The Best Online Master’s in Human Services Programs
| TBS Staff
Are you ready to discover your college program?
An online master’s in human services prepares graduates for careers in mental health counseling, public health education, or public policy. These professionals manage case workers in government agencies and campaign for public health and welfare concerns in nonprofit organizations. They may also counsel individuals struggling with substance abuse.
These growing fields offer ample employment opportunities. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an 18% growth in social and community service manager jobs from 2016 to 2026, thanks to an aging population that needs more social services. A recent shift in correctional policy to provide rehabilitation and treatment opportunities to drug offenders may also contribute to the projected increase in human services jobs.
The focus on integrated and collaborative care will also drive growth in employment for marriage and family therapists, which the BLS projects will increase by 23% between 2016 and 2026; rehabilitation counselors, who should experience a 13% occupational growth in that time; and medical and health services managers, a career where jobs are projected to grow by 20% during that period.
Earning a human services master’s degree online combines a rigorous, relevant curriculum with flexible scheduling and the ability to study anywhere with an internet connection. The range of specialty options allows students to tailor their degrees to their professional aspirations. This guide can help you choose the best online degree for your goals and needs.
Featured Online Schools
Online Master’s in Human Services Program Ranking Guidelines
We selected the programs based on the quality of the program, the types of courses offered, the faculty, rankings, awards, and reputation, including the school’s reputation for effectively providing online degree programs.
The motto of TheBestSchools.org is Finding the best school for you. Here is how we do it:
The value of any ranking list of schools and/or degree programs depends on having a methodologically sound assessment of each school’s/program’s characteristics, especially insofar as these can be objectively measured. A college or university is a complex entity, with numerous factors to consider, and distilling these down to the place where meaningful comparisons can be made to form a defensible ranking list becomes part science and part art.
To meet this challenge—and thereby provide you with the most useful and insightful educational rankings on the Internet — TheBestSchools.org formulates our rankings based on five informational categories (six, when considering online schools). The major metrics and qualities for which we rank are these (with expanded, detailed considerations and weights listed):
1. Academic excellence based on a school’s curriculum generally or within the selected discipline [weight = 25%]
- Weighs school against known leading schools in that discipline
- Weighs number of core curricula listed as advanced courses within that discipline and compares against introductory courses
- Weighs school’s curriculum against known knowledge needs of major employers in that discipline
- Considers number and types of specializations offered within that discipline
- Considers faculty expertise in that discipline
- Considers range of electives within that discipline
- Considers quality of online environment offered to students (if applicable), particularly within that discipline
2. Strength of faculty scholarship [weight = 25%]
- Considers education background of the faculty
- Considers years of faculty experience both inside and outside of academia.
- Considers faculty membership and leadership within relevant, prominent associations
- Considers academic papers published by faculty in relevant, prominent periodicals
- Considers awards and recognitions given to faculty members from prominent organizations and from other sources
3. Reputation [weight = 20%]
- Considers a school’s reputation among academic peers and employers regarding the following:
- “Freshness” of academic knowledge
- Adaptability to changes in employment sectors
- Suitability of graduates for the workplace
4. Financial aid [weight = 10%]
- Mandatory: Requires full accreditation from an agency endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education and listed on the federal register to accept student federal financial aid
- Considers range of school-sponsored financial aid such as scholarships and grants
5. Range of degree programs [weight = 20%]
- Considers range of degree levels: associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral and professional
- Considers range of degree subjects offered, such as art & design, computers & technology, education & teaching, criminal justice, and business
6. Strength of online instruction methodology (if applicable) [weight = 25%; subtract 5% from each of the above for online schools/programs]
Considers the following of the online classes:
- Types of online technology used to deliver content
- Pedagogy style: asynchronous, synchronous, or both (depending on the degree)
- Extent and quality of the online, community learning environment, including options for communication, interactivity, and collaboration between students and also between students and instructors
- Variety, breadth, and depth of coursework, and its support, including project options and online tutoring
Considers the following of instructors:
- Extent of training for teaching within an online learning environment
- Amount of timely, consistent feedback to students
- Extent of collaboration with prospective employers to ensure suitability of instructional materials for achieving desired skills
- Ratio to number of students in a class
- Number and quality of internships in a student’s geographical area for applicable degrees
Because students tend to review a variety of information when choosing a school, the weight a student gives any one criterion will vary. For instance, it’s not enough to offer a carefully constructed ranking of great schools if many are too expensive or too difficult to get into.
