Social Services Masters Degree Program Options

Apr 24, 2020

Essential Information

The Master of Arts in Human Services, Master of Public Administration and Master of Social Work programs provide varied studies in public communications, social service practices, counseling and evaluation and intervention strategies. Areas of concentration are offered in some programs, allowing students to focus on the topics that most interest them. In many cases, students can choose to conduct their studies on-campus, online or through a combination of both formats. Graduates can pursue administrative, counseling or academic careers.

Applicants to these programs must hold a bachelor's degree, preferably in social work. Other prerequisites may include GRE scores and a background in statistics, economics, research and lifetime development.

Master of Arts in Human Services

A typical M.A. in Human Services offers concentrations in some form of social services management and non-clinical counseling. A liberal arts foundation is essential for new students. Graduate students learn how multiple societal factors affect individuals and organizations.

A thesis or graduate project and internship are often structured into the master's curriculum. Topics of study include:

  • Evaluation techniques
  • Public policies affecting social services
  • Raising funds for nonprofit organizations
  • Organizational behavior
  • Ethics and legalities in social services

Master of Public Administration

Public administration concentrations are often available in expense control, global development, medical policies, education and nonprofit administration. Students gain the skills needed to manage organizations in not only public but also in private sectors. The Master of Public Administration program typically takes 2-3 years to complete.

A thesis or comprehensive exam must be completed before graduation. Topics of study throughout the program include the following:

  • Public communication techniques
  • Public administration finance
  • Community policies
  • Trends in civic administration
  • Public administration planning strategies

Master of Social Work

Students learn about social work through science-based theories and practice scenarios. Emphasis may be placed on underprivileged communities. Concentrations are typically available for students who wish to counsel or those who wish to manage. Programs may or may not lead to licensure.

Courses deal with social work situations and diverse populations. An internship or practicum is typically necessary. Class topics consist of:

  • Addictions abuse
  • Child mistreatment
  • Social work for schools
  • Intercession strategies
  • Methods of research

Popular Career Options

Human services master's degree holders can work for government agencies or in the nonprofit sector; specific opportunities may be found in schools, hospitals and mental health facilities. An individual with a graduate degree may find work as one of these:

  • Social services caseworker
  • Trade school counselor
  • Human services specialist
  • Community program administrator
  • Agency director

Public administration positions are available in health care facilities, government organizations and nonprofit agencies. A graduate program in public administration often prepares individuals for work as:

  • Grant writers
  • Account analysts
  • Social services development specialists
  • Hospital directors
  • Human resources managers

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Overall employment of social workers is expected to increase 11% from 2018 to 2028, notes the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS also indicates that in 2019, mental health and substance abuse social workers' earnings were a median of $46,650 annually.

Continuing Education

Individuals wishing to offer professional counseling services must become licensed by their state. Licensing exams are conducted through the Association of Social Work Boards ( Graduates of a master's program who have no counseling experience can take the Master's exam. Those with two years of postgraduate experience can take the Advanced Generalist exam for non-clinical social workers or the Clinical exam clinical counselors. Voluntary professional certifications are also available through the National Association of Social Workers (

Graduate students interested in social services can look for master's programs best suited to their focus in the field, with options including a Master of Arts in Human Services, a Master of Public Administration, and a Master of Social Work. These programs can prepare students for careers in counseling, human resources, and other areas of social work. Depending on career goals, graduates of these programs may also need to attain licensure before going into practice.

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