If you love working with people at all levels, consider a career in human services. Human services promotes positive change for individuals and communities through schools, healthcare facilities, and nonprofit organizations. As the American population increases, so does the demand for counselors and qualified human services specialists. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects community and social service occupations to grow much faster than average at 14% through 2026.
A master's in human services will prepare you to provide specialized services to vulnerable demographics, such as children and seniors, or to focus your interests on challenging sectors like mental health and wellness.
Choosing a Program
An online human services master's degree program will provide the same training as a traditional program. Students can tailor courses to fit their interests and choose a specialization within the human services studies. This is where various coursework, concentrations, and internship offerings come into play.
Most schools build their human services curricula around core topics, including social services, counseling, the healthcare system, organization management, legal and ethical standards, and community relations. Some programs also include a thesis. While course and thesis requirements develop the skills necessary for corresponding careers, a concentration -- such as child and family services, substance abuse, or gerontology -- help meet each student's individual needs. As many also require clinical or teaching experience, you'll need a program that can help you secure internships close to home.
For career information, skip down:
Online Master's in Human Services Degree Program Ranking Guidelines
We selected the degree programs based on the quality of program and range of courses provided, as well as school awards, rankings, and reputation.
The Best Online Master's in Human Services Programs
1University of Northwestern – St. Paul
St. Paul, Minnesota
Located in Minnesota, the University of Northwestern offers an MA in human services for students who want to expand their roles in the organized service sector. As a Christian university, UNW's program explores faith and biblical-life standards in relation to human service.
Students in the online master's in human services at UNW earn the degree at their own pace through the flexible online or blended format, the latter of which provides benefits of the online and on-campus classroom experience. The curriculum includes coursework in theories of human development, worldview leadership, and ethics and legal issues in human services. The program offers a concentration in family studies, which allows students to focus on serving and studying certain populations.
UNW's 36-credit MA in human services program leads to a non-licensure degree. Graduates often pursue careers in public health, law enforcement, education, ministry, behavioral health, and social and human services. Students planning to pursue positions that require licensure may need additional certifications, practicums, and education. Most students complete the program in 18 to 22 months.
Liberty is a private Christian college in Lynchburg, Virginia, and offers a fully online MA in human services counseling. Liberty has offered distance learning programs for more than 30 years.
Online courses run in eight-week sessions. Students are not required to log on at specific times, making the program convenient for students with personal or professional commitments.
The 30-credit online human services master's degree at Liberty offers a selection of 10 cognates, which are similar to specializations. Available cognates include marriage and family, executive leadership, and crisis response and trauma. Applicants should research their state's requirements for counseling licensure, as Liberty's program does not award licensure.
Applicants must have a bachelor's degree with a minimum 2.0 GPA. Liberty offers a generous transfer credit policy; transfer applicants should submit graduate credits at the time of application. Liberty allows students to dual enroll in both the BA and MA in human services programs.
Based in Boston, Massachusetts, NEU offers a fully online MS in human services program that accommodates the schedules of working professionals. Students can complete the online program on a full-time or part-time basis. The program includes no in-person requirements, but students collaborate and interact virtually with peers and instructors.
The curriculum comprises core classes, electives, and specialty area requirements. NEU's master's in human services offers specialty areas including leadership, global studies, and organizational communication. Students learn about state and federal human service policies and gain knowledge of leadership development and functions within human service groups. Students explore effective social programs, methods for developing community, and mental health and immigration issues.
NEU's programs adhere to a hands-on approach that emphasizes practical experience. Students in the online master's in human services program complete a capstone experience, which prepares students for careers in the field. The program requires 45 to 46 credits, which most full-time students complete in two years.
4University of Illinois at Springfield
UIS offers several online programs and degrees, including an MA in human services administration with available concentrations in social service administration, alcohol and substance abuse, child and family studies, and gerontology. The social service concentration is offered entirely online; all other concentrations are available in a hybrid format.
Required classes include social policy and human services, psychology of aging, and child abuse and neglect. The program requires 44 credit hours, including 24 hours of core classes and 20 hours of concentration classes. Full-time students who earn their master's degree in human services online typically graduate in two years. Part-time students complete the program in three to four years.
Both online and on-campus programs at UIS operate on a semester system. Early applicants receive preferential consideration. Applicants must have taken two prerequisite classes, such as human behavior, lifespan psychology, research methods, or statistics; those without completed prerequisites may be admitted on a conditional basis. Students must earn at least a B in their first eight hours before beginning graduate coursework.
5Saint Mary's University of Minnesota
Located in Winona, Saint Mary's University offers an MA in health and human services that prepares students for roles in healthcare and human service organizations. Graduates work in agencies, hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, nursing homes, and hospitals. The fully online human services master's degree program is ideal for working professionals and students with personal responsibilities.
The university provides each online student an iPad with the study platform preinstalled. Asynchronous coursework allows students to complete degree requirements at their convenience, and distance learners have opportunities to interact virtually with faculty and peers. The curriculum includes a capstone course and classes such as health sector leadership initiative and analysis. Full-time students complete the 40-credit degree in as few as 26 months.
Some program pathways involve additional requirements, such as a practicum. Saint Mary's University accepts applications on a rolling basis, and accepted students begin classes the next semester. Online students have access to an advisor, who ensures they are on track to graduate. St. Mary's University accepts up to six approved transfer credits.
