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Human Services Worker: Career Profile

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a human services worker. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and certifications to find out if this is the career for you.

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Human services worker is a catch all term for professions dealing with helping people and are often referred to as social workers or case workers. You'll need great problem solving skills as well as a high level of empathy in order to be successful in this position.

Essential Information

Human services is a broad field encompassing many occupations, including social workers, substance abuse counselors and case workers. The goal of a human services worker is to help people in need. In this career, problem-solving and a compassionate outlook go hand in hand.

Career Title Social and Human Services Assistants Social Workers Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors
Required Education High school diploma Bachelor of Social Work; Master of Social Work for clinical social workers; Anywhere from a high school diploma to a graduate degree, depending on position; Those in private practices require a master's degree
Other Requirements Those with some college education are more likely to advance Licensure and/or certification required Those in private practices must be licensed
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 11% 12% 2%
Median Salary (2015)* $30,830 $58,560 $39,980

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Career Profile

Many positions fit under the human services umbrella, including child abuse worker, crisis intervention counselor, group activities aide and therapeutic assistant. Regardless of one's job title, a career in human services revolves around three major functions: evaluating needs, developing a treatment or remediation plan and putting the plan to work, always with the objective of meeting clients' specific requirements. A human services worker can be a counselor helping veterans adjust to civilian life, a life skills instructor assisting developmentally challenged adults or a client advocate working with displaced families, for example.

Although job duties vary from one human services occupation to the next, some level of individual or group counseling is usually present. Cases need to be documented carefully. Human services workers investigate what resources are available for their clients and help clients get into programs designed to assist them. Human services workers can find employment at mental health centers, family services agencies, substance abuse treatment centers or halfway houses, among other places.

Education Requirements

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, applicants can generally obtain entry-level positions with an associate's degree. These jobs usually involve interviewing clients and taking care of the paperwork associated with cases. With a bachelor's degree, a human services worker can provide advice and support in addition to managing cases. A master's degree enables a human services specialist to do more extensive counseling or clinical work and could be required for some positions, such as social worker or family counselor (www.bls.gov).

Licensure Requirements

Human services workers employed as social workers, counselors or educators in private and government agencies, schools and health care organizations generally require some form of licensing through the state. Depending on the occupation, academic and experience requirements vary but could include graduate-level education and documentation of several hours of supervised practice. Some human services workers, such as counselors, might need to be tested on their knowledge of laws as they pertain to the career. Continuing education is commonly required to maintain a license.

Career Advancement

Advancing in a human services career could involve completing additional education as well as specializing in a niche occupation. A deep commitment to serving clients is essential--something supervisors might look for when considering promotions. In addition, those who show genuine caring and respect when interacting with clients, communicate well, demonstrate resourcefulness in resolving issues and know how to manage their time are often the candidates who advance into roles with greater responsibility.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), social and human service assistants could expect job growth of 11% during the decade 2014-2024. At the same time, social workers could expect job growth of 12% and substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors could expect job growth of 22%.

The BLS reported a median annual salary of $30,830 for social and human service assistants, $58,560 for social workers in general, and $39,980 for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors as of May 2015.

Whether you have your eyes set on becoming a substance abuse counselor or a social services worker who works closely with children, the basics of the job are the same: compassion and critical thinking skills. If you think you possess these two skills then a career as a human services worker may just be for you.

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