Human Services and Social Work

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

social worker.

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.


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