Best Online Master's in Human Services Degrees

Apr 08, 2021

What Is an Online Master's in Human Services Degree?

Human services is a field of work that involves providing essential services to those in need, such as housing assistance, counseling, job resources, and more. An example of a career in human services would be a social worker career. A Master of Arts (MA) or a Master of Science (MS) in human services prepares graduates to provide these services at the individual and organizational levels. Depending on the path they choose, graduates are qualified to work with people who utilize these services, advocate for these services, and work at organizations that are responsible for designing and implementing these services. Most of the coursework in human services degree programs can be done online, but an in-person internship is usually encouraged.

The Best Online Masters Degree Programs in Human Services

1. University of Illinois at Springfield

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$11206 77% 54% 96% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

2. University of North Georgia

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$6016 81% 38% 88% Yes Yes AP Credits

3. University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$9027 76% 61% 75% Yes Yes AP Credits

4. Concordia University-Saint Paul

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$8550 98% 51% 98% Yes Yes AP / ACE Credits

5. Lubbock Christian University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$8424 91% 50% 99% Yes Yes AP Credits

6. Saint Leo University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$7296 72% 49% 100% Yes Yes AP / ACE / NCCRS Credits

To get a more in-depth look at our school ranking methodology, please visit Study.com's ranking methodology page.

Tuition information is based on published tuition and required fees, per data by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

Why Should I Get an Online Human Services Master's Degree?

An online master's degree in human services is a great option for those who want to enter more advanced positions in the field. These degree programs are designed to train students for leadership and organizational roles in advocacy and community-centered positions. Additionally, a master's degree may be needed to fulfill certification requirements, especially if you want to advance your career or provide certain services. Lastly, online degrees provide a flexible option for pursuing higher education if you have other commitments that keep you too busy to pursue a degree the traditional way.

How Long Does It Take to Earn an Online Master's in Human Services?

The format of online human services master's degree programs can differ by school. The programs are not limited to having to meet in a physical classroom at a set time, so they don't always have to follow the traditional academic calendar. Some programs have courses that last only 10 weeks. Academic credit can be a better way to measure degree completion. Every degree program requires a certain amount of credits to graduate, with each course you take being worth a number of credits. For example, a program requires 45 credits to graduate, and each course is worth 5 credits. Master's degree programs require around 36-45 credits to graduate and can take up to 2 years to complete.

Curriculum for Online Master's Degree Programs in Human Services

Free human services courses can provide general knowledge about the field, but the curriculum in a master's degree program usually goes more in-depth and prepares students for a range of professional careers. Each program has a general curriculum that covers core concepts and topics in human services, such as advocacy and ethics. Additionally, many programs have concentration options where students can choose to learn about topics that interest them and align with their specific career goals, such as working with families or being a part of organizations.

Human Services Foundational Courses

Human services foundational courses give a broad yet robust view of the human services field, and students could learn skills that can translate to any division of work they pursue. The curriculum may start with a general course that covers a wide array of topics in the field, as well as discussion of where the human services field is headed. The curriculum may then move on to courses that teach more specific topics and skills such as working with diverse populations, interviewing and assessing clients, and ethics within the field. Many programs encourage an internship as part of the foundational curriculum and a capstone project or course is usually required. Examples of foundational courses can include:

  • Professional ethics
  • Research, analysis, and interviewing techniques
  • Human diversity and multiculturalism
  • Human services skills and practice

Human Services Specialist and Elective Courses

At least one or two human services concentrations are available in most programs, and that is where the bulk of specialist and elective courses are. Common concentration options include leadership and organizational management and social/family and community services. Depending on the concentration, students learn skills for advocacy, leading teams, designing policies, and helping children and families. A general concentration is also usually available, and students may learn skills in trauma and crisis intervention, funding for nonprofits, research, and grant writing. A few examples of common specialist and elective courses include:

  • Program development and administration
  • Social change
  • Nonprofit leadership and management
  • Delivering family services
  • Crisis, trauma, and disaster response
  • Research, funding, and grant writing

Licensure and Certification in Human Services

Pursuing a career in human services profession can involve different certifications depending on what direction you take your career in. Those who pursue non-clinical social work usually must be licensed or certified in their state, but requirements vary.

