If you have a passion for helping people, it may be time to start a new career in human services. A bachelor’s degree in the field could be closer than you think—consider the example of Melissa Bowermaster who obtained hers in less than two years.
Bowermaster volunteered at a children’s advocacy center in Florida, where she also worked in the local sheriff’s office. When she decided that more needed to be done for the children in her volunteer job, she set her sights on a bachelor’s degree in human services and obtained it in only eighteen months. This made it possible for Bowermaster to move into the executive director’s position at Jessie’s Place and set to work expanding the services they could provide to abused children. “In order to run a credible center and be a respected business decision maker… having a degree in human services was crucial,” Bowermaster says.
The key to her accelerated degree was Kaplan University’s portfolio development class which allowed Bowermaster to earn college credit for knowledge she had already learned from both her work and volunteer experiences. She also chose Kaplan because their online degree program allowed her the flexibility she needed to continue working while studying, and because, “they were the most generous with my transfer credits,” she says.
What You Can Do With a Human Services Degree
If bringing about positive change in your community sounds like a great encore career for you, human services is a good choice. People who pursue this interdisciplinary degree receive a broad understanding and the practical skills needed to make a positive impact on people’s lives in many areas including mental health, social services, education, rehabilitation, group and community work, nursing homes, court systems, and public policy. Job opportunities include positions such as case manager, human services administrator, adult services worker, child welfare worker, program officer, and elderly services provider to name just a few. Students pursuing a human services degree can choose to focus in specific areas such as administration, child and family welfare, social services, community health, or gerontology—whatever field you feel passionate about.
What’s the Difference between Human Services and Social Services?
Social services jobs often involve one-on-one counseling with clients and therefore require a master’s degree and state licensure. Human services jobs gravitate more toward community work and require a bachelor’s degree for entry-level positions, although having a master’s degree will qualify you for more responsibility and a higher salary. In a human services position, you may be responsible for coordinating the appropriate social services that your clients require to meet their needs and overcome their problems.
If, like Mellissa Bowermaster, you have previous experience to leverage towards your degree, or if you already hold a bachelor’s degree in another field, you could be eligible to accelerate your human services degree.
Where Are the Jobs?
Human services workers can be found in local and state government offices as well as in non-profit, and some for-profit, organizations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these include:
- Employment agencies
- Food and nutrition agencies
- Housing and shelter organizations,
- Legal and victim’s assistance organizations
- Multi-purpose human services organizations
- Public safety and disaster relief organizations
- Youth development organizations
Getting Started in Human Services Career
Human services degree students take courses in psychology as well as classes to learn how to assess clients’ needs, identify community resources, and problem solve and advocate for their client. If you’d like to explore your interest in a human services career, here are some free courses you can take online that will give you an idea of what you will be learning:
- Psychology Program and Profession
This self-paced course from Kaplan University introduces students to the discipline of psychology as well as the skill sets and contemporary issues related to various psychological fields.
- Lecture 22: Social Psychology I
This is a video lecture recorded at MIT which explores the relationship between attitude and behavior.
- The Addicted Brain
This course from Emory University seeks to answer questions about addiction including what causes it, who is susceptible, what treatments are available, and how government policies affect addicts.
- Housing and Human Services
This course, available through MIT Open Courseware, explores the interaction between housing and social service systems while providing insights into at-risk groups including the chronically mentally ill and the frail elderly.
Once you’re sure an encore career in the human services sector is the right career path for you, you can explore your options for human services degrees and certificates.
There is a growing need for human services workers to care for at-risk populations in our society. Leveraging your previous job and volunteer experience into a human services career may not make you wealthy, but it can bring you the satisfaction that comes with making a difference in the lives of others and in your community. To learn more about opportunities in human services, click here.