Human Services Students' Preferences for Master's Level Training

By Dice, Tammi F.; Rehfuss, Mark C. | Journal of Human Services, Fall 2017 | Go to article overview

Human Services Students' Preferences for Master's Level Training


Dice, Tammi F., Rehfuss, Mark C., Journal of Human Services


Introduction

Many human services (HMSV) students close to graduation are not only seeking employment in the field but are also considering their future career paths and the training needed to reach their long-term professional goals. Traditionally, for many in human services, their educational training moved from a certificate, to an associate's degree, to a bachelor's degree (Neukrug, 2017). In recent years, training has expanded with colleges now offering master's and doctoral programs in HMSV. Human services career opportunities and education options have grown due in part to the profession's expanded viability. It has become solid enough, that recent research, has called for human services to establish its own code within the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (Sparkman-Key & Neukrug, 2016). The need for qualified human services professionals has developed in response to current challenges in the world, and each additional degree opens up new, meaningful opportunities for work that can engage them in different ways of helping others.

HMSV Degree Descriptions

At each degree level, human services professionals are prepared for different levels of service delivery. According to the Council for Standards in Human Service Education (CSHSE, 2013, a, b, c), those with associate's degrees are prepared to address the needs of individuals and groups through case management, intake interviews, counseling, use of resources and referrals, and consultation. HMSV students with associate's degrees may also seek further certifications, such as the Human Services Board Certified Practitioner credential or the Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor credential. Those at the bachelor's level meet all of the standards for the associate's degree, as well as obtain skills in program evaluation, systems theory, and advocacy. They also learn to take on administrative roles as human services professionals. Individuals pursuing master's degrees in human services meet all of the standards of the associate's and bachelor's degrees and are prepared to engage in human services research and evaluation. Doctoral degree programs prepare students to become human services educators.

Graduate Degree Programming

Logically, students seek graduate level training that will position them for better employment options and allow them to quickly advance in their chosen fields. Despite the expansion of the human services field, master's degree programs in other helping fields remain far more prevalent. Based on a web search, 36 master's programs and five doctoral programs in human services were found to exist in the U.S. at this time. There are no accredited human services master's or doctoral programs (CSHSE, 2017). Considering there are few graduate programs to choose from, and none are accredited, bachelor's level HMSV students may pursue master's degrees in social work or various counseling disciplines as opposed to human services graduate degrees, based on their greater availability. However, these related programs do offer HMSV students beneficial career opportunities. A master's in social work allows graduates to work with individuals, families, and groups to optimize their functioning and promote community health (National Association of Social Workers, 2017). There are several different master's in counseling programs that students may pursue. For example, clinical mental health counseling programs prepare skilled professionals eligible for licensure who provide therapy to individuals, groups, couples, and families (Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs [CACREP], 2015). Individuals with a master's degree in school counseling work with children and adolescents providing individual and group counseling in the school setting to promote academic achievement. A master's in college counseling allows graduates to work with students in higher education settings. Rehabilitation counselors are licensed professionals working with individuals who have social and vocational difficulties resulting from various disabilities. …

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