For other positions, such as social and community service managers, certification is voluntary but beneficial. The Center for Credentialing and Education (CCE) offers the Human Services-Board Certified Practitioner certification. This certification is open to anyone who works in the human services field. Applicants must have accrued a certain amount of post-graduate human services work experience and have at least an associate degree in human services or another related field, such as social work, mental health counseling, or psychology. The passing of an exam is also required.

Admissions Requirements for Online Human Services Master's Programs

The admissions requirements for online human services master's degree programs vary by school. While every master's program requires a bachelor's degree for entry, many online human services master's degree programs do not require a bachelor's degree in a specific area related to the field of human services, as long as a minimum GPA has been maintained. Other graduate human services admissions requirements can include:

  • Official transcripts from any bachelor's and/or master's programs
  • 2.5 GPA or higher on a 4.0 scale for an undergraduate degree, 3.0 for a graduate degree
  • Letters of recommendation or references from at least 2 academic or professional contacts

Choosing an Online Human Services Master's Program

With the field of human services being full of several career possibilities, choosing a program that benefits your professional goals as well as your academic goals is important. To find suitable programs, you can use the National Center for Education Statistics College Navigator. This research tool can help you find schools by location, learning options (distance, on-campus, part-time, etc.), and available programs. Helpful statistics like tuition and graduation rates are also available.

When choosing a human services program, think about the degree options that are offered. If you want to work in a specific field, such as administration, advocacy, or work directly with clients to provide services, does the program offer a related concentration or electives? You may want to consider other information such as available clubs, university and department scholarships, and graduate resources. All of this information can be found on a school's website, but if you have specific questions, you can contact an enrollment or academic advisor from the school.

What Can I Do with a Human Services Master's Degree?

While the careers a bachelor's in human services can prepare you for are mostly entry-level, a master's degree in human services can prepare you to take on more administrative, managerial, and leadership-oriented roles. You may be able to take a more active position in designing and implementing policy, advocating for social change, or managing the employees at a human services organization. Many types of positions are available in agencies, government, and nonprofit organizations. A few can include:

  • Human services administrator
  • Community and social service specialist
  • Social and community service manager
  • Medical and health service manager
  • Program director
  • Agency coordinator

Job Outlook for a Master's in Human Services

Since there are many possible careers with a master's degree in human services, it's difficult to determine the job outlook for the industry overall. However, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for social workers, counselors, community and social service specialists, and social and community service managers is very positive.

Social workers have a job outlook of 13% from 2019-2029 while counselors, social workers, and other community and social service specialists have a job outlook of 14% for the same time frame. Employment varies by specialization, with healthcare, child, family, and school social workers having the highest outlook.

Social and community service managers have a job outlook of 17% from 2019-2029. Industries that serve older adults, such as those that provide adult daycare, are expected to increase the most.

How to Become a Social Worker

Social workers help people with everyday life problems such as finding a job, securing housing, paying for necessities like food and utilities, and much more. Social workers can work with many populations, such as the elderly or children, and use their skills for a lot of different areas of social work, such as clinical, school, healthcare, and child and family social work. Their typical job duties may include identifying people in need of help, assessing their situations and needs, responding to crisis situations, and referring clients to resources that can help them reestablish themselves. Some responsibilities depend on the type of work a social worker does. For example, a clinical social worker may provide mental health counseling, or a school social worker may report to parents, teachers, or a school board.

Becoming a social worker starts by earning a bachelor's degree in social work and a master's degree in social work if you wish to provide counseling services. A social work degree is not always required for this career. Other degrees that qualify for a career in social work include sociology, human services, and psychology. Clinical social workers must be licensed in order to provide counseling services, and depending on the state, nonclinical social workers may need to be licensed as well, but this varies. The BLS states that social workers have an annual median wage of $50,470 as of 2019.