6Concordia University, Nebraska
Concordia offers an option to help students earn their online human master's degree quickly; the MHS in human services leadership and management includes 12 courses, each lasting eight weeks. Students can complete the accelerated online program in one year.
Concordia's master's in human services is available in fully online and hybrid formats. Transfer students may bring up to 25% of required credits. Concordia offers free textbooks at its Lincoln campus and assists online students with obtaining textbooks before the first day of class.
During Concordia's Concierge Registration program, a group of enrollment experts helps students choose the right classes to meet degree requirements and determine whether Concordia's program fits their career objectives and licensing and certification requirements.
To speed the admissions process, Concordia requires no standardized test scores, such as GRE or GMAT scores. Applicants submit undergraduate transcripts, and Concordia covers the fees for obtaining official transcripts. Applicants also submit their resume and an essay describing their academic and career goals.
7Saint Joseph's College
Brooklyn, New York
Founded in New York in 1916, SJC offers an MS in human services leadership that is ideal for students with busy schedules. Courses are delivered asynchronously, so students can complete coursework at their convenience.
SJC students earning their master's in human services online apply classroom knowledge to the workplace and apply theory to practical experiences. The program provides a holistic education in leadership and human service organizations.
The fully online curriculum comprises 10 classes, each taught by a respected instructor. The research-driven curriculum covers topics such as political, social, financial, and regulatory conditions affecting human services. The program prepares students for service-based leadership careers.
Applicants must have a bachelor's degree with at least a 3.0 GPA and must submit a resume and official transcripts. Transfer students can bring up to six previous credits earned with a grade of C or better. Discounted tuition is available for military members.
Located in Lakeland, Florida, Southeastern offers an online MA in human services degree. As a Christian college, Southeastern applies a biblical worldview to human services. Coursework covers topics such as contemporary and historical issues in human services, legal and ethical issues in human services, and the integration of human services and theology. The program is nonclinical and does not award licensure.
Available concentrations include administrative, gerontology, emergency management, ministry, and children and family. The online master's in human services requires 36 credits and is offered in an accelerated format with eight-week classes. Full-time students complete the program in one year.
Applicants must have at least a 3.0 GPA, with some exceptions, and must submit GRE or GMAT scores, an essay detailing their reasons for pursuing a human services career, and three references from a personal, a professional, and an academic contact. Applicants must also submit to a background check.
New Castle, Delaware
Located in New Castle, Delaware, WilmU offers a convenient online program with a flexible study schedule. The online MS in administration of human services allows students to choose between semester or block program structures.
Students pursuing the degree on a 15-week semester structure take weekly classes, which last two to two and a half hours. Courses in the seven-week block structure attend weekly sessions of up to five hours. Students can accelerate their studies by taking two blocks at a time.
The 33-credit program teaches students to analyze legal and ethical issues affecting human services and provides knowledge of information management and information technology. Students develop the self-discipline and problem-solving skills necessary for any career in human services.
Students pursuing WilmU's master's degree in human services online communicate with faculty and peers through online discussions, chat rooms, and email. Applicants must submit undergraduate transcripts, and accepted students must complete a degree objective statement before finishing their fourth course.
Based in Nebraska, Bellevue offers an online MA in human services program designed for working professionals who want to advance their careers. Bellevue's human services master's degree program prepares students for administration and management positions with nonprofit organizations.
Online students have access to career services, including mock interviews and resume reviews. Military students receive discounted tuition and access to the Military Veteran Services Center, which is staffed with military members.
Students complete at least six hours of behavioral science prerequisites before beginning the 36 hours of major credits. The curriculum covers topics such as ethics for human services, social and cultural diversity, and community engagement. Graduates pursue careers as community and social service specialists, mental health and substance abuse counselors, social workers, and behavioral disorder counselors.
Applicants must have at least a 2.5 undergraduate GPA or a 3.0 graduate GPA. Applicants who hold a master's degree are not required to submit undergraduate transcripts. All applicants submit recommendation letters and a personal essay.
Online Master's in Human Services Careers
With an online master's in human services, you're qualified to pursue exceptional job opportunities in areas ranging from management to private practice. This rewarding field of highly educated candidates makes an advanced degree critical for even mid-level positions. A master's degree can guarantee higher earning potential and a greater scope for progression. When pursuing an advanced degree, consider career possibilities that might interest you most.
School and Career Counselor: While a school counselor helps students succeed academically, career counselors advise students on career choices. Both roles use assessments and interviews to help students overcome obstacles, develop skills, and reach goals. Nearly all states require school counselors to earn a master's degree, and some require that career counselors also obtain licensure.
- Median Annual Salary: $54,560
- Projected Growth Rate: 11%
Rehabilitation Counselor: This type of counselor works with individuals with disabilities, helping them overcome the challenges of living independently. The role involves evaluating each client's unique strengths and circumstances, developing treatment and career plans, and helping them obtain services. Some employers hire candidates with bachelor's degrees, but these workers cannot provide all the same services of a master's graduate. With licensure, master's graduates have a wider variety of job opportunities.
- Median Annual Salary: $34,670
- Projected Growth Rate: 10%
Marriage and Family Therapist: These therapists help people work through problems in their relationships. Marriage and family therapists work with clients to discuss issues, develop solutions, and maintain confidential files. This position requires both a master's degree and licensure. You must also complete post-degree clinical experience and continuing education classes.
- Median Annual Salary: $49,170
- Projected Growth Rate: 20%
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics