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.
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%:
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 indeed.com, 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.
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.
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 providers.org.
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.