience in psychological research and content writing. She has written content for an online fact-checking organization and has conducted research at the University of Southern California as well as the University of California, Irvine. Lisa graduated from the University of Southern California in Fall 2021 with a degree in Psychology.

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Posted: October 21st, 2021
Human Services Major Overview

Human services majors consider how changes to existing societal systems could benefit those who are most vulnerable in our population. To do so, they study topics like social work, social justice, and social welfare policy. Those looking to major in human services should thus be highly empathetic and passionate about helping others.

If this sounds like you, keep on reading to learn more about the human services major!

What is a human services major?

A human services major provides students with a foundational understanding of the existing social structures within society and how people operate within them. Students majoring in the subject also learn how to effectively communicate with people from a variety of different backgrounds. This allows human service majors to best help their clients, no matter their circumstances.

With all the knowledge they accumulate in undergrad, human services majors often utilize it to help people. Depending on the specific profession they go into, human services majors may be responsible for influencing people’s mental, physical, or emotional health for the better. Many human services students thus partake in community-service internships to give them real experience helping others while in college.

Coursework to expect

So, while in college, what types of classes can human services majors expect to take? Well, as expected, human services majors take a wide variety of courses to equip them with the skills and knowledge necessary to help others. Human services majors can thus expect to take classes in fields like psychology, sociology, political science, and even criminal justice. 

Once finished with their introductory courses, some universities may require human services students to select a concentration within the field. Such concentrations may include family services, mental health, or gerontology and aging. The concentration chosen by each student will impact what upper-division courses they may take. For example, those with a mental health concentration may take classes like health psychology, human sexuality, or developmental psychology.

Below are some potential courses you may encounter as a human services major:

Opportunities after graduation

A human services education prepares those who major in it for a wide variety of occupations, in a wide variety of industries. Human services majors can choose to help people in their local communities, serving as community support workers. Alternatively, they can assist those awaiting trial as caseworkers or probation officers, making sure that they’re receiving fair treatment under the law. They can also work at non-profits or in healthcare settings, working to improve people’s mental, emotional, and physical well-being. 

Jobs you can get with a human services degree

With that said, what are some of the actual jobs that those with a health services degree can secure, and what are their salaries? Well, luckily for you, we’ve gone through and created a list of potential jobs that you can pursue with a human services degree (with descriptions and salaries included)! Let’s take a look.

1. Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

The responsibilities of Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors include providing advice and treatment to those struggling with alcoholism or other drug addictions, eating disorders, and mental or behavioral issues. To create treatment plans for their clients, such counselors must evaluate their patients’ problematic behaviors and determine how ready they are for treatment. They then use this information to create personalized, detailed treatment plans to help cure their patients of their afflictions and continue to provide support as their patients follow their plans. Those who become a Substance Abuse or Behavioral Disorder Counselor typically have a high school diploma and certification (at minimum) to a master’s degree (at maximum). On the other hand, a master’s degree and internship is typically required to become a Mental Health Counselor.

2020 Median Pay: $47,660/year
Projected Growth (2019-2029): 23%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

2. Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists

Probation officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists work directly with probationers, parolees, and their friends and family to evaluate rehabilitation progress. With this information, they try to develop the best courses of action to further help their probationers. To help inmates prepare for life post-release, they also provide them with relevant resources and programs, including job training. To become a Probation Officer or Correctional Treatment Specialist, one must hold a bachelor’s degree and will often be required to pass oral, written, and psychological tests.

2020 Median Pay: $55,690/year
Projected Growth (2019-2029): 4%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

3. Home Health and Personal Care Aides

Home health and personal care aides have similar duties to nurses. They are responsible for monitoring the conditions and health of people with disabilities or illnesses and helping them carry out daily activities. They also perform housekeeping tasks for patients, including doing laundry, washing dishes, and shopping for groceries. Home health and personal care aides are often supervised by nurses. They can sometimes provide basic health services such as checking patients’ pulses, temperatures, or breathing rates. These aides can also provide medications to patients. They require less schooling than nurses, with most (but not all) home health and personal care aides having a high school diploma. To work in certified home health or a hospice agency, however, one may need to complete formal training or pass a standardized test.

2020 Median Pay: $27,080/year
Projected Growth (2019-2029): 33%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

4. Social Worker

Social workers help people solve the problems in their daily lives. This includes issues in their homes, communities, and other local environments. To do so, they assess their clients’ needs, support networks, and situations. Social workers help them face challenges in a way that will best fit them. Social workers also respond to crisis situations, such as child abuse or mental health crises. They make sure to follow up with their patients, checking for improvement and providing additional help if need be. While some social workers only hold a bachelor’s degree, most hold a master’s degree and have at least 2 years of post-master’s experience in a clinical setting. Clinical social workers must also be licensed in the state they work in. 

2020 Median Pay: $51,760/year
Projected Growth (2019-2029): 12%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Advanced Degrees You Can Pursue with a Human Services Degree

After graduating with a bachelor’s in human services, many students decide to pursue further graduate or professional schooling rather than going straight into a career. While graduate, law, and business school are some of the most popular options for human services majors, here are just a few of the advanced degrees you can pursue with a human services degree:

  • Master’s or Ph.D in Clinical Psychology
  • Business Administration master’s degree
  • Master’s or Ph.D in Social Work
  • Master’s or Ph.D in Counseling
  • Juris Doctor (the standard degree for lawyers)

How do I know if a major is right for me? 

Knowing whether or not you’re majoring in the right subject is tricky. Even after being in college for multiple semesters or years, it is not uncommon for students to wonder whether they truly enjoy their major. However, many students also love their majors, and end up sticking with the same one for their entire college experience. So, if you’re thinking about majoring in human services, ask yourself these questions first:

  • Are you curious about how social systems impact people’s lives?
  • Do you want to fight for social change and human rights?
  • Are you empathetic and passionate about improving others’ lives?
  • Do you enjoy working with others?

If you answered “yes” to a majority of these questions, then human services may be a great fit for you. With that, we wish you good luck. Have fun in college!

Also See: How to pick a major

Frequently asked questions about human services majors

What is the difference between social work and human services?

Great question! The content of both majors is quite similar, but social work tends to focus more on education, while human services is more field work and experience-oriented. Both majors, however, have an emphasis on helping people and providing them with the resources they need. To find out more about the social work major, be sure to check out Social Work Major Overview.

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