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Empowering lives: The profound impact of human services on individuals and communities

The human services field is a dynamic and impactful one, and those who work in human services are dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and communities facing various challenges. If you're passionate about making a difference in the world and helping others reach their full potential, a human services degree might be the perfect path for you. 

What is a human services degree?

That’s a great question: “human services” covers a lot of territory! A human service degree equips you with the knowledge and skills to address complex social issues, provide essential support, and contribute to positive change within diverse populations. It also provides a path to advancement in social services and other public health roles.

Human services professionals in action

Human services specialists play a crucial role in providing critical support and resources to individuals and families navigating a range of challenges. These may include:

  • Mental health concerns: Human services professionals work with individuals experiencing anxiety, depression, addiction, and other mental health conditions, offering support, counseling, and referrals to appropriate resources.
  • Social and economic hardships: They assist individuals and families facing poverty, homelessness, and food insecurity by providing access to food banks, job training programs, and housing assistance.
  • Disabilities and developmental delays: Professionals in this field work with individuals with disabilities to ensure they have access to education, employment opportunities, and independent living skills.
  • Child welfare and family support: They provide support to families experiencing difficulties, including child abuse and neglect, and advocate for the well-being of children.

The impact of their work extends beyond immediate interventions, creating ripple effects that touch entire communities. By empowering individuals to overcome challenges, access resources, and build resilience, human services professionals contribute to stronger families, healthier communities, and a more equitable society.

What can you do with a human services degree?

Earning this kind of degree opens doors to a wide range of career opportunities in human services, allowing you to make a positive impact in areas that resonate with your passions. Here are just a few examples:

Job and family services: Assist individuals and families with accessing public benefits, employment services, and other resources. Roles may include eligibility workers, career coaches, or family support specialists.

Child and adult advocacy: Champion the rights and well-being of children, adults, or both, often in vulnerable situations. Roles may include child protective services workers, elder care advocates, or disability rights specialists.

Foster care: Provide temporary care and support for children unable to live with their biological families. Roles may include foster parents, caseworkers, or adoption specialists.

Humanitarian and disaster relief: Respond to crises like natural disasters or conflicts, providing emergency aid and long-term support. Roles may include aid workers, program managers, or logistics specialists.

Refugee work: Support refugees and asylum seekers as they adjust to a new life in a new country. Roles may include resettlement caseworkers, interpreters, or community development specialists.

Community youth agencies: Provide programs and services that support the healthy development and well-being of young people. Roles may include youth program coordinators, social workers, or case managers.

Food relief services: Addresses hunger and food insecurity by providing access to nutritious meals and groceries. Roles may include food bank coordinators, nutritionists, or policy analysts.

Social impact organizations are a great fit for human services degree graduates

Nonprofit organizations that address social problems need professionals who possess the blend of theoretical knowledge and practical skills necessary to tackle complex social issues head-on. For example:

American Red Cross: They often seek volunteers and professionals with backgrounds in human services, social work, public health, and disaster response. Your skills in communication, empathy, and crisis intervention can be extremely valuable.

Boys & Girls Clubs of America: Many roles directly support youth development, which aligns well with human services expertise when developing youth programming, mentoring, and social-emotional learning.

Center for Nonprofit Advancement: Program management, resource development, and capacity building within nonprofits are areas where human services skills directly apply.

Community Action Partnership: These organizations tackle poverty and community needs, and an understanding of social justice, advocacy, and program development contributes significantly.

National Alliance for Hispanic Health: Their focus on Hispanic health disparities aligns with the human services emphasis on equity and cultural competency. Your skills in community outreach, advocacy, and resource navigation can have a direct impact.

Human services vs. social work: understanding the distinctions

Individuals considering careers dedicated to improving the lives of others often encounter Human Services and Social Work majors as potential pathways. While both share a common thread of service and community support, key distinctions exist in their scope and focus.

Human services: This major equips students for working with diverse groups and communities, often in administrative or managerial roles. Coursework delves into areas such as social welfare policy, human behavior within social contexts, and understanding inequality. Through this lens, students gain insight into the various assistance programs and services designed to address different needs. 

Organizations like the National Human Services Assembly and the American Public Human Services Association are great resources to learn various ways the human services sector addresses complex issues facing society today.

Social work: Considered a specific field within the broader Human Services umbrella, Social Work offers a multifaceted approach. Students acquire general social work practice skills alongside specialized techniques for working with individuals, families, and communities. The curriculum typically encompasses relevant topics like research and policy analysis, ethical considerations, and the intricacies of welfare programs.

Online education: flexibility and accessibility

For individuals seeking the knowledge and skills to make a difference but facing time constraints or geographical limitations, online Human Services degree programs offer a flexible and accessible solution. Ohio University's Bachelor of Applied Science in Human and Consumer Sciences in Human Services program exemplifies this commitment to quality and accessibility.

The program features:

  • Rigorous curriculum: Grounded in evidence-based practices and ethical principles, the curriculum equips students with the knowledge and skills necessary to excel in diverse human services settings.
  • Experienced faculty: Learn from dedicated professionals with extensive experience in the field, who bring real-world insights into the classroom.
  • Flexible format: Online courses offer the flexibility to study at your own pace and schedule, making it ideal for working adults or individuals with other commitments.
  • Nationally recognized: Accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), ensuring program quality and meeting industry standards.

Explore the possibilities

If you're considering a bachelor's degree in human services, take the next step and explore the options available. Research online programs, connect with current students and professionals, and learn more about the rewarding careers you could pursue. Remember, your passion for helping others can become the driving force for positive change in the world.

April 22, 2024
Staff reports