Health and HumanServices IN FOCUS

Health and human services professionals hold a unique place in the field, combining health and wellbeing with aspects of social work and guidance. Read on to learn about education requirements, career and salary prospects, scholarships and more.

Health & Human Services Degree

Health and human services careers focus on caring for the well-being of others. Students pursuing a degree in health and human services will find a substantial breadth of career options. There are employment paths that call for two-year associate degrees, four-year bachelor’s degrees or post-graduate degrees in the field. To help students choose wisely, the following guide breaks down career opportunities by the type of degree required, details on the degree programs offered nationwide, tips on scholarships and internships, and salary tools that allow students to map out geographic locations and hot spots for job growth in health and human services. The path to a successful career starts here.


2012 MEAN PAY $62,580 per year
2012 MEAN PAY $56,680 per year

Health & Human Services Degrees (by level)

Employment in health and human services is wide ranging with educational requirements and professional duties varying by state, county or federal agency. Some are with non-profit organizations, others are in education and research, and there are roles well suited for those holding an associate degree, bachelor’s degree, and graduate degree holders. Because education and career development are built in stages, professionals may take entry level jobs with a two-year degree and advance their specialty by completing additional degree work to assume management or directorship positions. For example, a graduate from an associate degree program may take a job as a case management aide or social work assistant. With a bachelor’s degree, there are job titles including addiction/mental health counselor, family services advocate or career counselor. Add a master’s degree to qualify for work as a marriage and family therapist, early childhood center/director or occupational therapist. Grads from doctoral degree programs are prepared for work as a clinical psychologist or university professor.

Online vs. Campus

Online degree programs in health and human services fields combine self-paced asynchronous learning with real-time lectures and presentations. Since the online curriculum mirrors the academic quality and demands for the major, students should not expect their online degree program to be a breeze.

While students love the flexibility of online learning, they must be dedicated and self-disciplined to complete their courses. Online degree programs in health and human services may be comprised of streaming, multi-media lectures, email threads and discussions, and collaborative research projects. The online college and students determine the best location where distance learners can attend hands-on workshops or fieldwork near their homes.

Campus-based degree programs have courses that meet in the same location and time each week. Students are expected to meet regularly. Hybrid degree programs combine the modalities, requiring students to attend specific class sessions in person as well as complete coursework segments online. The ideal choice may vary based on each student’s ability to work independently as well as their need for social interactions in their courses.

Case Study #1

Linda wanted to go into community counseling for a living, but wasn’t sure if she wanted to be an addictions specialist or a marriage and family therapist. To survey the field and to save money on education, she completed an associate degree in human services. Through her practicum, Linda made professional contacts and, after graduation, she began work as a county social services intake assistant. She plans on working for a year before deciding on a career focus and whether she wants to complete a bachelor’s degree.

Associate Degree in Health & Human Services

The associate degree in human services allows students to survey the range of the “helping professions” where workers are advocates for the physical/emotional health, occupational, and financial concerns of clients. During the two years, students complete fundamental courses in psychology, public administration, and personal communication skills. At the same time, students complete well-rounded general education requirements in the arts and sciences.

An associate degree in health and human services is the foundation degree for entry into many of the social and human service roles in the non-profit, healthcare and governmental sectors. Jobs can include social and human service assistants, gerontology workers, social services case aides, youth services workers and client intake staff. For those want to advance their careers, the associate degree can be instrumental in fulfilling the general education requirements toward a bachelor’s degree.

Example Curriculum:

Freshman Year Credits/Units Description
General Psychology 101 3 An overview of the history and development of psychology and an investigation into human behavior, disorders, and treatments.
English 101 3 An introduction to college writing, critical reading, and research methods.
Sociology 101 3 Introduction to the study of groups, societal problems, sub-cultures and social risk factors.
Human Services Program and Profession 3 Introduction to the human services field, necessary skills, and types of social service agencies.
Sophomore Year Credits/Units Description
Interpersonal Communications 3 Development of appropriate, professional levels of communication, including differences between social, cultural and personal factors.
Intermediate English 3 Formal application of critical thinking and research to create essays or other communications while adhering to academic principles.
Management Skills 3 Intoduction to assessment, planning, and implementation of clients treatment plans or remedies.
Practicum 4 Students gain experience at a social services agency to explore career goals and integrate their learning.
Case Study #2

Linda wanted to go into community counseling for a living, but wasn’t sure if she wanted to be an addictions specialist or a marriage and family therapist. To survey the field and to save money on education, she completed an associate degree in human services. Through her practicum, Linda made professional contacts and, after graduation, she began work as a county social services intake assistant. She plans on working for a year before deciding on a career focus and whether she wants to complete a bachelor’s degree.

