If you’re passionate about making a positive impact in people’s lives and want to explore the many ways you can turn that passion into a fulfilling career, a human services degree can open the door to exciting opportunities. 

In this guide, we’ll help you determine if a degree in human services is the right fit for you and explore careers and degree programs for you to pursue. We’ll also answer the many frequently asked questions. 

A human services degree helps you better understand how social structures are created and how people operate within and respond to those systems. This major also focuses on helping those in need.

Human Services Definition

Dictionary.com defines human services as “programs or facilities for meeting basic health, welfare, and other needs of a society or group, such as people who are poor, sick, or elderly.

The National Organization for Human Services (NOHS) describes human services as “meeting human needs through an interdisciplinary knowledge base, focusing on the prevention and remediation of problems, and maintaining a commitment to improving the overall quality of life of service populations.

The curriculum for a human services degree is rooted in theory and practice, with opportunities for you to participate in community-oriented service-learning internships.

You can pursue an associate degree in human services or a four-year bachelor’s degree in human services for entry-level roles. For more advanced positions, you can pursue a master’s degree.

In addition to an undergraduate degree in human services, some counseling or healthcare professions may require specific master’s degrees, certifications, or licenses to practice. One such requirement could be a counseling degree.

With a human services degree, you can help individuals meet basic human needs or improve their well-being. You can also aim to improve the quality of life for communities, helping develop and promote programs that aid their mental and physical health.

human services degree - is it right for you?

A human services degree might be a good fit if you are interested in social issues and want to help others. Here are some questions to consider:

  • Do you enjoy working with people? A human services degree will lead you to a career where you interact with people on a daily basis.
  • Can you interact with a wide variety of personalities? People with a human services degree work with people from all walks of life.
  • Are you interested in studying psychology and human interaction? Human services degree programs often require psychology courses.

If you find that helping others comes naturally to you, that’s a great sign you’re a fit for the field. Remember, the decision should align with your interests and long-term career goals.

careers with a human services degree

Human services professionals work to improve the well-being and quality of life of diverse populations. The average salary for social and community service managers is $74,240 per year. As a human services professional, your role may involve:

  • Providing vital support and resources to individuals and families in need.
  • Advocating for social justice and equality.
  • Guiding individuals toward healthier, more fulfilling lives.
  • Addressing societal challenges such as homelessness, hunger, and access to healthcare.
  • Collaborating with a diverse range of clients and colleagues to develop solutions for the well-being of our society.

Many careers in human services may require additional certification or licensure beyond a degree in human services, especially if the role involves providing specific services, clinical work, or adhering to state regulations. Here are some common careers you can pursue with a human services degree and their salaries:

Probation Officer

Probation officers monitor and support individuals placed on probation by the criminal justice system. They help clients adhere to court-ordered conditions and may provide counseling and service referrals.

Average salary: $71,116

Child Welfare Worker

Child welfare workers focus on the safety and well-being of children and families. They investigate allegations of abuse or neglect, provide services to families in crisis, and may work toward reuniting families or finding alternative care options.

Average salary: $60,055

Community Health Worker

Community health workers educate and advocate for underserved populations to access healthcare services. They may assist with health screenings, preventive care, and health education.

Average salary: $59,398

Social Worker

Non-clinical social workers assist individuals and families facing various social challenges by providing counseling services, connecting clients with resources, and advocating for their well-being. You can pursue a career as a non-clinical social worker by getting a human services degree.

Moreover, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) is a highly trained and licensed professional who focuses on providing mental health services and clinical therapy to individuals, families, and groups. To work as an LCSW, you can get a master’s degree in social work and a state-approved licensure to practice in your chosen state and city.

Average salary: $79,000

Related: Everything you need to know about becoming a social worker.

Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC)

CRCs assess clients’ physical, mental, and emotional needs, develop rehabilitation plans, and provide counseling and support to address employment and daily living barriers. They often work with vocational rehabilitation agencies, healthcare facilities, and community organizations to assist clients in achieving their personal and vocational goals.

Average salary: $75,450

School Counselor

School counselors help students navigate academic challenges, address personal and social issues, and make informed decisions about their career paths. They also collaborate with teachers, parents, and administrators to create a positive and conducive learning environment for students.

Average salary: $56,106

Board-Certified Behavior Analyst

Behavior analysts often work with individuals with autism and developmental disabilities. They work to improve their clients’ behavior, communication, social skills, and overall quality of life.

Average salary: $80,554

Marriage and Family Therapist

Marriage and family therapists specialize in counseling individuals, couples, and families to help them address and resolve relationship issues, communication problems, and emotional conflicts. 

Average salary: $63,300

Studying human services can be your ticket to high-paying career options with wide-scale social impact. The best thing about these degree programs is that they’re available in in-person, online, or hybrid formats at nearly all universities and colleges.

However, human services is a broad subject with overlapping areas of study with social work, psychology, and others. Accreditation for the subject area can vary depending on the specific focus and content of the degree program. Or simply look for programs accredited by these relevant accrediting bodies:

NOTE: Many human services degree programs are housed within universities and colleges and receive accreditation from regional accrediting agencies. 
Examples of regional accrediting agencies include the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the Higher Learning Commission, and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Here are human services degree programs for you to pursue:

Associate Degree in Human Services:

This degree serves as a stepping stone for entry-level positions in social services, counseling, and nonprofit organizations while offering the option to continue education and advance in the field.


  • Typically takes 2 years of full-time study.

Admission Requirements

  • Generally, a high school diploma or equivalent is required.

Core Coursework

  • Courses may include an introduction to human services, counseling skills, case management, and social issues.

