Human Resources vs. Human Services

While the two might sound similar, human resources and human services are two separate fields. Both careers involve working closely with people and require excellent communication skills, but there are key differences which we’ll cover below.

Whether you’re choosing a college major or considering a career change, a solid understanding of human resources versus human services will help you make an informed choice.

Human Resources

Human resources or “HR” professionals recruit and manage the personnel of an organization. Nearly every industry—from finance to marketing to hospitality—and every size and type of company employs human resources reps.

In the past, HR employees mostly dealt with payroll, benefits, safety training, and conflict resolution. Today, human resources plays a vital strategic role in the growth of a company, which makes it a very exciting field for the 21st century.

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Many companies are increasing the size of their HR departments and assigning a specialized role to every member of the team. Those specialized roles can include recruitment, data analytics, benefits administration, and more. No matter what the role is, the larger focus is always to maximize employee satisfaction and help the company achieve its business objectives.

Common Job Duties: Finding and hiring new employees to fill specific roles within the company, identifying and cultivating top in-house talent to advance into senior positions, fostering a safe workplace and developing a strong company culture, creating a company brand that will attract potential hires, and analyzing data to increase productivity.

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Important Skills/Qualities: Interpersonal communication, conflict resolution, team building, attention to detail.

Examples of Job Titles: Chief Human Resources Officer, Vice President of People & Culture, HR Manager, Talent Manager, Recruiter, Director of Human Resources

Education: Most HR professionals have an undergraduate or graduate degree in Business Administration with a Human Resource Management focus. This provides a solid foundation in business with an understanding of employment law.

Human Services

Human services is a much broader field—essentially, it involves providing assistance to improve people’s quality of life. Sometimes called social services or health & human services, the work always involves the well-being of others.

A wide variety of professions fall under the category of human services. It includes the fields of social work, counseling, rehabilitation, and therapy. Depending on the exact job, you may end up working for a government office, non-profit organization, hospital, social service agency, or rehabilitation facility.  

Common Job Duties: Because of the diversity of professions, specific job duties also vary widely. The common core of all human services careers is the desire to help others. The goal is to empower individuals and communities to navigate difficult situations and achieve a better quality of life.

Important Skills/Qualities: Empathy, active listening, problem solving, open-mindedness.

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Examples of Job Titles: Family Counselor, Group Therapist, Nutritionist, Home Care Aide, Mental Health Counselor, Social Worker, Probation and Parole Officer, Substance Abuse Counselor, Special Education Teacher, Development Director, School Guidance Counselor.

Education: Again, education varies depending on the desired career path. Popular degrees include: Psychology, Social Work, Public Health, Sociology, Criminal Justice, and Counseling.

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