May 13, 2016  |  Juliet Bradley, Faculty, Human Services Department

7 Myths and Misconceptions About the Human Services Field

Human services is a rewarding career field that many individuals find very satisfying. There are, however, some myths and misconceptions related to this helping profession. 

Below are seven myths and misconceptions about the field of human services and the truths related to them.

Myth/Misconception: Human service professionals only work in direct care positions with individuals.

Truth: Human service professionals may work directly with individuals. However, there are other opportunities in the field as well that may not include direct work with individuals. Some examples of these types of opportunities may be advocacy, fundraising, and developing interventions for community members.

Advocacy is an important component of the field of human services, as it allows professionals to promote a cause and approach a problem that is impacting others in a different way. Human service professionals may involve the government, businesses, or schools in their advocacy efforts.

Fundraising may also be an aspect of the field of human services that does not include direct work with clients, but benefits them in an important way. Fundraising may consist of human service professionals developing different events to raise money from individuals and organizations to benefit an agency. It may also consist of submitting grant proposals to foundations, businesses, or the government to raise money for an organization.

Developing interventions for communities is also important work that a human service professional may complete. This type of work would include identifying the problems in a particular community by getting input from community members and professionals, and then developing appropriate interventions to address the issues that were identified.

Myth/Misconception: Employers in the human services field are only interested in hiring candidates with paid work experience related to the field.

Truth: Including volunteer experience related to the field of human services on a resume may be beneficial and appeal to employers. Volunteer work can be especially useful if you are making a career change to the field of human services from another type of work. Volunteer work can help employers see that you are committed to working in a new field and making a career change.

Becoming a volunteer can help individuals develop many important skills that will benefit them in the workplace, including effective communication and leadership. Despite the fact that volunteer work is not paid, it can still provide an individual with valuable experience that employers may view in a positive light.

Myth/Misconception: All of the individuals that you work with in the field of human services will be interested in receiving your assistance and will work hard to make changes in their lives.

Truth: Many individuals will benefit from the services that you provide them, and will make positive changes in their lives. However, there are times when individuals will be required to seek services from a human service professional for different reasons, and may be resistant to assistance. There may be other individuals that seek services voluntarily but are not ready to make changes in their lives.

Despite any potential resistance, it is still important to build trust and respect with the individuals that seek assistance. Sometimes individuals who come to trust a human service professional may overcome their initial resistance and begin to make changes in their lives.

Myth/Misconception: Human service professionals only work in nonprofit organizations.

Truth: Many human service professionals work for nonprofit organizations. However, human service professionals can be employed in many other types of settings as well, including hospitals, schools, juvenile justice facilities, and nursing homes.

There are many different job titles that human service professionals may hold, both in nonprofit organizations and other settings. Some of these job titles include Case Worker, Probation Officer, and Residential Manager.

Myth/Misconception: You can only get a job in the field of human services with an advanced graduate degree.

Truth: There are many opportunities in the field of human services with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. The types of opportunities that are available will depend on the organization and the state where an individual lives.

Some of the examples of the type of work that individuals with an associate’s degree may do include entry-level duties such as interviewing clients to determine their needs and helping them access the resources that would be beneficial to them.

Individuals with a bachelor’s degree may also help individuals access resources that they need, and in addition they may do job training, provide clients with emotional support, and manage numerous client files.

Myth/Misconception: Human service professionals will never experience job burnout working with clients as long as they are passionate about their work.

Truth: Job burnout among human service professionals can occur even if someone is passionate about working in the field. Individuals working in helping professions may be even more prone to experiencing job burnout than those working in other fields. People may experience job burnout for many different reasons, including having unclear expectations, having a work-life imbalance, and feeling a lack of control due to factors such as the absence of appropriate resources to complete one’s job duties.

There are numerous ramifications of experiencing job burnout, including excess stress, depression, and anxiety. In order to avoid job burnout, or lessen the possibility of it occurring when working in the field of human services, it is important to employ self-care techniques. Some self-care techniques include eating a nutritious diet, exercising, getting support from others, and engaging in hobbies and activities that are enjoyable.

Myth/Misconception: Human service professionals only work with children from dysfunctional families.

Truth: Human service professionals work with a wide range of different types of individuals. They work with children from dysfunctional families, but also other children as well. They may work with children with developmental disabilities, or juveniles involved with the court system.

In addition to working with children, human service professionals may also assist individuals who are homeless, those with mental health issues, individuals with a history of substance abuse, and the elderly. The elderly population is expected to expand greatly in upcoming years, which may increase demand for individuals in helping professions, such as human services. Overall, human service professionals work with many different types of individuals in need of assistance in an effort to help them improve their quality of life.

About the Author

Juliet Bradley, Faculty, Human Services Department

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