What is a Human Services Degree?

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A Bachelor of Arts in Health and Human Services is required for most entry-level positions in the field of human services. This bachelor’s degree prepares students for a variety of direct-service occupations, such as caseworker or mental health assistant. Both the Bachelor of Science in Human Services Leadership and Bachelor of Arts in Health and Human Services degree programs teach students about human behavior, cultural competency, and policies pertaining to social welfare.

One definition of human services is that they are services provided to people in order to help them stabilize their life and find self-sufficiency. One of the three main directions involves providing basic needs and services for those in crisis who are seeking shelter, food, and a safe environment such as the homeless or children in abusive households. Another primary use for human services is for people who are having chronic problems in their life such as someone seeking mental health treatment, substance abuse counseling, or medical treatments for chronic conditions. The third distinction is for those who work at the macro level to improve public health, safety, and economic conditions for their community. Through a strengths-based approach, the human services worker helps their clients and even communities to achieve self-sufficiency and a higher quality of life.

Ashford’s BA in Health and Human Services

An interdisciplinary degree, the Bachelor of Arts in Health and Human Services degree prepares students to work in diverse entry-level positions in health and human services. Emphasis of the major is on the delivery of services to diverse populations, in the context of the current and emerging political, socioeconomic, psychosocial, and regulatory environments.

Direct human services practice is the application of human services theory and methods to the resolution and prevention of psychosocial problems experienced by individuals, families, and groups. The National Organization of Human Services explains, “’Human services professional’ is a generic term for people who hold professional and paraprofessional jobs in such diverse settings as group homes and halfway houses; correctional, intellectual disability, and community mental health centers; family, child, and youth service agencies, and programs concerned with alcoholism, drug abuse, family violence, and aging.” 

Real-world application of human services has undergone a change to a strengths perspective which is a:

Paradigmatic shift away from problem-focused approaches to human services practice. The strengths perspective focuses not on the defectiveness of the client system in an attempt to undo these problems but on the inherent strengths, competencies, and resiliency of clients. It does not ignore pain and suffering but asks how people make it under such difficult times and builds on those capacities. It assumes the expertise of the client and privileges client knowledge and capabilities. Diversity, self-determination, empowerment, and social justice are inherent in this practice. (Saleebey, D., 2006)

Ashford’s BS in Human Services Leadership

The Bachelor of Science in Human Services Leadership degree program is designed to prepare students with the knowledge, skills, and competencies needed to successfully lead human service organizations in a rapidly changing and challenging environment (Rothman, 2008). The degree program builds on students’ existing skills and interests in the social services to further develop their capacity to design and lead organizational approaches for the prevention and resolution of problems facing vulnerable or marginalized groups in our society. Students will be exposed to leadership as a means to improve the performance of human services organizations and the programs and services offered to address changing needs of increasingly diverse communities. 

A health and human services leader assesses the needs of the client and his family and where appropriate, links them to opportunities, resources, and systems that can help them meet their requirements. One of the key functions of a leader is to conduct, with client involvement, a needs assessment of the client’s community before establishing a best practice form of intervention. If resources are not available the leader starts the building of response resources for this community. Once the leader has identified the client group’s specific needs, a caseworker advocates for coalitions to get the assistance for a group, from the relevant professionals, agencies, and institutions. (CTB 2017)

The human services field is always in need of those who feel a call to leadership. Developing the knowledge and understanding the tools required to help a human services organization perform at its highest level is a fantastic first step on your road to a fulfilling career in human services administration. Many degree programs will include an emphasis on developing abilities in the areas of program planning, evaluation, leadership, supervision, and decision making.



Written by Micheal Weuste, PhD, LCSW, former Program Chair for the BA in Health and Human Services in the College of Health, Human Services, and Science at Ashford University. 


Community Tool Box (2017) Assessing Community Needs and Resources retrieved at https://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/assessment/assessing-community-needs-and-resources

HumanServicesEdu.org - https://www.humanservicesedu.org/organizations.html

Petrick, Joseph. (n.d.). The Role of Caseworkers. Work - Chron.com. Retrieved from http://work.chron.com/role-caseworkers-23053.html

Rothman, J. (2008) Multi Modes of Intervention at the Macro Level, Journal of Community Practice, 15:4, 11-40, DOI: 10.1300/J125v15n04_02 retrieved at https://doi.org/10.1300/J125v15n04_02

Saleebey, D. (2006). The strengths perspective: Putting possibility and hope to work in our practice. In White, B. W., Sowers, K. M., & Dulmus, C. M. (Eds.). Comprehensive handbook of social work and social welfare. Vol. 1. NY: John Wiley & Sons, pp.123-142.

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This program requires you to be a current licensed registered nurse. Please check out other programs to reach your education goals such as the BA in Health and Wellness.