Overview of an Associate in Human Services
Human service degrees are all about one central thing: helping individuals improve their lives. Typically, this degree focuses on helping people find the resources and support they need to get a fresh start or simply maintain their lives. You can also use a human services degree to jump-start a career as an addiction or substance abuse counselor. Some social workers get their start in general human services careers.
A degree in human services will set the foundation for a rewarding career helping others. Your coursework will set the stage both for fantastic entry-level positions and for a bachelor’s degree if you choose that later. In fact, an associate's from a human services program can prepare you for many paths: psychology, sociology, social service or social work, mental health, substance abuse, etc.Read More
The degree can prepare human services students for work as case managers, counselors, services assistants, social workers, and a range of social and community mental health positions. You might even be able to attain a state license as a social work assistant, though you should check with your academic adviser to learn more about your state’s requirements for human services careers.
Though each human services associate degree program will have unique courses and specialties, you will be steeped in knowledge that you can apply to working with others. As such, you will likely be asked to do a lot of self-reflection during the course of your degree. You will also want to consider internships or other experiential learning courses.
A degree in human services has much to recommend it. The skills you will learn will help you land a job helping people through a non-profit or a government agency, but you’ll find that those skills are also applicable in other settings. Thus, your two-year degree is both specific enough to help you get to work immediately in your field, move into continuing education, and a good general background for a variety of other employment, should you decide on a career change or if you're want to explore a move into a leadership position.
The degree also benefits from the fact that it’s relatively quick to complete. After two years or less earning your diploma, you will be sending resumes to employers/organizations or applications to bachelor's degree programs. This field also lends itself to either online study or traditional classrooms, no matter which you are most interested in after finishing high school.
This degree may be enough to allow you to become a Human Services Board Certified Practitioner, which cah help you move your career forward.
While there are so many positive aspects of a human services associate degree, there are also drawbacks. One chief drawback is that many states won’t allow you to attain any sort of state licensure with only a two-year degree rather than a bachelor's degree. You may also find it difficult to find professional certifications to add to your degree.
On top of that, you will likely need a Bachelor of Arts (or Science) so that you can be promoted. While a two-year degree puts you virtually halfway to a BA, you will still need to rearrange your life for two or more years to finish your courses and move up.
Certificate vs. Associates
There are many programs these days that offer a certificate in human services. They also typically offer an associate degree. The chief advantage of a certificate is that you can often complete these programs in a year, sometimes faster. However, consider your long-term opportunities. That is, if you spend one additional year in school to attain an associate degree, you can complete most, if not all, of the core curriculum you will need for a baccalaureate degree. Once you have a degree, you will find that it’s easier to find a better job with higher pay.
What Human Services Associates Degrees are Available?
- Associate of Arts in Human Services
An AA in Human Services is generally aimed at topics such as policy, law, counseling, or other non-STEM courses. You can certainly launch a career with an AA degree and use it as a foundation for a BA as well.
- Associate of Science in Human Services
AS degrees don’t often differ much from AA degrees, especially in the field of human services. However, an AS degree could put more weight on statistics or other analytical metrics.
- Associate of Applied Arts in Human Services
An AAA is an arts degree that is designed specifically for preparing you to work in the human services field. Your transcript might not include all the purely academic courses a baccalaureate program would like to see. This is because applied degrees often rely more heavily on non-academic, occupational sources than texts and papers that have been peer-reviewed and/or written by degreed social scientists.
- Associate of Applied Sciences in Human Services
In terms of coursework and overall degree efficacy, your AAS degree might look almost identical to its arts equivalent. Your applied science courses are sure to focus more on occupational information. As such, you will receive great job training, but you may need to take more courses if you decide to apply for a BS degree.
To enter an associate degree program for human services, you will need to complete an application packet that includes your academic transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a personal essay that details your motivations and plans for the degree. For an associate-level degree you typically need a high school diploma, or the equivalent. Your letter of recommendation might come from an employer, a teacher, or some respected member of the community, but not a friend. If you have any experience working in human services, or even any related experience, you should be sure to include that in an essay or during an interview as well.
How long does it take to earn a Human Services Associates?
Most associate degrees are created with a two-year time frame in mind. However, some offer accelerated pathways to graduation that take 18 months. You should strive to meet at least the two-year time frame. The faster you complete your AA degree, the faster you can land a job in your field or begin considering the next chapter in your academic career.
In order to expedite your coursework, you should start off with a plan for how you intend to manage classes and your other obligations. This plan might involve a mixture of classroom and online classes, taking heavier loads of classes for some terms, and other strategies. You can also discuss your plans with an academic adviser.
Potential Careers in Human Services with an Associates
- Addiction Counselor
In this position, you will work with men and women who suffer from addiction. You might work in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility or in a stand-alone office where you see clients on an hourly basis. Depending on your state’s regulations, there may be an extended period in which you need to train and accrue supervised hours.
The average salary for this position is $40,000.