To better serve the needs of prospective students, we are therefore increasingly offering filters that help you better use our rankings to find the schools that match your specific needs. These supplement our ranking criteria and include:
- Public or private status
- Acceptance rate
- Retention rate
- Graduation rate
- ACT/SAT requirements
- Cost in-state / out of state
- Undergrad, grad, or both offered
Get the best rankings here AND get them to suit your personal needs. That’s TheBestSchools.org advantage!
If you have any questions about our ranking methodology, please contact us.
Citations: For a broader account of our ranking methodology, especially as it relates to TheBestSchools.org's underlying educational philosophy and, in other ranking articles, looks beyond academic excellence (as here) to such factors as return on investment or incidental benefit, see our article "Ranking Methodology: How We Rank Schools at TBS." Reputation of schools and degree programs can at least in part be gauged through the school or department's publishing activity, citations, and desirability. At TheBestSchools.org, we keep track of such social and peer validation: "Making Sense of College Rankings." For nuts-and-bolts information about colleges and universities, we look to the National Center for Education Statistics and especially its College Navigator. Insofar as salary and inflation data are relevant to a ranking, we look to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Finally, nothing beats contacting schools and degree programs directly, which our researchers often do, with the result that all the entries in this article should be considered as belonging to this citation!
Wake Forest University, a private research university established in 1834, enrolls over 8,000 students in a variety of undergraduate, graduate, doctoral, and certificate programs. The school was originally founded by the North Carolina Baptist State Convention as the Wake Forest Manual Labor Institute. There, students and staff were originally required to perform daily manual labor on the institute’s plantation, a practice that was abandoned when the school was renamed in 1838.
Wake Forest’s online master’s in human services degree program prepares students to pursue careers such as nonprofit administrator, program manager, and social services director. The 39 credit hour curriculum includes 12 hours of foundation courses, 18 hours of core courses, and nine hours of human services specialization courses. Students engage with advanced concepts in the field through online college courses in areas such as life span development, cultures and counseling, counseling skills and techniques, crisis management, and family counseling. The online master’s degree in human services program requires students to complete a field experience.
Applicants to the master’s in human services program must hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution that was earned with a at least a 2.5 GPA. Applicants must also submit three letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and GRE test scores.
The University of Nebraska – Lincoln is a public research university that was established in 1869 on a land-grant under the Morrill Act; it is only two years older than the state of Nebraska itself. The university enrolls over 26,000 students in a full selection of undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degree and certificate programs.
The University of Nebraska – Lincoln offers an online master of science in child, youth, and family studies with a concentration in human and family services administration for students who seek advancement in a variety of human services professions. The program blends research and theory, program design and evaluation, ethical and legal concepts, and administration and management skills to help students develop a balanced knowledge set necessary for success in managing human services programs. The online master’s degree in human services requires 36 total credits. The program teaches courses in areas such as cultural diversity, contemporary family issues, management and leadership, fund raising, and administrative ethics. Students must also complete a capstone project.
Courses in the master’s in human services online program utilize an asynchronous delivery model, allowing students the flexibility to study on their own time. Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree that was earned with at least a 2.5 GPA. Applicants must also submit GRE scores, a personal statement, and three letters of recommendation.
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.
California State University – Northridge is a public university that enrolls over 41,000 students in a variety of undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degree and certificate programs. Founded in 1958, CSUN became part of the California State University in 1972.
The online master of science in assistive technology studies and human services degree program at CSUN prepares students to meet the needs of a growing population of people who rely on assistive technologies in their daily lives. This 30 credit master’s degree in human services consists of nine courses that can be completed entirely online as well as a directed study project. The courses cover topics such as counseling in assistive technology service delivery, research methods and design in assistive technology, and functional biology and design innovation. The directed study allows students to focus on a specific area that interests them professionally.
