“Human services” is a broad phrase used to describe a large industry that focuses on just that, serving the needs of human beings. Whether its schools, social work or substance abuse, it all requires human services professionals that are dedicated to the single mission of helping people secure the resources they need to live better lives.
Due to the large variety of human services jobs and career paths, it’s a field that offers plenty of opportunities for those thinking about studying in justice-related degree programs. Although human services positions vary greatly with regard to duties and responsibilities, the common thread woven through each job in the industry is the desire to help others.
“Individuals who go into human services have a passion for helping and giving to others,” says Julie Hartzler, 15-year human services veteran and current disability specialist and service coordinator at the University of Akron - Wayne College.
She continues: “Oftentimes these individuals have experienced some personal tragedy or were [themselves] helped by a human service professional …. These individuals tend to be caretakers by nature.”
If helping others is something you’re passionate about, here are 10 heartwarming human services jobs that are available to you once you’ve earned a human services degree. We analyzed more than 86,000 human services job openings over the past 12 months* and highlighted those with the most vacancies.
1. Social worker
The term “social worker” is a broad one that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) divides into two distinct categories: a) direct service social workers are those who help people solve and cope with everyday problems; b) clinical social workers are those who diagnose and treat mental, behavioral and emotional issues.
Given the varied roles of social workers, it makes sense that it was one job that made our “Top 10” list a few different times.
- Clinical OR medical social worker: These healthcare social workers are often found in hospitals, nursing homes and anywhere else patients suffer from psychological and social issues that arise from chronic, acute or terminal illness. They work with individuals and groups to recover from illness and provide financial, legal, housing and job placement assistance.
- School social worker: This category makes up around 5 percent of the nation’s half million social workers. As the name suggests, their main focus is on children in schools. They work with children and their families to overcome the social, physical and psychological issues that block academic progress – ranging from drug abuse, to sexual orientation to physical violence in the home.
2. Substance abuse counselor & mental health worker
Substance abuse counselors assist those with drug or alcohol addiction through counseling, behavior modification and referrals to treatment facilities, job placement boards and support groups. They work most commonly at outpatient or residential mental health and substance abuse facilities. Mental health workers have similar job duties and working locations, but provide services to people with mental illness rather than addiction.
3. Director of social services
Directors of social services are in charge of hiring and firing staff, overseeing the day-to-day operation of the organization, fundraising initiatives, managing finances and recruiting volunteers. They generally oversee mid-level managers and create policy around providing the best possible patient care. People in this position can work in a variety of settings, from nonprofits to mental health clinics to hospitals. One important note on educational requirements: This position generally requires a master’s degree, so plan for extended schooling after your bachelor’s degree if this is a position that interests you.
4. Occupational therapist
If you enjoy working with patients that suffer from injuries or chronic disabilities, the path toward occupational therapy might be the one for you. Occupational therapists observe patient behaviors and environment and then establish treatment plans based on be practices for rehabilitation. They also educate families on how to best care for the patient and recommend equipment to improve quality of life.
Occupational therapists can work with a range of patients, from small children to the elderly in hospitals, schools, nursing homes or mental health settings. Most occupational therapists hold master’s degrees and a small percentage hold doctorates, according to the BLS.
5. Family advocate
Family advocates work with health providers, substance abuse centers, the juvenile justice system, education services and local governments to ensure that children grow up in a safe and healthy environment. They often act as liaisons between families and government agencies and they are available through schools, community centers, juvenile courts, healthcare clinics and early childhood education centers like Head Start.
6. Social work assistant
Social work assistants work directly with those who need extra help and support, whether children or the elderly. They often work under the supervision of social workers or psychologists, coordinating treatment plans, researching services and assisting with daily activities. In this job you’d have the opportunity to work with a variety of people who need help, including veterans, immigrants, refugees and homeless people.
The bottom line
Now’s a great time to be part of the human services industry thanks to advances in research and technology as well as increased social acceptance of the field, Hartzler says.
“It has become more culturally acceptable to receive [social] services and so having problems is less stigmatized,” she says, adding that our understanding of the human body has led to better medication and therapies and thus “a greater quality of life” for those receiving such services.
So if you’re looking for a change and you know you want to contribute to the healthy development of others, consider the human services industry. Learn more about your options in human services on the School of Justice Studies degree page.
If you’re looking to explore other career options in criminal justice, check out the Rasmussen College Criminal Justice Career Guide.
*Source: Burning Glass.com (Analysis of 86,611 online job postings between Sept. 1, 2013 and Aug. 31, 2013)