Online Human Services Degrees by Degree Program Level

Dec 03, 2019

Essential Information

An online degree program in human services can help the graduate attain a number of different careers, including human services assistant and non-profit manager. Both bachelor's and master's programs in human services are fairly common in online formats, though in-person fieldwork experiences may be encouraged or required at some schools. Hybrid programs are also available. Concentrations are usually available as well, such as organizational communication or leadership.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), human services assistants typically do not need a degree, while social workers generally need a bachelor's or master's degree. Some states require professional licensing for social workers, so when choosing a degree program, consider your career goals and any licensing requirements that apply in your state.

Bachelor's Degree in Human Services

A Bachelor of Science degree in Human Services gives students a solid foundation of theoretical knowledge and practical skills necessary to start a career in the health care field. Human services assistants help improve quality of lifestyle for clients by providing services, such as securing clients' Medicare and food stamps, arranging transportation and offering emotional support. They most often work in rehabilitation programs, psychiatric hospitals, and outpatient clinics and are responsible for documenting case histories, assisting with and monitoring client progress, formulating treatment plans, and participating in interventions.

Program Information and Requirements

Students will typically devote four years to completing a bachelor's degree program. Online programs are available for students unable to relocate to attend courses in person. A computer and Internet access are needed for online portions of the courses. Students use a course management system and have access to online presentations. Communication is conducted via e-mail.

Course Topics

The curriculum is comprised of general education courses and introductory and advanced courses in the human services major. Courses cover relevant topics, such as effective patient communication, mental illness diagnosis, and the impact of technology on the health care industry.

Communications and the Human Services Professionals

Contemporary theories and practices of effective interpersonal and group communication are examined. Students study topics relevant to the human services professional, such as empathy interviewing, nonverbal communication, active listening, and presentation skills. Students also study how family, culture, and gender influence communication.

The United States Health Care System

Students get an overview of the foundations, historical origins, values and resources of organized health care in the United States. Different national health care systems are discussed in comparison. Students examine how legal, ethical, regulatory, and financial issues impact improvement in the health care system in the United States.

Human Services and Technology

Students study the impact technology has had on the health care industry. Topics of special interest include access, information privacy, security, professional ethics, legal issues, and client confidentiality. Practical and theoretical applications of technology in the health care industry are examined.

Master's Degree in Human Services

Graduates who hold a bachelor's degree in human services and aspire to supervisory and upper-level management positions in the health care industry will find a master's degree beneficial. A curriculum at the master's level is comprised of advanced courses and seminars that build upon practices and principles learned at the undergraduate level. The goal of a master's degree program is to give students advanced analytical, conceptual, and operational knowledge necessary for high-level jobs in the health care industry. Some degree programs offer specializations, such as drug and alcohol counseling and health services administration.

Program Information and Requirements

A master's degree program in human services typically takes two years. Students interested in distance learning can take advantage of programs offered online. Students need a computer and Internet access. Modern teaching technologies, such as a course management system and online presentations, are used in addition to traditional textbooks.

Course Topics

A master's curriculum in human services is designed to prepare students for employment in the health care industry. Students take advanced courses in human services related topics, such as dealing with diversity, the current state of the United States health care system, and stages of human development.

Health Care and Diversity

Students examine the impact of social, cultural, economic and religious differences from the point of view of the client and human services counselor. Development of advanced communicative skills and self-awareness in the counselor are encouraged. Classic and contemporary counseling theories are presented, with an emphasis on ethical and practical issues.

Stages of Human Development

Basic stages of human development in a multicultural context are examined. Students study developmental theories and transitions concerning the individual and family, learning and personality development, changing neurological behavior, the impact of trauma causing events, disability, theories of addiction, and resilience across the lifespan are all topics of interest.

Basics of Mental Illness Diagnosis

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) is introduced as a tool for diagnosing mental illness. The course examines various mental disorders associated with different stages of life from infancy through adulthood. Students practice diagnosis, case formulation, treatment planning, and continued care planning using the multiaxial model.

Career Information

A bachelor's degree is usually considered the minimum requirement for employment, although most experience is gained through extensive on-the-job training. A 2018 report by the BLS ( indicated that 29% of social and human service assistants were employed by family and individual services and that 13% growth in employment (much faster than the average for all occupations) is expected from 2018 to 2028. It is believed that the aging of the baby boomer generation will cause an increase in demand for qualified human service assistants. The BLS reported the median annual salary of social and human service assistants was $33,750 per year as of 2018.

Although the majority of knowledge is gained on the job, an advanced degree will give graduates better opportunity for higher level jobs, better pay and increased responsibility. Case management and social work often require formal education at the graduate level. The BLS projected job growth of 11% for social workers from 2018-2028. As of May 2018, the BLS reported, child, family and school social workers earned a median annual salary of $46,270, while healthcare social workers earned a median annual salary of $56,200.

Online human services degrees are offered at the bachelor's and master's levels, and typically lead to careers in social work or non-profits. Since licensure is a requirement for social workers in some states, consider the licensing requirements that apply in your state when weighing your program options.

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