Applicants to the online master’s in human services program must hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited university. Applicants with a 3.0 GPA or higher do not need to submit GRE scores. Applicants with a 2.5 GPA must score in the 50th percentile or above on at least one section of the GRE.
The University of Oklahoma, a public research university established in 1890, enrolls over 28,000 students in a full selection of undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degree and certificate programs. The university’s founding preceded the statehood of Oklahoma by 17 years.
The University of Oklahoma offers an online master of arts in human and health services administration degree program for students who seek advancement in a variety of human services roles. This 33 credit master’s degree in human services program includes 18 hours of core courses that cover topics such as cultural diversity, ethics, cross cultural health issues, geriatric issues, and strategic planning and evaluation. Students blend theoretical and practical knowledge with hands-on experience in their required internship.
The master’s in human services online degree program utilizes asynchronous courses and may be completed in two years plus one semester. Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution that was earned with at least a 3.0 GPA.
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.
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.
Regent University is a private, Evangelical Christian University with around 9,500 students who enroll in a variety of undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees and certificate programs. Most of its students enroll in online degree programs. Founded in 1977 by Pat Robertson, the university incorporates its mission to develop Christian leaders into its programs.
Regent University’s online master’s in human services degree program prepares students to approach human services careers from a strong Christian perspective. The master’s in human services online program comes with a selection of 11 concentration areas, such as addictions counseling, biblical counseling, trauma and crisis counseling, and marriage and family ministry. With so many concentration options, students may personalize their study path to meet their professional goals. The 30 credit hour curriculum includes 20 hours of courses in areas such as human services ethics, multicultural awareness, and behavioral science as well as a field experience.
The master’s degree in human services program utilizes an eight-week course model and blends synchronous and asynchronous delivery methods. The program offers eight start dates per year. Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution that was earned with at least a 3.0 GPA. Applicants with degrees in counseling, psychology, or a related human behavioral field are preferred.
Nova Southeastern University, a private university established in 1964, enrolls over 20,000 students in a wide selection of undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degree programs. First founded as Nova University of Advanced Technology, the university was originally a graduate school focused on natural and social sciences.
Nova Southeastern University offers an online master of in human services in child protection that focuses on meeting the professional needs of individuals who seek a variety of advanced careers in child protective services and advocacy. The 33-credit master’s degree in human services curriculum includes 24 hours of core courses in areas such as child development, family diversity and conflict resolution, and assessment and case planning. Students must also choose one of ten concentration areas, such as administration for child protective services, public health and child protection, and emergency preparedness for vulnerable populations. Each concentration requires nine credit hours.
This master’s in human services online program combines synchronous and asynchronous course delivery methods through the Canvas LMS. Students take two courses per semester and can complete the program in two years of full-time study. Students may also elect to complete a second concentration area; this concentration area requires an additional nine credit hours of coursework.
Applicants to this online master’s in human services must hold a bachelor’s degree.
Southwestern Assemblies of God, a private Christian university established in 1927, enrolls over 2,000 students in a variety of undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degree programs. Its relatively small student population is mostly comprised of distance education students who enroll in online graduate degree programs.
Southwestern Assemblies of God offers an online master of science in human services counseling that helps students build the counseling knowledge and skills needed in a variety of professional settings. The online master’s in human services program is not designed for individuals who seek careers in counseling. Instead, the program is designed to meet the needs of human services professionals whose jobs require knowledge of counseling concepts, such as caseworkers or program directors.
This master’s degree in human services online curriculum covers key topics such as ethical and legal issues, human growth and life span development, marriage and family counseling, and crisis intervention. As with other degrees as SAGU, the program incorporates a Christian worldview.
Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree that was earned with at least a 2.5 GPA.
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.
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.
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 non-clinical 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.
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.
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.
Featured Online Schools
What is a Master’s in Human Services Degree?
Online human services master’s degree programs provide the same training as traditional programs. Students can tailor their academic path and choose a specialization to fit their interests within 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 require a thesis. Course and thesis requirements help students develop the skills necessary for corresponding careers, but concentrations — such as child and family services, substance abuse, and gerontology — help meet each student’s individual needs.
Many programs also require clinical or teaching experiences, meaning you should find a program that can help you secure internships close to home.