- Community Outreach Coordinator
With some managerial experience, you might work in outreach as a coordinator. This position frequently involves having a high profile in the community. You might serve as the primary contact person when designing a new program, and you might be listed on press releases in case reporters need to know more about your organization and its functions.
Community outreach coordinators earn an average yearly salary of $42,200.
- Social Worker
This occupational title covers a wide range of duties. You could work one-on-one with developmentally disabled people or in a group home for people who suffer with psychiatric disorders. There are also positions where your primary workplace will be in an office helping people access resources for themselves and their families.
The average salary for a social worker is $48,000.
- Case Manager
Your associate degree will be an immense help when applying for case manager positions. This job will ask you to work with certain populations as they strive to improve their lives. You might work with recovering addicts or alcoholics who may need help navigating various social services agencies or keeping an eye on low-income elderly people who may need assistance.
The annual salary for case managers is $41,400.
- Health Educators
Your work as a human services professional might involve teaching various populations how to improve and maintain their health. While educational duties might be only a part of your job, you might find that you do this full-time for older populations, for instance, who need assistance understanding and taking their medications.
The annual salary for professionals in this position is $46,200.
Options to Advance
If you wish to advance your career, you will need some mixture of experience and education. Once you complete your associate degree, seek the best possible job to suit your credentials and your long-term goals. It’s important to not only gain experience, but also experience that will help you advance later on.
You should also consider going on to complete a baccalaureate program. A four-year degree can qualify you for certain promotions and raises. This is especially true if you are working in the public sector (government). You might also consider a slight shift of focus to social work. If you have worked with your Human Services AA degree for a few years and love the work, a social work degree will more likely enable you to earn state licensure. However, many complete a BA in Human Services before applying for a Master of Social Work degree (MSW).
Best Associate of Science in Human Services Programs
East Hartford, CT
Goodwin College offers an associate degree program for budding human services professionals. Their program is designed to train you on the core competencies you will need for the duration of your career. You will need to stay on top of your courses, as you cannot graduate with a GPA below 2.3.
- Associate Degree in Human Services
- Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education
Columbia offers an Associate of Science degree that focuses on empirical, statistical data to inform your approach to the field. While you can pursue this degree online, Columbia also offers the degree through campuses in many different states.
- Associate of Science in Human Services
- Associate of Science in Nursing
North Central State College
North Central’s human services associate program is designed to launch your career. They have arrangements with over 40 baccalaureate programs who are ready to help you continue to a four-year degree. Additionally, they offer a route to become a state certified assistant social worker.
- Associate of Applied Science in Human Services
- Associate of Arts in Social Work
Seattle Central College
Seattle Central College offers a comprehensive human services degree that can launch your career into the helping profession of your choice. Their graduates pursue behavioral science, counseling, social policy, and more. Through SCC you can also become a chemical dependency specialist or earn a Certificate in Early Childhood and Family Studies.
- Associate Degree in Social and Human Services
- Bachelor of Applied Science in Applied Behavioral Science
Portland Community College
PCC is a fantastic community college that will help you get started in human services. Your instructors will bring a vast body of practical knowledge from their work in the field, on top of their academic achievements. Since PCC is in Oregon’s largest city, Portland, you are sure to find ample opportunity to work for a government agency or a non-profit organization who needs a fresh face.
- Associate of Applied Science: Family and Human Services
Traditional Schools Offering an AS in Human Services
Online – Owensboro, KY
Brescia University’s online human services program is geared towards preparing you for a challenging and deeply rewarding career. They focus on crisis counseling and interventions, case management, and information systems. Once you complete your degree you have the option of continuing on to work on a bachelor’s degree through one of Brescia’s related programs.
- Associate of Arts in Human Services
- Associate of Arts in Integrated Studies
Rasmussen acknowledges that it can be difficult for some students to complete their degree in a timely fashion. That’s why they have instituted an 18-month program for students seeking an associate degree in human services. If you wish to advance directly into your baccalaureate degree, you can complete that in another 18 months.
- Associate of Human Services
- Associates Degree in Healthcare
Washburn University’s online Associate of Arts in Human Services degree is designed to provide budding professionals with a background in humanities, natural science, and social science. This holistic approach will serve you well through your entry-level jobs, but also when you return for your baccalaureate degree later on.
- Associate of Arts in Human Services
University of the Cumberlands
The University of the Cumberlands has an online degree in human services that will help you launch a career in the helping professions. Their curriculum is broad-based and will allow you to learn exactly what you need to succeed. During your two years, you can study some or all of the following: sociology, helping skills, human behavior, group dynamics, and case management, among many others.
- Associates Degree in Human Services
- Associates Degree in Psychology
Bryant & Stratton College
Bryant and Stratton’s degree program for human and social services will prepare you to launch the career you want to launch. They focus on ethics and legal issues that will keep both you and your clients happy and safe. You will also find that your communication skills improve, and you’ll learn plenty about case management and crisis intervention.
- Associates Degree in Human and Social Services
- Associate of Applied Science in Occupational Therapy Assistant
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