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Phoenix Forward magazine

What can you do with a human services degree?

If you’re passionate about helping others, earning a degree in human services can lead to a career in which you can make a positive difference in peoples’ lives, according to Stephen Sharp, PhD, associate dean of the University of Phoenix® College of Social Sciences and an instructor in the online psychology program.

Here are five things you can do with a human services degree:


Assess at-risk clients.

Undergraduate programs in this profession are designed to prepare students for entry-level careers in case management, as well as other positions at public and private social services agencies, Sharp says.

Case managers evaluate vulnerable members of the community, including the disabled, homeless and mentally ill, and then connect them with local resources that can serve their needs. For instance, in this role you might help find transportation for a disabled person, housing for a client living on the streets or free outpatient care for someone suffering from mental illness.

Sheila Alimonos, MSW, a licensed clinical social worker and director of academic affairs for the University’s online College of Social Sciences, notes that she began her career by earning an associate degree in human services and working as a case manager in a variety of settings, including child welfare and mental health services agencies.

Support senior citizens.

With the aging population growing, many human services graduates choose careers involving older people — for example, at senior centers, retirement communities or nursing homes.

“If helping the senior population interests you, study the gerontology specialty,” Sharp advises, noting that it can prepare you to pursue jobs ranging from activities director at an assisted living facility to manager of a public senior center.

Help disadvantaged kids.

If you’re interested in working with families and kids, you may want to consider the family and child services specialty.

Among other aspects of this line of work, you can train foster parents and advocate for the needs of foster children, as well as participate in investigations for child welfare services, Alimonos says.

Assist recovering addicts.

Coursework in the addictions specialty can prepare you for jobs in inpatient and community-based treatment programs, Sharp notes. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 31-percent increase in demand for substance-abuse professionals and behavioral disorder counselors between 2012 and 2022.

Lay a foundation.

If you want to pursue a master’s degree in social work or counseling, an undergraduate degree in human services can provide a “strong foundation,” Alimonos says.

You also can register as a mental health facilitator with the National Board for Certified Counselors. While the credential doesn’t mean you’re a licensed counselor, Sharp says it can help qualify you to identify clients’ mental health needs and make referrals to licensed treatment professionals.

In addition, the degree can equip you to sit for the Human Services-Board Certified Practitioner examination administered by the Center for Credentialing & Education, he says. This credential provides independent verification of your practical knowledge and education, which you can provide to prospective employers.

These programs do not prepare a graduate to practice as a certified counselor, social worker, marriage and family therapist or psychologist.

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