Top 6 Jobs for Human Services Majors

Human Service Professional with PatientSome of the most rewarding careers are seeing job growth above the national average

Human services majors have a bounty of fields and specializations open to them. Jobs for human services graduates include careers working with the elderly, children, youth, families and individuals. They work with people who have various backgrounds and needs. They may work with indigent and at-risk populations, patients who suffer from addiction and compulsive behaviors, patients with mental illness, terminally ill patients, physically handicapped patients, clients with past trauma, the unemployed or underemployed and many, many others. In fact, most people could benefit from the assistance of a human services worker at one point or another in their lives.

We’ve taken the liberty of compiling a few of the most common careers for human services professionals. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but should serve to give you a general understanding of the types of work done by human services workers.

All statistics are courtesy of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Probation officer

Job growth: faster than average
Median pay: $47,200

Probation officers work with people who have been convicted of a crime. These particular individuals have been permitted to serve a probationary time as opposed to incarceration. That means they are under the supervision of a probation officer who monitors the offender’s progress and behavior to ensure they meet the conditions of their parole.

Probation officers often encounter difficult clients. The individuals probation officers meet with are court-ordered to do so; they are not seeking assistance of their own accord. Probation officers need to have thick skin for this reason.

The main goal for probation officers is to help rehabilitate offenders and prevent future crimes from happening. They meet with clients, friends and families to discuss and develop treatment plans, refer clients to other community resources that may help, keep detailed records of client progress and provide assistance to clients who need help filling out paperwork associated with their situation. This may include applications for housing, court documents and other legal requests.

Grant writer

Job growth: varied by region
Median pay: $25,000 – $65,000

Grant writers are a special case within the world of human services. Not only do grant writers need to have a passion for human service organizations at the work they do, but they must possess strong technical writing skills.

Grant writers are responsible for penning proposals for funding. The audience for these requests may be individual donors, corporate sponsors or government programs. Grant writers must be comfortable with dense, high-level technical writing. Grant requests are not meant to appeal to emotion, but rather provide a business plan and goal for the organization requesting funding.

Substance abuse counselor

Job growth: faster than average
Median pay: $38,120

Substance abuse counselors are not psychologists or psychiatrists. They do not prescribe medicines to patients. Most do not even work one-on-one with clients. They do, however, work alongside psychologists and psychiatrists to treat individuals suffering from addiction and other compulsive behaviors.

These human services workers may lead group therapy, support groups, 12-step programs or awareness classes. Occasionally they may meet with family members and friends to discuss treatment options or hold interventions for clients.

Program director

Job growth: faster than average
Median pay: $57,950

Program directors should have business sense as well as knowledge in the human services field. They are responsible for assessing unmet needs in the community and developing initiatives to address those needs. Program directors are also supervisors; they oversee the individuals who run the daily operations of programs within their jurisdiction. They are also responsible for setting and monitoring the budget.

Case manager

Job growth: faster than average
Median pay: $60,000

Case managers are the workers responsible for keeping track of patient and client progress. This includes documenting new developments, improvements or setbacks in the patient’s condition, changes in care, new treatment options that have been developed and more. Case managers work in a variety of settings, including healthcare and other human services settings. They work with clients and their families to develop a course of action and acquire needed services (such as housing or government assistance). The main goal for a case manager is to help clients achieve a better quality of life through the use of available methods and resources, including therapy, medication and advocacy.

Child advocate

Job growth: faster than average
Median pay: $54,000

Contrary to popular belief, child advocacy is not only about intervention of Child Protective Services into family affairs. Child advocates aim to protect children from harm. This includes physical, emotional and mental harm. The main issues they focus on include obesity, malnutrition, homelessness and abuse. In the majority of scenarios, child advocates work with the entire family to help allocate and obtain resources that will benefit the child. They may work in schools, private practice or in politics as lobbyists and activists.


4 Ways to Increase Your Human Services Degree Salary

Okay, most people don’t enter the human services field to strike it rich. With a human services degree salary, expectations aren’t always high. The field tends to attract compassionate individuals who are motivated more by a desire to change the world for the better than the acquisition of financial wealth. The practice of underpaying those in positions that aid others is a topic for another day; the point is that human services workers have tools at their disposal to command a higher salary. If you already hold your associate’s degree in human services or a related field and are looking to land a promotion or a raise, one of these four options might be right for you.

Bachelor’s Degree

Those with an associate’s degree in human services will experience higher earning potential by earning a bachelor’s degree in the field. A bachelor’s degree is oftentimes required in many human services positions and is an indicator to companies that individuals have the skills and information necessary to excel in the field.

Those who earn their bachelor’s in human services can work in a variety of fields and interact with children, families, immigrants, the elderly, the homeless, veterans and much more. This allows for a multitude of opportunities in human services, making this degree a versatile and flexible choice for many. Not only does higher education open the door to more job opportunities, it is often the key to increased earning potential. The charts below show that going back to get your bachelor’s degree in human services can increase your annual salary by 25%:

HS Bachelor Salary2HS Bachelor Salary

Master’s Degree

Returning to school again to get a masters degree also provides a valuable networking opportunity. Many students who go back to earn a master’s degree find that professors, mentors and even other students they meet along the way can be of great help in finding and landing better jobs after graduation. Plus, most master’s programs require clinical hours or a practicum, meaning students are exposed to new work environments and professionals already working in the field who may wish to bring them on board once they’ve finished their degree.

