“The master’s degree is the new bachelor’s degree” is a phrase you’re probably all too familiar with if you’re exploring career options in the human services field. Until fairly recently, having a bachelor’s degree on your resume carried a good deal of weight and qualified you for some of the most desirable positions. If it feels to you like today’s job market is twice as competitive and you need an advanced degree to get your foot in the door — you’re right.
Student loan company Sallie Mae and market research firm Ipsos performed a telephone survey of students in 2017 and found that two-thirds believed a graduate degree was mandatory for professional advancement. As the American labor market becomes populated by more highly educated candidates, employers are able to fill even mid-level positions with those who have advanced degrees.
Earning an advanced degree in human services makes you extremely competitive in today’s job market. Because this field has excellent growth potential, especially in some sub-sectors that enjoy a growth rate twice that of the average, pursuing an M.S. can accelerate your advancement and give you access to a huge variety of rewarding career choices.
A master’s degree in counseling and human services also puts you in line for a higher salary than similar candidates who hold only a bachelor’s degree. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data for 2013, selected health care and social service occupations in which workers with a master’s degree earned a premium over workers with a bachelor’s degree include:
- Social and community service managers with a master’s degree earned a median wage $15,000 higher than those with a bachelor’s degree ($65,000 vs. $50,000).
- Social workers with master’s degrees enjoyed a median wage $10,000 higher than those with a bachelor’s degree ($50,000 vs. $40,000).
- Medical and health services managers with a master’s degree have an increased earning power that resulted in a $20,000 higher median wage in 2013 ($90,000 vs. $70,000) over those with bachelor’s degrees.
Fastest Growing Sectors in Human Services
Your Master of Science in Counseling and Human Services provides you with tremendous career latitude. There are a vast number of potential occupations under the human services umbrella, making it easy for you to line up your passion for improving lives with a career that lets you change the world for the better, one person at a time.
Some areas of human services are experiencing above-average growth rates as the demand for highly skilled professionals continues to increase. Let’s review some of the ways you might put your degree to excellent use in coming years.
If you love to lead others, a managerial role in the human services field is your ticket to fulfillment. According to the BLS, employment of Social and Community Service Managers is projected to grow 18 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations. This growth is attributed to increases in the elderly population and increases in demand for substance abuse treatment and mental health and health-related services. The median annual wage in 2016 was $64,680.
Community and Social Service Occupations Employment of community and social service occupations is projected to grow 14 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations, adding about 371,900 jobs, reports the BLS. The median annual wage for community and social service occupations was $42,990 in May 2016, which was higher than the median annual wage for all occupations of $37,040. Some of the fastest-growing areas of need include:
- Marriage and family therapists: Employment is projected to grow 23 percent from 2016 to 2026 due to the increasing use of integrated care. The median salary in 2016 was $49,170 per year.
- School and career counselors: Employment is projected to grow 13 percent from 2016 to 2026 due to increasing school enrollments. The median annual wage in 2016 was $54,560
A couple more areas that will be especially important in coming years include:
1) Licensed Addiction (or Substance Abuse) Counselor (LAC):
Advocacy and public awareness for substance abuse and addiction issues have created a need for more human services in these areas. In addition, courts frequently recommend treatment over prison time. Professionals in this field earned an average salary of $42,150 in 2016, per the BLS.
2) Licensed Professional (or Mental Health) Counselor (LPC)
These counselors evaluate client mental and physical health, providing treatments to help modify behavior and give patients strategies for coping, similar to an addiction counselor. The national average for a LPC is $65,041.
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Public Health Educator
If you’re passionate about improving the health of individuals and communities, a career as a public health educator is a fulfilling choice. The BLS predicts that overall employment of health educators and community health workers will grow 16 percent from 2016 to 2026. “Growth will be driven by efforts to improve health outcomes and to reduce healthcare costs by teaching people healthy behaviors and explaining how to use available healthcare services.”
In this capacity, you teach people about behaviors that promote wellness by translating your extensive knowledge of public health issues into highly effective education campaigns. You might specialize in physical, emotional, environmental, or spiritual health issues. Your goal is to help the public take on new behaviors that will help them to restore, promote, and maintain optimal health in these areas. This role involves a good deal of assessment, designing and implementing programs and interventions, and measuring outcomes. The median annual wage for health educators was $53,070 in 2016.
Nonprofit organizations offer a wide variety of positions for human services graduates with compensation that is typically comparable with that found in private sector, for-profit companies. Additionally, A BLS study published in 2016 found: “Employees at nonprofits are more likely than workers at for-profits to be offered benefits. Eighty-one percent of all workers at nonprofit establishments are offered medical plans by their employers, compared with 67 percent of workers at for-profit establishments.”
If management is your passion, PayScale reports that as of 2018, annual salaries for Executive Directors of nonprofits average about $73,000. Program Coordinators average approximately $43,000. If you’re a talented and meticulous writer and an excellent researcher who wants to put your skills to use in finding funding to support a nonprofit, consider becoming a grant writer. PayScale explains: “For many nonprofits, grants from various foundations and other funding organizations are their life’s blood and primary funding mechanism. While individual donors at times can make substantial contributions to a nonprofit’s working capital, it is the work of the grant writer that provides the largest, most consistent blocks of funding for the nonprofit.”
The earning potential for a grant writer will vary significantly based on geographical region, but Salary.Com reports “The median annual Grants/Proposal Writer salary is $67,034, as of 2018, with a range usually between $60,078-$75,304.”
You’ll find human services positions within the justice system at the state and federal levels as well as regionally and locally. Potential career choices include probation officers, caseworkers, juvenile detention workers, and juvenile court liaisons. People who work in these capacities help ensure that the court cases of law offenders are handled properly with a high degree of ethics and also play a role in intervention and rehabilitation to prevent or reduce recidivism.
If you’re able to handle a good amount of stress and thrive on a challenge, a career as a probation officer or correctional treatment specialist puts you in direct contact with probationers and parolees. Jobs are found both in the field, sometimes in high-crime areas where parolees live, as well as in institutions where offenders are in custody. The median annual wage for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists was $50,160 in 2016. The BLS projects the growth rate to be 6 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations, noting: “Job openings should remain plentiful because many people leave the occupation each year.”
Unlimited Ways to Serve Others
Although we’ve looked at some of the most common and rapidly growing positions in the human services field, the list of possible career choices is wide open. Public Health Online states, “There are numerous jobs in the field that branch out from these and in some cases, they might not be what one would consider a ‘typical’ job in health and human services.”
Human services benefits everyone in a community in one way or another, but the overriding goal is to provide extra attention and services to those who need extra help. Some areas of specialization that might be especially gratifying could include working with:
- Returning soldiers and veterans
- Teen parents
- Immigrants and refugees
- First Nations and Tribal groups
- Homeless populations
- Faith-based services and initiatives
- People grieving a loss in need of bereavement counseling
- Family violence victims and offenders
- Hospice patients and their families
As our social climate becomes increasingly complex and diverse, professionals who possess the cultural sensitivity and empathy required to serve these populations will be very much in demand. Do you think you have what it takes to help others in an effective and highly empathic way?
Post University offers a 100 percent online Master of Science in Counseling and Human Services program to help you fulfill your potential in this vital field. We provide a practical and meaningful learning experience through an engaging online community that encourages critical thinking and real-world application of theory. Each course is taught by a professional faculty member, who brings years of expertise and leadership in the human services field into the virtual classroom.