Human Services Career Cluster Overview
The human services career cluster contains jobs that deal with families and human needs. Human services workers help people manage the many mental, emotional, and practical demands of everyday life, such as finding a home, securing child care, deciding on a career, or arranging funeral services for loved ones. They also help people deal with the unexpected, such as terminal illness, natural disasters, or addiction and recovery. Work in this area can also involve physical improvements and needs, such as helping someone achieve weight loss or providing massage therapy for health and relaxation. Regardless of the specific area in which they work, all human services share a genuine interest in helping people.
Human Services Career Pathways
There are five career pathways within the human services cluster: consumer services, counseling and mental health services, early childhood development and services, family and community services, and personal care services.
Consumer Services Career Path
People who work in consumer services assist people with decisions related to finance, real estate, insurance, and consumer goods. Whether they are selling a house or helping a customer track a missing order, consumer services workers must be quick thinkers and good communicators. They must be able to understand a client’s needs fully in order to provide the right kind of assistance or recommend the right product. Jobs in consumer services are among some of the most promising in today’s job market in terms of available positions. Examples of careers in this area include credit analysts, customer service representatives, financial planners, and real estate agents and brokers.
Counseling and Mental Health Services Career Path
Careers in this pathway involve helping individuals, couples, and families with their problems. This work can involve helping people find a job, deal with an addiction, learn to live with HIV or AIDS, or save a troubled marriage. Counselors in this area may also treat people with mental illnesses. Most of the careers in this pathway require a fair amount of training and education, and in most cases a master’s degree is required to work in the field. Examples of careers in counseling and mental health services include alcohol and drug abuse counselors, career counselors, HIV/AIDS counselors and case managers, and psychologists.
Early Childhood Development and Services Career Path
People who work in this area teach and care for children. These professionals work at day care centers, preschools, elementary schools, in private homes, and for before- and after-school programs. Although their exact job responsibilities vary, all early childhood development specialists are responsible for the well-being and education of the children in their care. Examples of careers in this area include child care workers, nannies, and preschool teachers.
Family and Community Services Career Path
Much of the work in this pathway is what is traditionally defined as social work, that is, providing help for those who are unable to help themselves. Family and community services workers help find shelter and work for the homeless, assist homebound individuals, provide relief and counseling for victims of natural disasters, and care for the elderly, among other things. Work in this field is expected to be plentiful in the coming years, especially in jobs that deal with the growing elderly population. Examples of family and community services careers include adult day care coordinators, geriatric social workers, rehabilitation counselors, and religious sisters and brothers.
Personal Care Services Career Path
Workers in this area help people improve their appearances by attending to their hair, skin, or nails; by helping people plan or execute an exercise regimen; or by providing therapeutic treatments such as massage. Also included in this pathway are funeral directors, who help families plan funeral services for departed loved ones and who prepare bodies for public viewing. Other careers in this area include cosmetologists, electrologists, massage therapists, nail technicians, and personal trainers.
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Exploring Human Services Careers
Volunteering your time at a social service center, day care, or nursing home is a great way to gain experience in the human services field. Your local YMCA/YWCA, parks department, or community center may also offer such opportunities. This sort of experience will help you develop the communication and leadership skills that human services work requires.
Most jobs in human services require formal training and a minimum of a high school diploma, although many require a bachelor or master’s degree, as well. Most types of therapists and counselors must also be registered to practice in the states in which they live. Most professionals in personal care services, such as barbers, massage therapists, and nail technicians, must also be licensed by the state after receiving formal training.
Human Services Careers Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts opportunities for social workers will grow faster than average through 2016. Competition for jobs in cities will be high due to the number of qualified candidates, but openings in rural areas may be easier to obtain. The steadily increasing elderly population will keep demand high for human services workers who specialize in helping senior citizens.
Most communities recognize the importance of social services. New social problems develop every day. Most social programs require government funding to continue operating, and bureaucracy and budget cuts can make it difficult to keep a social service running. New initiatives in job retraining and welfare reform could brighten prospects for social services workers, but much depends on government policies.
Opportunities for private social workers or social workers in the private sector are expected to grow. Substance abuse is one area identified by the BLS that will increase rapidly. Jobs for school social workers are also predicted to increase.
The U.S. Department of Labor projects average growth for all cosmetology and personal care services occupations through 2016. More people than ever are turning to spas and salons for personal improvement and relaxation. The popularity of these services will create many job openings over the next 10 years.