Human Services Associate's Degree

Learn about typical courses in an associate's degree program in human services. Find career options, employment outlook and median salaries for entry-level jobs. Schools offering Human Services degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

To Help Others, Do I Really Need a Human Services Associate's Degree?

As stated in the 2010-2011 edition of the Occupational Outlook Handbook of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are no real education prerequisites beyond a high school diploma for you to go into the field of human services. However, you stand a better chance of employment if you've accrued some postsecondary education. The BLS goes on to state that although many jobs call for a bachelor's or master's degree, you may qualify for an entry-level position with an associate's degree in an area such as human services, behavioral science, social science or gerontology (

There are two excellent sources to help you locate an appropriate degree program. The Council for Standards in Human Service Education has an online directory of schools that offer accredited programs leading to associate's and bachelor's degrees in human services-related fields. As of 2011, you can also find over 150 schools that offer associate's degree programs in human services at the National Center for Education Statistics.

What's Involved in a Program?

A program leading to an Associate of Arts or Associate of Science in Human Relations can take you up to two years to complete. Depending on the school, a program can consist of 60-106 credits. Classes expose you to therapeutic and rehabilitative practices for those with problems of an emotional, societal, psychological, physical or developmental nature. You also gain an understanding of the contemporary practice of human services and the logistics of the management of human services providers.

Typical courses can include psychology, psychopathology, ethnic studies, sociology, community organization, chemical dependency, crisis intervention and human development. All programs require you to participate in some sort of externship at a school-approved facility. Although you can complete some learning through online lessons, the experiential element of your learning keeps these programs from being based entirely on the Web.

What Can I Do Once I Graduate?

Once you earn an associate's degree, you might decide that you want to learn more about human services. Many schools have an articulation agreement with 4-year colleges, allowing you to transfer credits toward a bachelor's degree program.

You may decide you want to enter the workforce immediately. According to the BLS, holding an associate's degree in social services may enable you to work as an assistant to professionals in the field, who hold more advanced degrees. Some examples of positions for which you might qualify include case management aide, social work assistant, community outreach worker, youth worker, gerontology aide, client advocate or psychologist's aide.

How Is the Job and Salary Outlook?

In 2011, the BLS projected that the number of social and human service assistants would increase 23% in the period from 2008-2018. This is much faster than the national average for all occupations, in part due to the increase in the average age of the population and the growing demand for mental-health and substance-abuse counseling and treatment. As of May 2008, the median annual wages of social and human service assistants was $27,280. The bottom ten percent earned less than $17,900, while the top ten percent earned more than $43,510.

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