How to Become a Social and Community Service Manager

Social and community service managers are in charge of organizations and programs that provide services to the public, such as hunger relief or substance abuse counseling. These managers are responsible for running the programs and managing employees who work there, usually social workers. Depending on the size of the organization, these managers may be in charge of one program or take on a number of responsibilities. They must also prove that the services they are providing are working for the communities they serve, usually by gathering data and statistics and presenting it to administrative members. A few job duties include planning and implementing programs, suggesting improvements, planning and managing outreach activities, and writing funding proposals.

Social and community service managers need at least a bachelor's degree in social work, human services, public or business administration, or a related field, and significant relevant work experience. Many start out as social workers or substance abuse counselors. There's no required licensure or certifications, but a social and community service manager may want to get the Human Services-Board Certified Practitioner certification by the CCE to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in helping communities. The BLS states that social and community service managers made an annual median wage of $67,150 as of 2019.

Human Services Professional Organizations

Professional organizations exist to develop the fields that they are involved in. Different organizations have different objectives, but they mostly stick to ones such as maintaining academic and professional standards, advocating for the fields and any members or individuals the field serves, and providing resources to students, educators, and professionals in the fields.

The National Organization for Human Services (NOHS) is the most recognized human services organization in the United States. It is a nonprofit organization that represents and advocates for human services professionals and students, and works to strengthen the individuals and communities that its members serve. Membership benefits include professional development resources, access to journals, publications, and an educator resource library, opportunities to network with other human services professionals, and eligibility for member-only scholarships, awards, and grants. Members can also publish their work, speak at conferences, volunteer for national organizations, and collaborate with regional chapters.

The American Public Human Services Association represents the state and local leaderships of human services agencies. Through its membership, the organization fosters connections with policymakers and other leaders to improve outcomes for those who need human service professionals. There are several types of memberships in order to benefit specific individuals and groups. These include state agency membership for administering services at the state level, individual membership for human services professionals not associated with any agency, and strategic research and evidence partners, a partnership that brings evidence-based research into the discussion of new health and human services policies.

Common Undergraduate Degrees for Human Services

While there are no specific undergraduate degree requirements for a human services master's degree program, there are several bachelor's degrees that can prepare one for entry. A few include human services, social work, and psychology. While a bachelor's degree in human services is the most direct option, a degree in social work or psychology can work too because of these programs' similarity in subject matter, most notably in understanding human behavior, working with communities in need, and advocating for awareness.

Post-Graduate Options After Completing a Master's in Human Services

After completing a master's degree in human services, you can pursue a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Human Services. Doctoral degrees in human services prepare students for top positions in government and nongovernment agencies and organizations, as well as for research and academic positions. Students may be able to choose a concentration based on the type of work they want to do, such as child and family advocacy, mental health administration, or nonprofit management. PhD programs typically require about 60 credits and may last from 4-5 years. Students are required to write a research dissertation and/or complete a capstone project.

Financial Aid, Scholarships and Grants for Online Master's in Human Services Programs

Taking the steps to pay for college starts with filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This form uses financial information such as your household's income, taxes, and other information to determine what types of federal aid you qualify for. Common federal aid includes grants and loans. A few criteria for the FAFSA form include good academic standing, enrollment in an accredited postsecondary institution, and a valid social security number.

Aside from federal aid, there are many scholarships available. Scholarships can have as much or as little criteria as needed, from majoring in a specific field to attending a certain college. Scholarships are most commonly given by organizations and universities. A few include:

  • The David C. Maloney Scholarship, offered by the NOHS, is open to students currently enrolled in a human services program that demonstrate high academic achievement. A 500-word essay, letters of recommendation, and student membership in the NOHS are required, among other criteria.
  • The American Association on Health and Disability offers the AAHD Frederick J. Krause Scholarship on Health and Disability. Open to undergraduate and graduate students with a documented disability who are pursuing degrees that will make an impact on the quality of life for disabled persons, including but not limited to public health, disability studies, or a field related to disability and health. Up to $1,000 is awarded.
  • Also offered by the NOHS is the Harold McPheeters Scholarship for undergraduate and graduate human services students who are students members of the NOHS, have demonstrated work in human services, such as volunteer work, and have a minimum 2.8 GPA.
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