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.

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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 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.

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 providers.org.

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.