When you consider the terms "human services administration" and "social work," you probably think of some similarities in terms of how both of these fields assist a variety of vulnerable individuals in need. However, there are some important differences to understand, especially if you're pursuing or hoping to advance your career through one of these paths to ensure you find a role that best fits your interests and goals.

An Overview of Human Services Administration

Human services administration – and the broader scope of human services in general – encompasses a large field of professionals whose primary goal is to help others help themselves. A variety of populations that need some type of help are at play, including children, the elderly, military veterans, the homeless, and drug and alcohol addicts. What separates human services from other disciplines is that professionals in this space generally don't have as much direct contact with the populations they serve. Instead, they are more involved in managing the operation of the business or performing case management functions. These duties may include assessing, planning, implementation, evaluation, follow-up, and termination, as well as researching and advocating to assist a greater number of individuals within specific groups on a more broad scale.

Opportunities in this field include roles within both the public and private sectors. Many professionals work at nonprofit and for-profit agencies, as well as at local, state, and federal government agencies. Some work within the criminal justice system, while others work in school systems or churches.

While a bachelor's degree in human services focuses more on a one-on-one role with the client, human services administration is less focused on this and instead is geared more toward overseeing those who can provide this one-on-one support. You could be a manager, director, or supervisor within an organization. Many organizations are now requiring staff to have a master's degree in order to get promoted to higher –level roles on the administrative side.

Saint Leo's human services administration graduate degree program is unique in that it provides full courses on the administrative and business side of starting and running a nonprofit within the human services realm. Specifically, one course delves into the ins-and-outs of creating a 501 c 3 organization, the IRS tax filings involved, and developing bylaws, articles of incorporation, and a board of directors. The program also includes a grantsmanship course that teaches students how to go about securing grants for a nonprofit.

A Closer Look at Social Work

Social work is a field in which professionals help individuals and groups at all levels. Clients can be all ages and from a number of backgrounds, including active-duty military members and veterans, the elderly, young children, spouses and parents, trauma victims, and substance abuse addicts.

Within social work, there are micro, mezzo, and macro levels. Working at the micro level involves one-on-one attention with individuals. With mezzo, groups of specific individuals are involved. With macro, professionals work with broader populations and help foster and strengthen relationships between larger groups, in addition to participating in advocacy work.

Students who earn an MSW can become a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), which is a nationally recognized license and allows professionals to bill insurance companies for their client care. You can also start your own social work practice or join another practice. The ability to bill insurance companies for services provided is a key differentiator for social workers compared to those in the administration arena of human services.

In terms of academics, students can attain a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) within four years, followed by a Master of Social Work (MSW) within just one additional year. So, graduates can earn both their bachelor's and master's degrees in a total of five years.

In both the undergraduate and graduate programs, the core curriculum traditionally begins with foundational studies, and then students transition into the clinical application of what they have learned. This allows them to ultimately make medical diagnoses. While social workers can provide a patient with a diagnosis, they cannot actually prescribe medication as a psychiatrist, medical doctor, or nurse practitioner would.

Saint Leo's MSW program curriculum uses a bio-psycho-social-spiritual approach when teaching students how to evaluate future clients. This means examining all aspects of an individual in terms of physical health, mental health those with whom the person socializes, what types of environments the individual is in, and other relevant factors.

Attaining an MSW degree can help individuals pursue positions that include:

  • Licensed clinical social worker (LCSW)
  • Clinical social work therapist
  • Marriage and family counselor
  • Military social worker
  • School social worker
  • Substance abuse social worker
  • Hospice counselor
  • Grief counselor
  • Director of public or private agency

Earning a Saint Leo Social Work Degree

Saint Leo University proudly offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees in these disciplines. These include a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW), a Master of Social Work (MSW), and a master's in human services administration. Each of these degrees can provide you with a solid career track in a rewarding field in which you can truly make a difference in the lives of others.