Online Master’s in Human Services Programs
Online classes feature the same rigorous curricula as on-campus programs, and instructors often utilize new technology to record lectures, promote class discussions, and share instructional materials. Course schedules depend on each school’s format. Some schools offer accelerated classes in eight- to 10-week sessions, instead of traditional 15-week semesters.
Many classes follow asynchronous schedules, which allow students to log into the learning management system at their convenience to complete assignments. Students in these classes must still follow course syllabi and complete all tasks by their due dates. Online courses provide students with flexibility in completing their assignments but still require a significant investment of time and attention. Many schools suggest students set aside 3–5 hours per credit per week to complete reading assignments, watch lectures, and write papers.
Some classes require students to log in at specific times to watch webcast lectures and participate in discussions. Other courses may require on-campus visits for lab work, exams, or special team-building activities. Review each syllabus to check for specific schedules and assignment due dates. Online learning requires students to motivate themselves and stay on track with course requirements.Return to the top
The Advantages of a Master’s Degree in Human Services
Some careers welcome entry-level applicants with bachelor’s degrees, but online master’s in human services degrees prepare graduates for highly specialized careers in counseling or leadership positions within organizations. Most programs offer concentration options that allow students to gain expertise working with particular populations, such as senior citizens, or in specific fields, such as government agencies or nonprofit administration. These positions also offer above-average salaries for entry-level jobs. Some jobs, such as counseling, require candidates to hold master’s degrees to qualify for state licensing or professional credentials.
Earning a master’s in human services also allows students who studied different disciplines to gain relevant education and experience to switch careers. The broad range of topics within the human services field welcomes graduate applicants from a variety of educational and professional backgrounds. The master’s degree also allows students who are looking to change careers to qualify for more senior positions.
Average Salary by Degree Level
|Degree Level||Average Salary|
|Bachelor’s in Human Services||$39,000|
|Master’s in Human Services||$57,000|
Source: PayScaleReturn to the top
What Can You Do With a Master’s Degree in Human Services?
An online master’s in human services qualifies graduates to pursue job opportunities in areas like management and private practice. This rewarding field of highly educated candidates makes an advanced degree critical for even midlevel positions. A master’s degree can guarantee higher earning potential and a greater scope for progression. When pursuing an advanced degree, consider which career possibilities interest you most.
- Social and Community Service Managers:
- Planning and programming make up the primary duties for social and community service managers. These professionals collaborate with stakeholders to develop and implement service programs and oversee administrative functions. They evaluate programs to determine areas for improvement, report on effectiveness, and organize outreach and promotion efforts. Candidates draw upon their education and work experience to qualify for managerial positions.
- Salary based on experience:
- Entry Level: $41,000
- Mid-Career: $51,000
- Experienced: $59,000
- Late Career: $60,000
- Health Services Manager:
- These healthcare executives develop goals and objectives for their department and organization to better serve their clients and patients. Health services managers recruit and train new staff members, monitor facility improvements, and prepare budgets. They may work in nursing home administration, oversee clinical departments, or manage patient records. They should understand clinical needs and foundational business concepts.
- Salary based on experience:
- Entry Level: $50,000
- Mid-Career: $63,000
- Experienced: $68,000
- Late Career: $72,000
- Rehabilitation Counselor:
- These counseling specialists help clients overcome disabilities or traumatic injuries to lead independent lives. They consult with medical and mental health specialists to develop comprehensive treatment plans and locate resources to help clients live independently. Many rehabilitation counselors help clients identify possible career options and obtain necessary training. A master’s degree allows counselors to provide more services and obtain specific licensure or certification.
- Salary based on experience:
- Entry Level: $36,000
- Mid-Career: $44,000
- Experienced: $50,000
- Late Career: $56,000
- Marriage and Family Therapist:
- These therapists specialize in working with families and couples, discussing feelings and experiences to overcome relationship challenges. They help clients adjust to difficult changes and make decisions for their futures. They may refer clients to other service providers, depending on their needs. All states require therapists to hold licensure, which mandates completion of an appropriate master’s program, supervised experience, and passing an exam.