Bachelor’s Degree in Health & Human Services

A bachelor’s degree in health and human services provides students with a foundation in college general studies along with a multidisciplinary academic view of fields like psychology, criminal justice, social work, education and management skills that comprise the broad health and human services field.

Many public-facing federal, state, and community service organizations require a bachelor’s degree for graduates applying for counseling, leadership, program development, social advocacy and other key positions in health and human services. Internships match students with organizations and professionals in the field where they can build lifelong mentoring relationships.

Example Curriculum:

Junior Year Credits/Units Description
Introduction to Social Policy 3 Understanding the guidelines, principles and political forces at play in the social policy arena.
Gerontology: Serving the Senior Population 3 A comprehensive review of aging topics including social needs, activism, health care, financial issues and legislation.
Economics: Organization and Public Policy 3 An examination of economic and political forces that shape public policy.
Family and Youth Advocacy 3 A study of roles that human services professionals play in conducting interventions or advocating for children and families in need.
Senior Year Credits/Units Description
Ethics and Legal Issues in Human Services 3 Studies into ethical and legal concerns in health and human service careers including patient rights and protections.
Case Management in Human Services 3 Overview of data management and client documentation. Study of time management and resources.
Loss and Grief in Family and Individual Counseling 3 An overview of cultural views on death and dying along with practical clinical applications for working with groups and individuals.
Social Services Field Practicum 4 Students volunteer in a social service setting under direct supervision of a health or human services professional.
Case Study #3

Annette spent 12 years working as a staff director at a county housing office in her Midwest community. Despite building a large network of administrators, she hit a wall when applying for director/administrator positions with larger policy organizations. Annette held her job, but pursued an online master’s degree in human services administration that gave her the credentials she needed to open the next chapter in her career.

Master's Degree in Health & Human Services

The master’s degree in health and human services takes from 2-3 years to complete and includes multidisciplinary education across a range of specialized subject matter including public health, emergency and crisis intervention, social policy planning, and family services administration.

As the health and human services field grows, qualified professionals will advance their careers to specialize in fields such as gerontology, education, community health, and health services management. The master’s degree is a traditional way to develop expertise for federal, state and community positions in developing intervention programs, writing grants, and directing advocacy/public policy initiatives.

Example Curriculum:

Year 1 Credits/Units Description
Research methods in Social Services 3 Use of theoretical models in overseeing staff counselors or therapists.
Race, Culture and Ethnicity in Human Services 3 Inquiry into factors that create discriminatory practices and policies in human service organizations.
Human Resources Administration 3 Development of practical skills for evaluating human resource needs and policy design methodology to meet goals.
Practicum 4 Supervised field experience in student specialties.
Year 2 Credits/Units Description
Supervising Counselors and Psychotherapists 3 Use of theoretical models in overseeing staff counselors or therapists.
Principles of Community Health Practice 3 How to follow community-based assessments to develop evidence-based public health policy.
Substance Abuse Evaluation and Treatment 3 Methodologies and models for assessing and treating alcoholism and drug addiction.
Thesis Option 4 Research toward and drafting of the master's thesis.

Doctorate Degree in Health & Human Services

The doctoral degree in health and human services is designed to prepare executive-level leadership in non-profit, governmental and research organizations, including colleges and universities. Students undertake advanced research into specialties including economic analysis, policy, change management, strategic planning, family systems, ethics and the law related to service and public healthcare organizations.