A master’s degree, or returning to school in any capacity for that matter, also allows for specialization of skills. For example, a student could choose to study topics in child development, substance abuse, geriatric care or community activism and target managerial positions within that specialty.

It’s not hard to find evidence of a correlation between education and income. According to, human services professionals with a master’s degree stand to make an average of $9,000 more than their peers who hold only a bachelor’s degree. A breakdown of this trend can be seen in the charts below.

Human Service Salary4

Human Service Salary

Post-graduate Certifications and Credentials

Post-graduate certifications offer many of the same benefits as earning a master’s degree, but at a lesser cost to the student. Post-graduate certificates offered by colleges and universities are awarded to students who successfully complete a set core of college classes at the graduate level. These certificates are not degrees, but in many instances can later be applied toward finishing a master’s degree. Several colleges offer certifications both on campus and online.

Other human services organizations may offer credentialing programs for workers looking to specialize in a given sector of human services work.

National Organization of Human Services

NOHS, in conjunction with the Center for Credentialing and Education (CCE), offers a general credential for human services workers. The Human Service – Board Certified Practitioner (HS-BCP) designation is nationally recognized by human services organizations and employers. For more information, visit the NOHS website.

Providers’ Council

The Human Services Credentialing Program offered through the Providers’ Council is based on nationally recognized core competency areas. Workers can earn credentials in the following areas:

  • Developmental Disabilities I
  • Developmental Disabilities II
  • Child Welfare I
  • Child Welfare II
  • Mental Health
  • Public Health: Substance Abuse and Addictions
  • Leadership and Frontline Supervision

To learn more about these credentialing programs, visit

Work Experience

Of course, the most obvious way to improve your human services salary is to stick it out and accrue experience in the field. There is little employers value more than good old-fashioned experience. Unfortunately, it’s often necessary to move out to move up for reasons such as lack of funding, low turnover rates in management or dependence on a candidate staying in a lower position.

If you’re just starting out in the field, an excellent way to build varied work experience is to take volunteer positions on the weekends or internships. Most internships are not paid, but there are many that are. Luckily in human services fields, it’s not hard to find a worthy organization that could use a helping hand.

The best advice is to stick with what you love. Value yourself and your skills and employers will follow suit. Research what similar positions in your area pay. If you show that you are informed about salary expectations, employers will take you more seriously when you ask for what you’re worth.

5 Surprising Program Director Responsibilities

Serving as the program director for a human services organization requires managerial skills, attention to detail and organizational prowess. But there’s more to successfully managing an organization than administrative duties. Read on, and we’ll detail daily program director responsibilities, as well as some duties you might not expect.


A program director isn’t afraid to speak up since they represent their community and take a leadership role

What does a program director do?

Most people would correctly assume that a program director designs and oversees programs to meet needs in the community, supervises staff and analyzes data to ascertain the effectiveness of programs. Their supervisory role extends to recruiting, hiring and training new staff. Program directors also set and monitor the budget for their organization.

At large agencies or organizations, the role of a program director can be specialized. In smaller and non-profit organizations, program managers often assume many roles. That’s where responsibilities you wouldn’t expect come in to play. Program directors who hope to get involved with smaller and grass roots organizations should hone skills that will help them perform the following unexpected tasks.

#1 – Hold Community Forums

In many instances, program directors are the face of the organization. That means they are responsible for leading public forums and community meetings. These events are typically open to the public and serve as a venue for discussing community concerns and issues. During forums, residents may draw attention to services that are needed or suggest ways to improve services that are currently offered. Forums are also an opportunity for organizations to explain new and existing services to members of the community. Educational outreach is an important function of community meetings. Programs and services will not be effective if residents don’t know about them or how to use them.

#2 – Campaign for Fundraising

Controlling the budget for human services programs often entails more than just monitoring funds in vs. monies out. Program directors not only set and manage the budget, but they play a large part in obtaining funding. This may mean planning and supervising fundraiser events, such as:

  • Silent auctions
  • Donation drives, and
  • Meeting with individual or corporate donors

Fundraising requires program directors to wear many hats and communicate effectively with persons of diverse and varied status and backgrounds.

#3 – Public Speaking

Program directors encounter many situations where it is beneficial to have strong public speaking skills. They may be required to address the board at quarterly or yearly meetings and give presentations summarizing the activities and success rates of the programs they head. Program directors often speak at rallies and keynote events or give presentations at local schools and other community institutions. They may even present in front of council persons or representatives to obtain local and state government funding. Program directors also conduct interviews with community members and residents who use the services their programs provide and report this information to administrators and funders.

#4 – Head Committees

Program directors get down in the trenches, too. They serve as the head of many operational committees for the organizations and programs they run. From budgetary hearings to membership drive committees to think tank operations, program directors need to have eyes and ears on all the goings on and provide the final word and approval for action taken by employees and members.

