Human services workers are those ready to lend a helping hand to people struggling with life’s myriad obstacles, and who are working to better understand the human condition. From counselors to psychologists to sociologists, human services careers are a perfect for people who are at their best when they’re helping others.
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Paths for Human Services Careers
Depending on your education and career goals, there are a range of human services careers you can choose from:
Counselors are a crucial part of the human services industry, offering advice and assistance to those who are just starting out in life, and those who need a hand getting back on their feet. Counselors span a range of specialties. Guidance counselors help students to handle their education and plan their futures. Substance abuse counselors show recovering addicts how to kick the habit and live clean, sober lives.
Psychologists study human behavior, and analyze how people interact with each other and their environments. Psychologists can work in clinical settings, providing therapy to patients either in one-on-one or group settings. They can work in schools and other educational settings, working with students, teachers, and parents to create healthy and supporting learning environments. They can also work in laboratory and university settings, conducting research to better understand human and animal behavior. And industrial-organizational psychologists apply their knowledge of human behavior to the workplace and even to marketing, doing everything from screening workers for jobs to evaluating advertising messages.
Social workers are real hands-on professionals with a desire to improve peoples’ lives. They help people to cope with personal issues and solve problems in their everyday lives. Social workers can focus on specific areas: some focus on care for senior citizens, others on cases of mental health and substance abuse, others on children and school settings. Still others can work in social work administration, research, policymaking, and more. Whatever their specialty, social workers put in hours every day to help make other peoples’ lives better.
Sociologists also help improve peoples’ lives, but in a much more abstract way than social workers. Sociologists study all aspects of human behavior, from social behavior to political systems to cultural changes, and everything in between. As the importance of sociological data becomes more and more apparent, their research is incorporated into a wider and wider array of fields, and helps everyone from educators to lawmakers to administrators and even product designers to make more informed, efficient decisions.
Human Services Career Salaries
Counseling career salaries can range quite broadly depending on the specialty the counselor enters, and where they work. Substance abuse counselors’ median salary is around $37,000, with most expecting to earn between $29,000-47,000. However, for substance abuse counselors working in medical and surgical hospitals, the median salary rises to over $44,000.
Guidance counselors earn a median salary of $51,000, with most expecting to earn between $38,000 and 65,000. Median salaries for counselors working in grade schools was highest at over $57,000, while those working at universities, junior colleges, and in vocational rehabilitation services can expect to earn significantly less.
Psychologists earn a median salary of around $64,000, with most earning between $48,000 and 82,000. Industrial-organizational psychologists earn a slightly higher median wage, at $77,000.
Social workers’ potential earnings are, as with other human services careers, greatly affected by their area of specialization. Those working in medical and public health fields can expect to earn a median salary of over $46,000; those working in child, family, and educational settings can expect to earn closer to $39,000; and those working in mental health and substance abuse issues earn around $37,000.
Sociologists’ salaries will depend greatly on their employer. Overall, they earn a median salary of around $68,000, with most earning between $51,000 and 92,000. However, sociologists working with the Federal Government earn average salaries over $100,000.
Education for Human Services Careers
All counseling careers have licensing requirements, though these vary by state. Most states require counselors to hold a master’s degree in their field and pass some sort of exam, and some require continuing education in order to maintain the licensure. Additionally, some states require guidance counselors to obtain teaching certificates as well – check with the licensing body in the state you wish to work to find out exactly what you need to get started.
Psychologists generally require a doctoral degree. Psychologists wishing to enter private practice – either solo or as part of a group – are required in all states to be licensed. Requirements vary by state, but nearly all require psychologists to limit their practice to the areas in which they’re trained, and many require a certain amount of experience in a clinical setting before granting licensure. For those who don’t wish to practice, it is possible for people with a master’s degree in psychology to work as industrial-organizational psychologists. However, competitive positions will often go to those with doctoral degrees.
Social workers require a bachelor’s in social work (BSW) at minimum, and in many cases (particularly health and educational positions) a master’s of social work (MSW) is required. As with most other human services positions, state licensing is required in all states, though requirements vary.
Careers for sociologists have a wide range of educational requirements. For entry-level positions such as market analysis or research assistant, a bachelor’s degree is often sufficient. However, master’s degrees qualify workers for administrative and research positions, and a Ph.D. degree is required for high-level research and teaching positions.
Featured Degrees in Human Services
- Schools and Degree Information for Psychology
- Schools and Degree Information in Marriage and Family Counseling
- Schools and Degree Information in Social Work
Outlook for Human Services Careers
The counseling professions are expected to grow by 18 percent overall in the coming years, with different specialties growing at different rates. Substance abuse counselors will see a 21 percent jump in their employment as society becomes more knowledgeable about addiction and the penal system turns to rehabilitation over jail time for offenders.
Guidance counselors will see a 14 percent rise in employment, not only in educational settings but in vocational settings, as multiple job and career chances become more and more common and workers seek the help of counselors in making decisions. Marriage and family therapists and counselors will see a similar growth of 14 percent, as it is becoming more common and more accepted for people to seek help with their marital and family problems.
Psychologists will see a growth of about 12 percent, slightly higher than the national average. A major driver behind this growth is the recognition of the increased healthcare costs associated with unhealthy lifestyle choices, making prevention and treatment of emotional and psychological disorders more crucial.
Social workers will see a growth of about 16 percent in their employment opportunities, as the growing elderly population will create greater demand for health and social services. Additionally, workers focused on substance abuse will see the same increase in demand as substance abuse counselors as more states focus on rehabbing offenders than sending them to prison.
Sociologists will see a very large increase in job openings, at 21 percent growth. As the expertise offered by sociologists is seen as more and more critical in a wide range of fields, more companies are employing sociologists to advise and work within larger teams.