The world of human services is vast. It includes a network of agencies and organizations that serve clients of all ages and from all walks of life. Trained human services professionals are tasked with carrying out a wide range of services such as advocacy, care delivery, education, and more. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), “all human service workers perform many of the same basic tasks. They evaluate a client’s needs, create a treatment plan, and put the plan into action.” The aim of the human services field is to holistically address problems within communities through prevention, mediation, and interdisciplinary approaches.
The wide variety of services offered by human services organizations is one of the reasons human services is an attractive field for students looking to make a difference with their careers. Studying human services prepares professionals with the knowledge to create positive change and make a positive impact in the lives of others. Human services professionals work alongside physicians, social workers, counselors, community leaders, and more to improve the lives of individuals, families, and groups.
Due to the interdisciplinary nature of the human services field, work settings vary widely depending on area of expertise and chosen career path. Some agencies are managed by state and local governments, while other organizations are managed through non-profit and not-for-profit groups. In many cases, organizations focus on a specific population or area of need. The following are some of the most typical work environments for human services professionals, according to the BLS.
- Employment agencies: In this environment, human services professionals assist clients in finding and maintaining employment. Typical settings include vocational rehabilitation facilities and job placement centers.
- Food and nutrition agencies: These agencies help clients find and prepare healthy meals for themselves and their dependents. Examples include food banks and food delivery programs.
- Housing and shelter organizations: Organizations like homeless shelters and transitional housing centers assist individuals in finding either temporary or permanent housing.
- Legal and victims assistance organizations: These organizations help those who have been victims of crime, along with providing education about crime prevention and rehabilitation. Examples include prisoner rehabilitation programs and abuse prevention organizations.
- Youth development organizations: In this work environment, human services professionals provide social programs for children, teens, and young adults. Examples include after-school programs and education support centers.
- Multi-service human services organizations: Many community centers and other organizations provide multiple services to families and groups and serve as hubs where clients can access a variety of resources in one place.
Human Services Careers
There are two general types of human services careers: direct positions, in which trained professionals work with clients to provide a service, and administrative, supporting and directing the agencies and organizations that serve clients. Both direct and administrative positions are vital to the successful delivery of services in the human services field.
Here are just some of the rewarding, essential careers in human services:
- Case worker/manager: These human services professionals assess the needs of clients and create a care plan based on the results. Also known as social and human services assistants, case workers identify which resources a client needs and ensure that successful care delivery is achieved.
- Grant writer: In this communications-based human services career, professionals research funding options for programs and organizations. They then compose grant applications and keep a record of how funds are allocated. This role is important because many human services organizations rely on grant funding to remain solvent.
- Child welfare worker: Child welfare workers serve as advocates for children in their communities. According to WorldWideLearn, an education and career resource website, “Some specialists provide support to unemployed or inexperienced parents … [and] other professionals work with children who have been removed from their homes.”
- Probation officer: Probation officers work within the corrections system to monitor those who have been sentenced to probation rather than incarceration after committing a crime. Typical responsibilities include ensuring that probation terms are met and helping clients gain employment, housing, and education.
- Health educator: These human services professionals develop various educational programs to teach people about health topics that are most relevant in their communities. They may also provide information about health services and teach clients how to manage their existing conditions to improve overall wellness. Health educators also serve as advocates for “improved health resources and policies that promote health,” according to the BLS.
- Public administrator: Public administrators are in charge of overseeing agencies or organizations in the human services field. They develop budgets and evaluate the performance levels of various team members, and they can also be tasked with heading new projects and initiatives. Public administrators work in government, non-profit, and grassroots agencies and settings.
- Substance abuse worker: Substance abuse workers assist counselors at rehabilitation centers to meet the needs of those battling or recovering from addiction. There is a high demand for professionals in this role as the health care community focuses on prevention and increased access to rehabilitation services.
- Gerontology aide: The United States is experiencing a demographic shift. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there will be about 98 million older adults by 2060. This has created a need for trained health specialists who can address the unique needs of an aging population. Gerontology aides teach seniors relevant job skills to stay in the workplace after retirement age, work in assisted living facilities, and provide access to needed resources such as meal delivery and ambulatory health care.
- Social and community service manager: These human services professionals work with a wide variety of organizations and agencies. It is their responsibility to identify the programs and services that are needed within a community, then oversee the administration of those programs. Social and community service managers also “gather information about the impact of their programs” and “analyze data to determine [their] effectiveness,” according to the BLS.
- Community organizer: Community organizers are tasked with organizing and managing community members for a specific purpose. They might be employed by faith-based organizations, grassroots action campaigns, fundraising groups, or political lobbying groups, according to PayScale. Community organizers work directly with individuals by “defining problems and issues and discussing possible actions and outcomes,” PayScale continues. They might also advocate on behalf of the community when meeting with local leaders and government representatives.
Employment Outlook and Salary
WorldWideLearn notes that more than half of the professionals employed in the human services field work in health care and social service settings. More than one-third of employees work in state and local government as well.
The field of human services is growing, with the BLS reporting a 10 percent increase in employment for community and social service occupations through 2024. That rate is faster than the average for all occupations and represents about 257,700 new jobs. The median annual wage for community and social service occupations is $42,010, higher than the median annual wage for all occupations, $36,200.
Human Services Education
Students who pursue human services degrees can expect to find meaningful employment in a wide variety of occupations and environments after graduation. Lesley University’s online Bachelor in Human Services degree gives students the skills to make an impact in their communities and improve the lives of those they serve. No matter what your specific goals are, studying human services puts you on the path to a rewarding career in roles like the ones profiled here. An undergraduate degree in human services is also excellent preparation for more specialized study in areas such as counseling, social work, public administration, and more.