- Salary based on experience:
- Entry Level: $50,000
- Mid-Career: $55,000
- Experienced: $64,000
- Late Career: $73,000
- Health Educator:
- Health educators promote wellness to individuals and communities. They work to combat specific community health concerns, such as diabetes or cancer, through education, promotion, and public policy. They may take leadership roles in staff supervision and training for other health professionals. They also collect data to measure the effectiveness of public health campaigns and determine community health needs.
- Salary based on experience:
- Entry Level: $39,000
- Mid-Career: $46,000
- Experienced: $50,000
- Late Career: $54,000
Source: PayScaleReturn to the top
Choosing an Online Human Services Graduate Degree Program
Students should carefully evaluate each online master’s in human services to determine whether it aligns with their educational and professional goals. Graduate programs offer diverse curriculum options and specializations. Many students begin their search with colleges close to where they live, as nearby institutions often offer access to on-campus services and support in finding internships and fellowships.
Online learning, however, allows students to go beyond geographical boundaries to find programs that meet their unique needs. Many schools provide flexible enrollment options and dedicated faculty to assist distance students. Read on to learn more about how to choose the right school for your future.
- Program Cost:
- Program costs include tuition, required fees, book expenses, transportation and lodging for on-campus requirements, and supervision fees for internships. These costs may vary significantly between schools. Some may charge additional fees for out-of-state students; however, many schools waive these charges for online learners.
- Transfer Policies:
- Many online master’s in human services programs accept graduate credits from other institutions. Schools often cap the number of transfer credits at nine, but some may allow up to 15 credits. Students typically must have earned at least a B in their transfer courses. Each school evaluates descriptions for prior courses to determine whether they can transfer for credit.
- School Size and Type:
- A program’s size and structure can impact your school choice. Private colleges and universities typically boast smaller classes, which allow for more interaction between instructors and students. Large public universities may enroll more students in larger classes but also offer more research and specialization opportunities.
- Program Length:
- Many schools cater their human services online master’s degree programs to working students, allowing students to enroll part-time with one or two courses each term. On this schedule, many students complete their degrees in 3–4 years. Students can elect to attend school full-time, taking three or more courses each term, and graduate in two years or less.
- On-Campus Requirements:
- Online programs allow students to complete their degrees remotely. Check with your school for any on-campus requirements, such as orientation, faculty conferences, or intensive summer sessions. These requirements give students hands-on experience and allow them to develop professional networks. Make sure to account for travel expenses along with your program costs.
- Thesis, Fellowship, and Work Requirements:
- Earning a master’s degree generally requires completion of a capstone project. The capstone may include a written thesis, an independent research or professional project, or a supervised internship or fellowship. Many students take these courses in their final semester, applying the skills and knowledge gained throughout their coursework.
Accreditation for Online Human Services Master’s Degrees
Students should make sure their selected school holds institutional accreditation from a recognized organization. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the U.S. Department of Education maintain lists of recognized accrediting agencies. Schools must undergo rigorous evaluations of their curricula, facilities, student services, and student outcomes to earn accreditation from one of the seven regional accrediting agencies, such as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
Your school’s accreditation status impacts your ability to transfer credits to other colleges, gain access to federal financial aid, and earn professional licensure or credentials after graduation. While institutional accreditation evaluates the entire college, programmatic accreditation focuses on the human services programs. The Council for Standards in Human Service Education (CSHSE), approved as a national accreditor by CHEA in 2014, evaluates human service programs for compliance with the national standards established in cooperation with schools, practitioners, and professional organizations.
Schools achieving this designation demonstrate consistent, high-quality instruction and curricula relevant to industry needs. About 50 schools currently hold accreditation status, with almost 100 member schools. In addition to accreditation, CSHSE offers a professional credential for human services program graduates.
How Long Does It Take to Complete an Online Master in Human Services Degree Program?
Online master’s in human services degrees usually require 30 or more credits, which full-time students typically complete in two years. Students who continue to work while taking classes benefit from part-time class schedules, which may require three or more years to graduate. Program lengths vary depending on students’ course loads and whether the school organizes students into learning cohorts, where they move through their curriculum as a group.
