4 Online Associate Degree Programs Available in Human Services

There are plenty of people in this world who are no longer able to take care of themselves. They may be the very young or the very old, the sick, the poor or the homeless. In any case, there are also individuals who take it upon themselves to lend a... helping hand and try to improve the lives of the disadvantaged. If you're interested in such a career, you may want to consider earning an associate's degree in human services.

The degree in brief
Human services is a deliberately broad field that incorporates any sort of service geared toward improving the lives of others. That may include hands-on relief, such as assisting the elderly with performing daily chores, or something more abstract, such as obtaining funds or helping to develop programs  that could benefit a larger portion of the population.

Social work is among the field directly related to human services, which involves identifying people in need of assistance, creating strategies to assist them through crises or problems in their lives and procuring the necessary aid, whether in the form of special programs, funds or government agency support. Yet, the field may include community outreach, medical assistance and counseling professions, as well.

Given this broad focus, an associate's degree in human services will familiarize students with tactics and strategies to help people with their problems. This may include coursework in health care, public safety, psychology, law and sociology. Depending on your interests, the degree may be specialized to focus on any one of these fields. For example, if you choose to become an assistant to the elderly, you may focus more on medical work and the field of gerontology specifically.

Job opportunities
People who earn an associate's degree in human services may be able to put their degree to use in numerous capacities. Social and human service assistant is among the most directly related positions, wherein you will be expected to find and provide support for people in need. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, they often assist social workers,[i] who are generally required to hold a bachelor's degree. You may also be better qualified for a position as a childcare worker. While it doesn't require an associate's degree, the added education may lead to higher paying jobs or managerial positions.

Other potential careers may include substance abuse or behavioral disorder counselor, the qualifications for which vary widely from one state to another. If you're interested in focusing specifically in the field of medicine, you can work as a home health aide or use an associate's degree as a stepping stone for further education to pursue work as a nursing or medical assistant. Earning an associate's degree in human services may also serve as a way of jump starting your pursuit of a bachelor's degree for social work.

Potential salaries
With so many careers to choose from, your pay will likely be just as variable. You can get an idea of the kind of pay and job outlook to expect with statistics from the BLS.

  • Social and human service assistants: $28,850i (22 percent employment growth projected through 2022)[i]

  • Childcare workers: $19,510  (14 percent employment growth projected through 2022)[ii]

  • Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors: $38,520  (31 percent employment growth projected through 2022)[iii]

  • Home health aides: $20,820  (48 percent employment growth projected through 2022)[iv]

Skills required
Jobs in human services generally require a great deal of patience, stamina and empathy, as you must learn to meet the needs of people who are generally not in the condition to take care of themselves. Clientele may be working to overcome physical, mental, emotional or socioeconomic barriers that put great demand on social workers in providing assistance. You may also have to be focused, creative and good at solving problems.

[i] bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-and-human-service-assistants.htm#tab-1
[ii] bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/childcare-workers.htm#tab-1
[iii] bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/substance-abuse-and-behavioral-disorder-counselors.htm#tab-1
[iv] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/home-health-aides.htm#tab-1

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