Degree Options: 

  • Associate of Arts (AA) in Human Services
  • Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Psychology
  • Associate of Arts (AA) in Sociology
  • Associate of Arts (AA) in Social Work

Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services:

A bachelor’s degree in human services is an ideal choice for those passionate about helping others, advocating for social justice, and making a meaningful difference in the lives of individuals and communities.


  • Typically takes 4 years of full-time study.

Admission Requirements

  • You can start with a high school diploma or equivalent.

Core Coursework

  • Includes counseling, ethics, social work, and community development courses.


  • Programs may offer concentrations like child and family welfare, gerontology, or substance abuse.

Degree Options: 

  • Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Human Services
  • Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)
  • Bachelor of Science (BS) in Human Services

Criminal Justice Human Services Degree

A criminal justice human services degree is an interdisciplinary program that combines elements of both criminal justice and human services. This degree program is designed to prepare you for careers that involve working with individuals and communities impacted by the criminal justice system.


  • You typically need four years to complete.

Admission Requirements:

  • You’ll need a high school diploma or GED to apply.
  • You may need to write a personal statement or essay explaining your interest in the program and career goals.

Core Coursework:

  • Courses typically cover criminal law and procedure, criminology, social work principles, counseling techniques, and human services administration.
  • Some programs may offer specialized courses on juvenile justice, substance abuse counseling, and restorative justice.

Common Concentrations:

  • Child Abuse
  • Individual/Group/Family Counseling
  • Drug Use and Abuse

Degree Options

  • Online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice – Human Services
  • Bachelor of Science (BS) in Human Services Criminal Justice Concentration

Master’s Degree in Human Services:

This program builds upon the foundational knowledge from undergraduate studies and provides you with the expertise needed to address complex social and human issues.


  • Generally takes 1-2 years beyond a bachelor’s degree.

Admission Requirements

  • Typically, a bachelor’s degree in a related field; some programs may require relevant work experience.

Core Coursework

  • Includes advanced courses in counseling, research methods, program evaluation, and ethics.


  • Many programs offer concentrations such as clinical mental health counseling, marriage and family therapy, or nonprofit management.

Degree Options: 

  • Master of Science (MS) in Human Services
  • Master of Arts (MA) in Human Services
  • Master of Arts (MA) in Counseling
  • Master of Public Administration (MPA)

Doctorate Degree in Human Services (Ph.D. or Ed.D.):

A doctorate degree in human services, whether in the form of a Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) or Ed.D. (Doctor of Education), represents the highest level of academic achievement in the field. These advanced doctoral programs are typically research-oriented and designed for individuals aspiring to become experts, scholars, or leaders in human services. 


  • Takes several years of full-time study, including coursework and research.


  • Typically offered in-person at universities.

Admission Requirements

  • A master’s degree in a related field is generally required; some programs may require relevant work experience.

Core Coursework

  • Focuses on research methodologies, advanced counseling techniques, and leadership in human services.


  • Doctoral programs may allow specialization in policy analysis, organizational leadership, or clinical practice.

Degree Options: 

  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Human Services
  • Doctor of Social Work (DSW)
  • Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.)

Related: Difference between master’s degree and Ph.D. degree

Many careers in human services, especially those involving clinical practice, may require licensure. It may vary by state and profession. Degree programs often prepare you for licensure exams, but you may have to meet your state’s specific requirements.

AspectsHuman ServicesSocial Work
DefinitionA broad subject of study that supports community well-being. It refers to various occupations in healthcare, advocacy, and education.A subfield of human services that focuses on delivering care and support directly to individuals in need.
ProfessionalsOften find jobs at nonprofits, state and local government departments, or social service agencies.Provide direct services and advocate for individuals and families within a community across hospitals, schools, counseling practices, etc.
GoalHelp individuals access basic needs and resources and improve these individuals’ overall quality of life. They may meet this goal by creating policies, providing material aid, or performing educational outreach.Help empower individuals, provide guidance in their everyday lives, and offer resources to help improve their life circumstances to better meet their needs.
Key DifferenceTends to work with groups of individuals to help support communities.Provides direct services and advocates for individuals and families within a community.

For those interested in psychology, both fields offer relevant career paths. Many people who want to become therapists choose to get a master’s degree in social work to become a licensed social worker

On the other hand, a human services degree can be an excellent choice for students interested in psychology but want an undergraduate degree that gives them a clearer path to a job right after graduation.

Join the ranks of compassionate and dedicated professionals committed to improving lives and strengthening communities. With a human services degree, you can be part of an impactful career that allows you to create lasting positive change. Your journey toward making a difference starts here.

Can you be a counselor with a human services degree?

Yes, you can work as a counselor with a human services degree, especially in roles like substance abuse counseling, mental health counseling, or family counseling.

What jobs can you get with a human services degree?

Human services degree holders can pursue careers such as social worker, case manager, counselor, probation officer, and community outreach specialist.

What can you do with a human services degree?

A human services degree prepares you to work in various roles focused on helping individuals and communities, addressing social issues, and providing support and advocacy.

Is human services the same as social work?

Human services and social work are related but have distinct focuses. Human services is broader and encompasses various helping professions, while social work is a specific profession within human services.

Is criminal justice a human services degree?

Criminal justice is a separate field from human services. While both fields involve helping people, criminal justice primarily deals with law enforcement, the legal system, and public safety. Although, after graduating with a human services degree, you can still work within the criminal justice system as a parole officer, child welfare advocate, and similar roles.

Is psychology a human services degree?

Psychology is not a human services degree, but it can be related. Psychology is the scientific study of behavior and mental processes, whereas human services focuses on providing practical assistance and support to individuals and communities in need. Some professionals with psychology backgrounds may work in human services roles.