Colleges and universities offering a doctorate in health and human services offer students the opportunity to specialize and benchmark their expertise along several career pathways. For example, students can choose a Human Services Ph.D. in specialties such as social and community services, non-profit management, multidisciplinary human services, criminal justice, crisis and disaster intervention, or clinical social work. The following table shows some of the courses that make up a doctoral program in leadership.

Example Curriculum:

Core Course Description
HS 811 Program Development and Management Advanced skills in developing a scope, addressing funding issues and overseeing launch and assessment of new programming.
HS 865 Leadership and Advocacy for Counseling and Human Services Professionals An examination of social change, advocacy, and the factors that influence human services and counseling organizations.
HS 875 Crisis Management Understanding the models and practices used in responding to crisis and trauma in the community, among staff, and in individuals.
HS 890 Health Policy Economics Study into factors affecting health service delivery including government regulation, insurance and risk issues, federal, state and community-based funding avenues.
HS 900 Doctoral Dissertation Research, writing and dissertation defense.

Health & Human Services Scholarships

For health and human services students that need help in paying for their education, there’s a broad assortment of scholarships based on economic need and proven academic achievement. Scholarships not only assist the pursuit of a college degree and support key research, they also boost the resumes of graduates entering the workplace or advancing their careers. Scholarship’s may be restricted to a college or university, or may be open to all students. Here is a brief list of organizations offering health & human services scholarships, including links to more details and application information:

Scholarship Name/Title: Dr. Alma S. Adams Scholarship
Description: Scholarship offers a total of $10,000 in scholarships annually to students with a demonstrated commitment to reducing tobacco use among at-risk populations. Students must have a 3.0 GPA and a history of volunteer service to social agencies in an economically or socially disadvantaged setting.
More Info:

Scholarship Name/Title: James F. Reville Scholarship
Description: The James F. Reville Scholarship is sponsored by NYSARC, Inc. and grants $3,000 awards to students who are undergraduates studying a discipline involving intellectual or developmental disabilities. Students must be enrolled in a degree program at a college in New York State.
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Scholarship Name/Title: NFRW National Pathfinder Scholarship
Description: The National Federation of Republican Women Pathfinder Scholarship provides three women students with grants of $2,500 toward undergraduate and graduate-level training for work in the field of the prevention of drug and alcohol abuse. Applicants in counseling, biomedical research or psychology may also apply.
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Scholarship Name/Title: ARC of Washington Trust Fund Research Grants
Description: The ARC of Washington Trust Fund offers grants to upper-division undergraduate and post-graduate students who are conducting studies into mental retardation. Funds are renewable for students who remain in college.
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Scholarship Name/Title: Gallagher Health Careers Scholarship Program
Description: Gallagher scholarships are available to upper-division college students pursuing careers in health. Students must demonstrate financial need, a history of community volunteerism and academic excellence.
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Scholarship Name/Title: Larry and Elizabeth Gates Scholarship
Description: The Larry and Penny Gates Scholarship is a needs-based grant for upper-division students at Shawnee State University who are majoring in fields leading to the “helping professions’.
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Scholarship Name/Title: David C. Maloney Scholarship
Description: The National Organization for Human Services awards Maloney scholarships to undergraduate and graduate-level students who are enrolled in a human services degree program. Special needs and minority students are encouraged to apply.
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Scholarship Name/Title: Senior Care Innovation Scholarship
Description: Offered by A Place for Mom, these senior care scholarships are available to students at the associate’s, bachelor’s and graduate degree levels who are enrolled in the studies of gerontology, social work, or long-term care administration.
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Scholarship Name/Title: Behavioral Sciences Student Fellowship
Description: The $3,000 Behavioral Sciences Student Fellowship is sponsored by the Epilepsy Foundation and is designated for undergraduate and graduate students undertaking supervised research into epilepsy.
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Health & Human Services Internships and Fellowships

Health and human services majors at both undergraduate and post-graduate levels are typically required to complete a practicum or internship with a participating federal, state or community human services organization. A wide selection of public service entities allows for students to choose an organization that best-suits their career goals and specialties. Internships allow students to integrate their learning with real-life experience as well as to develop career contacts in the professions.

