Differences Between Human Services and Social Work
While Social Work is one of the many fields that fall under the established
umbrella of Human Services, there are some distinct differences between the two. The
differentiation, between the field of Social Work and Human Services, revolves primarily
around academic focus and licensure. Social Work education focuses on the application
of theory and the development of counseling skills, whereas Human Services education
follows a community-based practitioner model.
While a license is not required upon completion of a Social Work program, it is
highly recommended, as many positions in the field require a master’s level
(independent or clinical) license. Each license requires additional coursework, liability
insurance, and approximately 500–2000 hours of post-graduation internship. After
obtaining these credentials and passing a Council for Social Work (CSWE) state
licensure exam, the social worker may practice and provide therapy independently.
Without these credentials, the student who obtained a bachelor or master’s degree
without a license may practice under the direct supervision of an independently licensed
Human services practitioners do not provide independent counseling, thus there
is no state licensure or insurance required. Although the Human Services-Board
Certified Practitioner (HS-BCP) exam and credential identifies those who have
graduated from an accredited Human Services Program and have obtained the
knowledge, skills and abilities to practice, it is not required to obtain most employment.
Beyond the credentialing and licensing requirements, the differences between a
social worker and a human services practitioner are fairly minimal. Both Social Work
and Human Services programs focus on working with individuals, community groups,
and families. Theory-based models of practice are learned in both programs, as well as
specialization opportunities in the areas of substance abuse, non-profit management,
youth development, etc.
For many individuals seeking to work in the helping professions, a licensure to
provide independent therapeutic services is not the career goal. These individuals wish
to create and provide case management services to a broad range of individuals in
community-based settings. Thus, the additional hours required for independent practice
are not necessary or required. As potential human services practitioners review their
career aspirations, many are recognizing that programs with an emphasis on fieldwork
and experience are more valuable to them in the long run.