Skip to content Skip to Live Chat

What Is Health and Human Services?

Dec 15, 2022

Although it can be defined in varying ways, health and human services is the practice of helping others to evaluate their needs in order to provide the tools and resources needed to create a treatment plan and put the plan into action. Pursuing this degree enhances your understanding of the physical health, mental health, and social needs of the individuals, families, and communities served. Whether it’s providing therapy in a clinical setting, or developing treatment plans for people struggling through addiction, the range of professions within the health and human services is vast and rewarding.   

Students interested in a career focused on making a difference in the communities they serve may decide to pursue a degree in health and human services. A degree in this industry prepares you to provide valuable services in a variety of roles to help people of all ages and backgrounds as they navigate challenging circumstances in their lives.  Careers in this sector include jobs in the medical and mental health fields, counseling, addiction services, government, and social work.

A bachelor’s degree in health and human services offers a multidisciplinary academic view of fields related to health and human services, including psychology, criminal justice, social work, education, and management. Many public-facing federal, state, and community service organizations require a bachelor’s degree for graduates applying to roles in areas such as counseling, leadership, program development, social advocacy, and other key positions in health and human services.

Working in Health and Human Services

Jobs in health and human services can be a pathway to careers that are rewarding and fulfilling. The primary purpose of any job within this industry is to assist people to function effectively across various capacities.  Most positions have educational requirements candidates must meet, and many jobs may also require state licensure or certification. In order to work in the health and human services field, individuals must understand how human systems work together, including individuals, organizations, communities, and families. 

Professionals in health and human services find and implement solutions that benefit clients seeking assistance. To do so, they enact appropriate interventions based on the evaluation of the clients physical, mental, and emotional needs. Those who perform the work of a health and human services professional demonstrate strong organizational, communication, and leaderships skills, while showing compassion and empathy to their clients amid hardships. Common health and human services jobs include:

  • Nurses: The primary duties of a nurse are to recognize patients’ symptoms in a healthcare setting, take measures within their scope of practice to administer medications, provide additional measures to alleviate symptoms, and collaborate with other professionals to optimize patients’ comfort and families’ understanding and adaptation. 
  • Child Life Specialists: Child life specialists are healthcare professionals who help children and families navigate the process of illness, injury, disability, trauma, or hospitalization. They are an integral part of the health care team, as they provide additional support resources to children and families to help process the often-stressful situation of an illness or injury.
  • Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW): LCSWs are social workers who typically hold a master’s degree and have extensive professional training and expertise in mental health. LCSWs help assess, diagnose and provide treatment for emotional and behavioral issues. They provide psychotherapy, counseling, and talk therapy to clients. 
  • Psychologist: A psychologist is a trained mental health professional who helps their clients learn healthy ways of handling mental health challenges. They often work with people living with long-term mental health conditions as well as short-term situations such as grief or divorce.
  • Counselor: A counselor helps individuals, couples, or families overcome problems such as emotional disorders, mental disorders, or relationship issues. They help people understand their problems and move toward improvement and healing through counseling and other services.
  • Marriage and Family Therapist: Marriage and family therapists (MFTs) are mental health professionals trained in psychotherapy and family systems. They’re licensed to diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders within the context of marriages, couples, and family issues. 
  • Behavioral Management Aide: The primary focus of a behavioral management aide is on encouraging children's positive behaviors through a variety of tactics. Within a school setting, a behavioral management aide can help minimize classroom disruption, promote helpful study habits, and enable students to achieve higher test scores. In private practice, they may help children minimize or eliminate tantrums or violent behaviors.
  • Case Management Worker: Case managers work to facilitate patient care by assessing patient needs, evaluating treatment options, creating treatment plans, coordinating care, and gauging progress. Case management workers often work closely with physicians, social workers, families, and human services providers. The overall goal for case managers is to improve clinical outcomes, increase patient satisfaction, and promote cost effectiveness. 
  • Child Advocate: Child advocates protect and promote the rights of children and provide the resources and support needed for children and families during crisis. They perform a range of duties, including counseling services, consulting with other agencies and professionals, creating reports, and arranging support services such as treatment for substance abuse, parenting classes, and adequate child care. 
  • Community Economic Development Officer: The primary function of a community economic development officer is to achieve the objectives outlined in their community’s Economic Development Plan. They aid in the development of short and long-term economic development plans for the community and gather information for future planning. 
  • Community Outreach Worker: Within the context of human services, a community outreach worker is a member of a non-profit or governmental organization that engages with and educates the community about the organization and its goals. Acting as a liaison with community partners, a community outreach worker furthers the organization's goals for community and volunteer education. 
  • Crisis Intervention Counselor: A crisis intervention counselor works to support those who are in a state of acute mental health crisis often brought on by recent trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Helping the client navigate intense feelings, providing education on trauma/PTSD, and offering support and coping tools are all core responsibilities of crisis intervention counselors.