Here is a list of employers and organizations offering health & human services internships and fellowships, including links to more details and application information:

Internship Title: Social Work Internship
Company and location: Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care, Newark, DE
Description: Social Work Intern provides supervised counseling and guidance to patients and bereaved family members.
More Info:

Internship Title: Summer Editorial Internship
Company and location: Social Science Research Council, New York, NY
Description: Intern to assist the SSRC in its digital publications, include website, essays, blogs and newsfeeds.
More Info:

Internship Title: Collegiate Leaders in Environmental Health (CLEH) Internship
Company and location: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA
Description: Paid 10-week environmental internship offered each summer to students to study links between the environment and health.
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Internship Title: Social Media/PR Internship
Company and location: Together We Rise, Butte, MT
Description: Intern to work on national campaigns to raise awareness about issues involving foster children.
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Internship Title: Social Worker/Therapist Internship
Company and location: Alternative Family Services, San Francisco, CA
Description: Conduct intake, assessments, and develop treatment plans for at-risk foster children.
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Internship Title: Educator Outreach/Social Media Internship
Company and location: Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation, San Francisco, CA
Description: Intern to assist, based on experience, in public education campaigns and communications about the JPEF’s mission.
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Internship Title: Project IMHOTEP Summer Research Internship Program
Company and location: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA
Description: Minority health internship lasts 11 weeks and covers topics including epidemiology, occupational safety and health, and biostatistics.
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Internship Title: MCHC/RISE-UP Program
Company and location: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA
Description: Kennedy Krieger Institute’s 10-week summer internship at the CDC lets students focus on clinical experiences, advocacy and community engagement, and directed research into public health disparities.
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Internship Title: Public health Leadership and Learning Undergraduate Student Success (PLLUSS) Program
Company and location: Multiple locations across the country.
Description: Kennedy Krieger Institute’s PLLUSS program is designed for undergraduate students who plan to go into public health research and leadership.
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Internship Title: Summer Editorial Internship
Company and location: Social Science Research Council, New York, NY
Description: Intern to assist the SSRC in its publications, website, blogs and newsfeeds.
More Info:

Internship Title: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Program and Policy Internship
Company and location: HHS Partnership Center, Washington, D.C.
Description: Internship provides hands-on experience working with the federal government in communications and delivery of the President’s initiative on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
More Info:
Apply: Mail resume and cover letter to

Internship Title: Future Public Health Leaders Program (FPHLP)
Company and location: University of Michigan School of Public Health, Ann Arbor, MI
Description: This 10-week summer residential internship provides opportunities for underrepresented undergraduates to explore public health careers, receive leadership training, and gain invaluable social agency work experience.
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Internship Title: Directors of Health Promotion and Education Internship
Company and location: Directors of Health Promotion and Education, Washington, D.C. Internships are arranged throughout the country.
Description: The 12-week internships are offered three times a year and give students at federally designated minority serving institutions an opportunity to gain real-time experience working at federal, state, and community based social service agencies.
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Careers in Health & Human Services

Health and human services professionals enjoy an exceptionally broad range of career options. Depending on education, specialization and experience, college graduates can choose among federal, state, regional and community social service positions or independent roles such as a counselor or consultant. Job titles include alcohol counselor, case worker, intake specialist, rehabilitation counselor, probation officer, family life educator, therapeutic assistant, residential treatment assistant, community advocate, and educator.

Graduates work in fields such as social services, mental health, employment, housing, public policy, child welfare, community intervention, recreation, youth leadership development, and gerontology. Federal opportunities exist with the more than 300 agencies that make up the U.S. Department Health and Human Services. These include:

  • Administration on Aging
  • Centers for Disease Control
  • Food and Drug Administration
  • Indian Health Services
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
  • National Institutes of Health

Here’s a sampling of career opportunities along with the degrees required for the public service role:

  • Social and human service assistants, associate’s degree
  • Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists, bachelor’s degree
  • Social workers, bachelor’s degree
  • Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists, master’s degree
  • Rehabilitation counselors, master’s degree
  • School and career counselors, master’s degree
  • Clinical social workers, master’s degree
  • Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors, master’s degree
  • College professor of counseling, psychology, social services, doctoral degree

Schools with Health and Human Services & Related Programs

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