Human services personnel serve the public via social service agencies designed to meet the needs of a specific population. The systems that are in place to improve lives in society require employees who are trained in the psychology, policy, and administration of these systems. An associate degree in human services offers ground-level training for human services professionals, qualifying graduates for entry-level work in the field.
Why an Associate Degree?
Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that human service assistant positions require a high-school diploma for entry into the field, a college degree provides a competitive edge. The human services associate degree provides a foundation to the principles of the profession, introducing students to community organizational structure, public policy, and common on-the-job scenarios.
This degree qualifies successful graduates to find employment in social services, rehabilitation, the courts and medical facilities, among others. Typical entry-level titles include social services specialist, victim advocate or community service organizer in a public or private agency. Students who wish to further their education with a bachelor’s degree may also use this program as a starting point.
Inside a Human Services Associate Degree Program
Class requirements for an associate degree are a combination of general education and core study course work. This structure mirrors that of more advanced degrees, and the content is often designed as a foundation for students who move on to bachelor’s or master’s degree programs later in their careers. Typical general education classes in these two-year programs include language and composition, basic mathematics, history, and natural sciences.
Core requirements in a human services associate degree program might include:
- Principles of Sociology
- Ethnic and Race Relations
- Introduction to Psychology
- Introduction to Developmental Psychology
- Human Services Basics
- Counseling Skills
- Crisis Intervention
Additionally, some associate degree programs offer an internship or externship. Assisting with case management, evaluating policy, and observing rehabilitative and therapeutic practice are common components of these programs; this on-the-job training demonstrates the application of the fundamentals studied in class. Some students take this opportunity to specialize in areas like social work, family counseling or addiction therapy.
What's Next for Human Services Associate Degree Holders?
Luckily the human services industry is one of the fastest-growing in the U.S., according to the BLS. Growth among human services associate degree jobs through 2024 is expected to be much higher than the national average, and professionals in this field will enjoy an 11% growth in new positions. This growth is largely due to the aging population in the U.S. and its need for social services assistance. In May 2010, the median hourly wage was $13.56 for entry-level human services personnel; state government, who employed the majority of these workers, paid $16.27 per hour.
Many four-year colleges and universities have reciprocal arrangements that allow associate degree credit hours to transfer into a bachelor’s degree program. Students who earn an associate degree may find the field so enjoyable that further study is warranted. The educational opportunities for the human health services extend to the doctoral level, and many are available online. As with most careers, salary earned is commensurate with education level; many graduates of associate degree programs choose to pursue advanced degrees.