How do I Become a Human Services Specialist?

Ken Black
Ken Black
Businesswoman talking on a mobile phone
Businesswoman talking on a mobile phone

Those who want to become a human services specialist can start in high school to work toward that goal. Taking courses in human development, sociology and psychology will help those who are working toward this type of a degree in college. Getting a degree in social work, or a similar field such as psychology, can also help a student become a human services specialist. Once college is done, the choice then comes down to what area of social services a person wants to deal with.

Social services include many different types of individuals working across multiple fields. There are child protective workers, family development specialists, income maintenance caseworkers, various psychological services, and perhaps many different other fields, depending on the scope a state human services department may have. Each jurisdiction, or at least each state, may do things somewhat differently. In some cases, a graduate may not need to choose a specific career field before applying to become a human services specialist. That may come at a later time, after there has been time to explore multiple areas.

Understanding what is required in the job is important when deciding to become a human services specialist. Some people may find the job very stressful, as the decisions will often affect the safety and well being of children and adults. Sometimes, those decisions can cause a considerable amount of disagreement, much of which could be taken out on the social worker. Those who cannot deal with high amounts of stress may decide this career path is not for them.

The path taken to become a human services specialist begins, in earnest, during the student's college years. At this point, the student should be planning a degree path that is consistent with the skills needed to do well in this line of work. This will include taking as many basic psychology courses and sociology courses as possible. These lower level courses often fill up quickly, so registering as soon as possible is a good idea, especially at colleges where competition for classes can be fierce.

After taking these classes and moving on to the final two years of college, the student should begin to look for ways to get some practical experience. This will most likely come through job shadowing events and internships. These can be key times to develop contacts. Those who can do this may find they are well on their way to developing what is needed to become a human services specialist. Availability of internships is often announced by professors, or through an announcement board or Web site on campus.

Looking for jobs should begin long before graduation. It is at this time the student should be preparing resumes and checking with local agencies regarding the potential for openings. Often, it is possible to secure a job before graduation, especially if the job market is promising. Those who do not have jobs lined up by graduation should not be discouraged, but keep looking. Turnover, especially in some social work careers, can be quite high, always leading to more opportunities.

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