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.
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
|Bachelor’s in Human Services
|Master’s in Human Services
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.
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.
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 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.
Health service managers 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.
Rehab counselors 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.
Marriage 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.
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.
Human Services Professional Associations
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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