Education Requirements for Health and Human Services

In order to secure a job in the health and human services sector, a bachelor’s degree in health and human services or a similar field is required. For many of the job titles listed above, a bachelor’s degree will serve as a minimum educational requirement, while applicants looking for higher-level and managerial roles should consider applying for a master’s degree in health and human services to gain more in-depth skills and experience.  

 A B.S. in Health and Human Services equips you to advocate for patients and clients in a range of settings. It prepares you to drive change in various fields, including healthcare and government, while working to bring improvements to  your community. Students pursuing a bachelor’s degree learn the latest theories on value-based care systems, community and public health strategies, communication of health plan information to patients, promotion of client-centered holistic care, and strategies on how to be a change agent for integrated care management. 

 The B.S. in Health and Human Services offers the foundation needed to drive change in the field of healthcare as well as facilitate changes in your community. A master’s degree in health in human services also prepares students to work with nonprofit organizations and in higher-level capacities such as evaluating and overseeing programs or directly helping those in need. For working professionals looking to advance their skill set, or busy individuals interested in a new career, an on-line degree in this field is a cost-effective and convenient way to advance their goals. At WGU, students complete online courses designed with input and guidance from industry leaders and employers, and do so with the flexibility of learning from home while managing busy schedules and lives. 

 The field of health and human services offers opportunities for professionals to play an important role in a range of capacities in individual and family services, within government agencies such as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Medicaid, and in other government and healthcare settings. 

Best Paying Careers in Health and Human Services

Health and human services professionals can find exciting and fulfilling jobs in varying sectors, including pursuing their passion for helping others in local government, ambulatory healthcare services, state government (excluding education and hospitals), and individual and family services. 

Jobs in health and human services are not only rewarding but offers pathways to various career fields. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), social workers in the U.S. made an average of $50,390 per year. Salaries for workers in the lowest 10% earned less than $36,520, while the highest 10% of salaries were over $82,840. 

The median annual wages for social workers 2021 were: 

  • Social workers, all other: $61,190 
  • Healthcare social workers: $60,840 
  • Child, family, and school social workers: $49,150 
  • Mental health and substance abuse social workers: $49,130 

 Individuals with a health and human services degree can expect an optimistic career outlook and the ability to choose work within a range of positions — from administration work in research or health management systems to support services and care for children or the elderly. The BLS also projects employment growth in health and human services occupations to increase by 12% between 2020 and 2030, faster than the average for all occupations.  

How to Start Building a Career in Health and Human Services

As you consider a career in health and human services, begin by checking out some of the many specialty areas available, including those offered in the bachelor’s degree in health and human services at WGU. This program is a great starting point for students interested in learning about this vast career field and offers an overview of what is required to set you up for success.

An online degree in health and human services from WGU offers students the most relevant knowledge and skills needed to thrive in different environments and roles in this industry. Our programs are competency based, meaning that you can complete coursework and assessments whenever and wherever works best for you.  

Recommended Articles

Take a look at other articles from WGU. Our articles feature information on a wide variety of subjects, written with the help of subject matter experts and researchers who are well-versed in their industries. This allows us to provide articles with interesting, relevant, and accurate information.