Class format and scheduling may also impact how long it takes to graduate with a human services master’s degree online. Many schools use the traditional 15-week semester format, in which students enrolled in nine credits are considered full-time. Some schools utilize accelerated courses, which meet for either eight or 10 weeks. This format allows students to focus on fewer classes at a time while earning more credits each year. Many part-time programs allow students the flexibility to take one or two additional courses each term or reduce their enrollment to only one or two classes, depending on their work and family commitments.
Courses in an Online Master’s in Human Services Program
- Human Behavior
- Students examine changes in human development and behavior from birth through old age. The curriculum covers sociological, cultural, biological, and spiritual processes and theories and how those processes impact behavior in individual, family, or group settings. This information helps human services workers develop intervention and treatment strategies.
- Professional Ethics
- Students learn the roles of human services professionals and their professional and legal responsibilities to clients. Case studies and class discussions help students develop critical analysis skills and evaluate ethical questions while adhering to personal and professional codes of conduct. The course often integrates the professional standards of the National Organization of Human Services and other professional organizations.
- Policy Issues in Human Services
- Students explore the history of social welfare policy and services and the underlying values and philosophy for various approaches. The course asks students to critically evaluate policies and services related to healthcare, mental health, child welfare, corrections, income maintenance, and elderly services. Assignments often include discussions, class presentations, research papers, and exams.
- Counseling Adolescents and Their Families
- This course helps students evaluate mental health interventions and treatments for adolescents by examining the age group’s common behavioral and emotional issues. Students discuss external and internal conflicts with a cross-cultural, comparative perspective. Students evaluate research-backed methods of adolescent and family treatments.
- Society and Cultural Diversity
- Students discuss issues relating to client diversity and identify cultural biases that may impact service delivery or effectiveness. The course integrates professional standards regarding theories of identity development, social justice, and multicultural counseling, and develops students’ cultural self-awareness. Assignments include class discussions, participation in multicultural events, and research papers and essays.
Human Services Professional Associations
- American Public Human Services Association:
- The APHSA connects members with national policymakers and stakeholders to strengthen communities and support the well-being of children and families. It operates collaborative centers on child and family well-being, employment, and economic health, in addition to the National Collaborative for Integration of Health and Human Services. Nine affinity groups focus on specific professions and programs. Members include individuals, local agencies, state agencies, and organizations connected to the field.
- National Organization for Human Services:
- The organization welcomes practitioners from all areas of human services, offering opportunities to collaborate on and advocate for effective policies and legislation. Members receive a quarterly newsletter and annual peer-reviewed journal, discounts on conference fees, access to online discussion forums and job postings, and the opportunity to apply for scholarships and grants. Students, educators, and practitioners may join.
- National Council on Family Relations:
- Members include therapists, educators, social workers, public health workers, clergy, and researchers. The organization publishes scholarly journals and hosts an annual conference to support family professionals and keep them up to date on the latest trends and theories in family science. Professionals may seek the certified family life educator credential, developed by the council.
- American Counseling Association:
- This organization formed in 1952 to serve professional counselors with continuing education credits, ethics consultations, and legislative advocacy. The group consists of 19 chartered divisions, which serve various counseling specialties. Members may access a digital job board that offers job postings and career resources and take part in networking events. Membership also includes insurance, travel, and educational discounts.
- American Society for Public Administration:
- This organization promotes the public service profession by advocating for professionalism, ethics, accountability, and social equity. Members enjoy networking and professional development opportunities, including an annual conference and ongoing distance learning. The society’s journal, Public Administration Review, serves professionals, academics, and students interested in public sector management. In addition to local chapters, the organization includes 30 special-interest sections focusing on topics such as health and human services administration, labor relations, and public management practice.
The 10 Best Online Master’s in Human Services Programs for 2018
- University of Northwestern - St. Paul
Saint Paul, Minnesota
- Liberty University Online
- Northeastern University
- University of Illinois at Springfield
- Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota
- Concordia University - Nebraska
- Saint Joseph’s College
Brooklyn, New York
- Southeastern University
- Wilmington University
New Castle, Delaware
- Bellevue University
The Best Online Associate in Human Services Degrees
Featured Online Schools
Popular with our students.
Highly informative resources to keep your education journey on track.
Take the next step toward your future with online learning.
Discover schools with the programs and courses you’re interested in, and start learning today.