What can I do with a human services degree?

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Dear Psychologist,

What is the difference between earning a degree in human services and earning a degree in social work? Are these two degree programs the same? Will they allow me to do therapy like becoming a psychologist? I am sorting out what path I want to take. Thank you, Alicia

Dear Alicia,

If you are asking about the difference in a bachelor's degree, the study of human services and of social work is indeed quite similar. Many of the subjects studied can overlap, including sociology, ethics, and psychology. A human services major is likely to be a little broader and graduates might find entry-level jobs in a wide variety of areas including not only social work but childcare and the justice system. Social work graduates seeking jobs in their field more usually look at social service agencies. Both a human services bachelor's degree and a social work bachelor's degree are good preparation for taking a step to a master's degree in a related field .

Master's in social work

At the masters level, a social work degree (MSW) allows one to become licensed to practice therapy and counseling. This license would also make one reimbursable by insurance. The MSW degree is considered a solid and well-respected degree -- one that can give you options to be hired by mental health clinics and hospitals or to work in private practice.

A master's in human services is again a broader degree with many applications, but with it you would not be eligible to do therapy. All of these programs are available either at traditional campus-based colleges or in online schools.

Practicing therapy

How do you know if you want to practice therapy? Do you want to help people to examine their feelings, thoughts, behaviors, and life situations? Do you like listening and putting together what you have heard? Do you have an empathy and compassion for the plight of people who are struggling with emotional issues and psychological disturbances? A therapist can help people learn to cope with and resolve depression, trauma, anxiety and so on.

If you are wondering about the field of psychology, then a master's degree allows you to do some clinical work. However, the doctoral degree can qualify you to become a licensed psychologist in your state. This degree is as high as you can go in the field of therapy. You will have to study for at least four years in a doctoral program, complete a supervised internship that is approved by the American Psychological Association, and pass the state licensing exam. As a psychologist you can provide therapy, psychological testing, evaluations, and consultation. Your services should be covered by many insurance plans.

In the end, all the areas of study are about helping people. Which path you take depends on your goals and preferences for your career. Look inside yourself to what you want to do-- and what you are willing to invest in time, effort and money. I wish you luck on your career path.

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