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NLU - What is Human Services

What is Human Services?

Human services is a diverse field dedicated to meeting human needs. It offers professionals the satisfaction of helping to improve the quality of life for individuals and families in need.1 These range from securing care for infants, the elderly and special needs individuals, to providing food and necessities to low-income families, to helping individuals conquer addiction.

Human services professionals must develop an interdisciplinary knowledge base that includes the study of social technologies (such as practice methods), service technologies (including programs and organizations) and scientific innovations designed to solve problems and improve quality of life. Human services professionals strive to make services accessible to clients and ensure the accountability of service providers and recipients.

Human Services Careers

The field of human services is broad, but some of the most common human services careers include:2

  • Behavioral management aide
  • Case management aide
  • Child care worker
  • Community outreach worker
  • Community support worker
  • Family support worker
  • Gerontology aide
  • Home health aide
  • Life skills counselor
  • Mental health aide
  • Residential counselor
  • Social service assistant
  • Social work assistant
  • Youth worker
  • Child advocate
  • Group home worker
  • Alcohol counselor
  • Community organizer
  • Adult day care worker
  • Intake interviewer

Most professional human services jobs require a bachelor's degree in human services, which provides graduates with the foundational knowledge and skills needed to enter and advance in the field.3

What Does a Human Services Professional Do?

Human services professionals strive to improve the quality of life both for service users and the community as a whole. Through education, civic involvement and the promotion of good health, human services professionals work to advance the autonomy of service users and renew their capacity to function in and contribute to society. By working with individuals and groups, human services professionals seek to help service users enhance their capabilities, learn to cope with difficult situations and develop effective problem-solving skills.4

While the field of human services encompasses a wide range of careers, the unifying factor among all human services professionals is a strong desire to help others. Human services professionals must be patient, understanding and caring in their interactions with service users. Excellent communication skills, a strong work ethic, effective time-management skills and a strong sense of responsibility are also invaluable skills for any human services professional.5

Human services professionals work in diverse settings. Depending on his or her specific career path, a human services professional may work in a group home, halfway house, correctional facility, community center, social service agency, rehabilitation center or other facility.

What Competencies Are Required for Human Services Work?

There are six general areas of competency that are needed in all types of human services work, although a human services professional's training in each area may vary depending on his or her career path. The six areas of competency required for human services work include:6

1. Understanding of human systems — including individual, group, organization, community and society — and how these systems interact. This helps human services professionals better understand human development, organizational structure, group dynamics and how social systems interact to create human problems.

2. Knowledge of the conditions that can promote or hinder the optimal functioning of human systems. This helps human services professionals understand the models of causation associated with the promotion of healthy functioning and rehabilitation.

3. Skills in identifying intervention strategies that promote growth and help service users accomplish goals. This helps human services professionals conduct effective problem analysis and choose the services and strategies (such as counseling, referral and advocacy) that will help achieve the desired outcome.

4. The ability to plan, implement and measure the results of interventions. This helps human services workers create a strategy to address an identified problem in a systematic way. Competency in planning and implementing interventions requires a strong understanding of problem analysis, decision analysis and the design of work plans.

5. Consistency in choosing interventions that align with one's own values, as well as those of the service user and employing organization. This competency requires human services professionals to have a strong awareness of their own values, the values of the employing organization and the service user, as well as general human services ethics.

6. Strong process skills for the planning and implementation of services. This competency requires human services workers to develop excellent written and oral communication skills, the ability to develop interpersonal relationships, self-discipline and time management.

Human Services Salary and Career Outlook

The number of jobs for social and human service assistants is expected to grow by 11 percent between 2014 and 2024, which is faster than the average for all occupations. The median pay for social and human services assistants in 2014 was $29,790 per year or $14.32 per hour.7

Human services is a diverse, rewarding field that offers professionals a unique opportunity to improve life not only for service users but society as a whole. To learn more about the field of human services, review the resources listed below.

Source References [+]
  1. "What is Human Services?"
  2. "What is Human Services?"
  3. "The Human Services Professional."
  4. "The Human Services Professional."
  5. "What is Human Services?"
  6. "What is Human Services?"
  7. "Social and Human Service Assistants."

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