Today there are 1,186 community colleges in the United States (American Association of Community Colleges, 2006) and at least 177 of them offer human services associate degrees (Petersons, n.d.) (see Appendix B for a list of colleges offering programs and geographic distribution). Educational programs in human services are broadly defined, however, because the field draws on the knowledge base of multiple disciplines from the social sciences, sciences, and humanities. Therefore, compiling a list of human services programs, degrees, and certificates is challenging.
Human services programs often have mental health, or family studies in the title in addition to or independently of human services. Further, human services degrees are also granted at the bachelor’s, master’s and even doctoral levels, yet little data exists to estimate more precisely the number of institutions and degrees granted annually. The National Organization for Human Services (n.d.-A) maintains that “the number of certificate, associate, baccalaureate and more recently graduate degrees in human services has grown to more than five hundred academic programs”. Other scholars (Brawley, 1981; Brawley & Schindler, 1972) report similar numbers of human services programs based on surveys of community college administrators.
In 1991, the Council for Standards in Human Service Education (CSHSE) compiled a national directory, which listed 614 human service programs. The directory was updated in 1999; this last edition of the directory lists 910 programs (Blair, 1999). A review of the hard copy of the directory obtained through CSHSE, indicates that a wide variety of programs are included. Further, the same institution was listed multiple times depending on the number and degree programs it offered. Thus, for example, the associate degree programs that contained “human services” in the title were 317. Forty-five programs granted an Associate in Social Work/ Welfare, and the remaining ranged from psychology to child and family studies to art and/ or music therapy. Certificate-only programs were offered in 20 academic institutions, and 17 programs were by a provider other than a community college, such as medical centers and local government agencies. The directory included 88 baccalaureate level programs containing “human services” in the name, as well as 20 master’s and 2 doctoral programs. Further, 120 programs were marked as offering baccalaureate or master’s degrees in majors that did not contain “human services” (Blair, 1999).
The above analysis of the CSHSE directory illustrates the methodological issues and difficulties in obtaining accurate data on the number of human services programs. Those difficulties were discussed with the President and Vice President for Accreditation of CSHSE in a conference call (John Heapes & Susan Kincaid, personal communication, June 19, 2006). One of the major issues CSHSE highlighted in identification of human services programs was the academic department/division under which the degree was offered as well as the variation in the names of the degrees. This confirmed the findings of the background search and analysis, and represents a major issue not only in establishing the number of programs and their geographic distribution, but also in determining the student and faculty profiles, number of degrees granted annually, and so on.
Traditionally, human services programs resulted in an associate degree, but today, programs are also offered at the baccalaureate and graduate levels. Associate degree programs are not necessarily housed in a human services or other particular academic division. They may be offered in departments of education, allied health, psychology, sociology or independently. They are not administered by a particular professional designation, and the faculty is drawn from a diversity of related disciplines. Similarly, there is no readily available statistic on the number of human services degrees granted in recent years. The Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics does not provide a detailed breakout of the numbers of degrees granted or full and part time students for each field and major. Moreover, since the human services associate degree programs may be housed under various departments, it is very difficult to make anything other than an estimate.
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