#5 – Grab bag!

Program directors are the first and last line of defense for their organizations. If a program or service fails, it is on their head. Because they have the most at stake, they often work the hardest to make sure the needs of the organization are met. That means they pick up slack wherever it occurs. Program directors may:

  • Fill in manning the tables at awareness events
  • Sign up new volunteers and recruits at rallies
  • Manage the organization’s social media and communications networks
  • Write and distributing press releases and
  • Serve as volunteer workers at events and service locations

The duties and responsibilities of a program director don’t often stay at the office. Working in human services is a life choice, not just a job. It’s hard to predict when a need or emergency may arise and call for a program director to step up to the plate and settle the issue. Most program directors are involved with an organization that mirrors their passions. For that reason, these ambitious and energized workers are always on, working from home and the road, in constant communication with the organization through email, text and phone. This important work is shouldered by motivated individuals who not only want to see change in their communities, but are willing to do the hard work required to effect that change.

6 Great Counseling Careers in Human Services

Human services workers help people from all types of backgrounds facing a wide range of challenges in their lives. The organizations that human services professionals work for are often managed by state or local governments. So, job availability and salaries are largely dependent on budgetary funding.  There are also a large number of non-profit human services organizations. These organizations face budgetary restraints, as well; they are usually dependent on donations from supporters to continue their work.

Because human services as a whole helps so many different individuals and addresses so many concerns, organizations typically focus on meeting one need in the community. Within each organization, workers take on different roles and responsibilities to help others. Human services workers may have administrative duties, as is the case for grant writers and program directors.

Many are direct service workers—counselors, instructors and facilitators. A large part of what human services workers do for their clients is centered on education and emotional support. Below, we’ve outlined a few of the many counseling careers in human services that are available to compassionate individuals working in the field.

Counselor with CoupleCounselors help people of all ages who need assistance with emotional or physical trauma

Substance Abuse Counselor

Substance abuse counselors work in conjunction with psychologists and other professionals to treat those who suffer from drug addiction, alcoholism, eating disorders and other compulsive behaviors. Substance abuse counselors have many tools at their disposal to help clients. They help clients develop:

  • Goals and treatment plans
  • Educate friends and family about addiction
  • Provide emotional support and
  • Refer clients to other resources that may be of assistance

Substance abuse counselor education requirements can vary from a high school diploma to a master’s degree. Workers with more education are able to provide more complete care to clients. Those with a master’s degree, for example, may be clinical counselors who can provide one-on-one services and crisis intervention.

Rehabilitation Counselor

Rehabilitation counselors work in the intersection of human services and healthcare. In this specialty, human services workers aid patients who are recovering from a seriously physical injury or are living with disabilities. Rehabilitation counselors help clients with disabilities—both permanent and temporary—live fuller personal, social and professional lives by:

  • Providing emotional support
  • Developing treatment plans and
  • Referring clients to other resources and services

Most rehabilitation counselors have a master’s degree in human services, counseling or a related field. Some employers prefer to hire only licensed rehabilitation counselors, but a license is not necessary in many settings. A license is required, however, for those who work in private practice.

Mental Health Counselor

Mental health counselors are not psychologists or psychiatrists. They do not work in private practice and they cannot prescribe medications. What they can and do do is work in tandem with these professionals to provide help for patients who suffer from:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar disorder and
  • Other mental illnesses

Mental health counselors may be employed in hospitals, community mental health centers, nursing homes and residential facilities. The majority of mental health counselors have a master’s degree and a state license. Counselors must also complete annual continuing education classes at the graduate level.

Youth Counselor

Youth counselors work for organizations like the YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs of America and Big Brothers/Big Sisters. They are responsible for coordinating and supervising recreational and social programs for children and teenagers. These programs may be involved and complex, like a summer camp, or may be smaller activities, like intramural sports or tutoring programs. Youth counselors aim to reach out to at-risk and troubled youth who may be experiencing trauma or difficulties adjusting to life changes, such as a new school or a divorce. Many youth counselors eventually enter a child advocate career.

Legal and Victim Assistance Counselor

Human services workers in legal and victim assistance work with both the victims of crimes and those who have been convicted. Counselors who work with victims provide emotional support and work to education the community about crime awareness and prevention. Some may even provide free child care for victims of crime while they attend to legal matters.

Counselors who work with former convicts, on the other hand, focus on rehabilitation. They may work alongside probation or parole officers to help offenders find jobs, housing and support groups. These counselors may work with juveniles or adults. Legal counselors often take on some case manager duties. They need to be familiar with their clients’ backgrounds and keep detailed reports in case they are called upon to testify or provide information to other professionals working for the client.

Vocational Counselor

Vocational counselors assist clients who are unemployed, underemployed or looking to switch careers. They provide advice and use tools, such as aptitude test, to find careers that best suit their clients. These human services workers may work in job placement agencies, unemployment offices or in vocational rehabilitation facilities. The work of a vocational counselor is more administrative than many of the other careers on this list. Why they may provide some emotional support and advice, the majority of their work is focused on facilitation between clients and employers.