Best Online Master’s in Human Services 2021

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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.

The Best Online Human Services Master's Programs

  1. Texas Tech University

    Lubbock, TX



    A public university founded in 1923, Texas Tech offers an online master of science in family and consumer sciences. The program also leads to licensure in family and consumer sciences.

    Students must complete 38-41 credits. Required courses include the history and philosophy of family and consumer sciences, occupational family and consumer sciences programs, special needs learners, and research in family and consumer sciences education. Learners also complete a practicum and an internship to satisfy degree requirements.

    Applicants need a bachelor's degree in a related field to qualify for admission.

  2. Regent University

    Virginia Beach, VA

    A private Christian university founded in 1977, Regent offers an online master of science in human services. Students complete 30 credits without needing to come to campus.

    Required courses include the foundation of human services, behavioral science foundations, professional ethics in the human services field, and multicultural awareness and individual diversity. A field experience at the end of the program allows students to gain hands-on experience.

    Applicants need a bachelor's degree in a relevant field with a minimum GPA of 3.0 to qualify for admission. Students can choose from multiple yearly start dates.

  3. Liberty University

    Lynchburg, VA

    A private Christian university founded in 1971, Liberty offers an online master of arts in human services counseling. Students complete 30 credits in convenient eight-week terms and may specialize in multiple areas, including military resilience or crisis response and trauma.

    This non-licensure program includes both concentration courses and core requirements. All students complete courses such as introduction to human services counseling, human growth and development, studies in interpersonal communication, and multicultural issues in human services.

    Applicants need a bachelor's degree in a relevant discipline with a minimum GPA of 2.0 to qualify for admission.

  4. East Tennessee State University

    Johnson City, TN



    A public research university founded in 1911, ETSU offers an online master of science in human services. Students complete 36 credits in core courses, a capstone experience, and an internship to complete the program.

    Required courses include ethics and social justice, human services for families, advanced developmental psychology, and human services: systems and leadership. A capstone allows students to demonstrate skills mastery, and an internship allows students to gain vital hands-on experience.

    Applicants need a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0 to qualify for admission. Students do not need to submit standardized test scores.

  5. Saint Leo University

    Saint Leo, FL

    A Roman Catholic college founded in 1889, Saint Leo offers an online master of science in human services administration. Students complete 36 credits in both core requirements and electives.

    Required courses include essentials of technology planning for human services organizations, management of child welfare agencies, critical issues in healthcare, and principles of cybersecurity management. Students may explore faith-based applications through elective choices.

    Applicants need a bachelor's degree in a relevant field with a minimum GPA of 3.0 to qualify for admission.

  6. Lenoir-Rhyne University

    Hickory, NC

    A private Lutheran university founded in 1891, LRU offers an online master of arts in human services. Students complete 33 credits online and may choose from three specializations: addictions counseling, career development, and human services management.

    Required courses include theoretical foundations and history of human services, human services delivery systems, information management for human services professionals, and human services program planning and evaluation. From there, students complete concentration-specific courses.

    Applicants need a bachelor's degree and must fill out the application for the graduate school to apply.

  7. Concordia University-Chicago

    River Forest, IL

    A research university founded in 1974, CUC offers an online master of arts in human services. Students complete 33 credits without needing to come to campus.

    Required courses include an introduction to the human services profession, administration of human services, intervention and direct services, and human service systems. A capstone experience with a research project and a presentation based on the students' interests and career goals complete the program requirements.

    Applicants need a bachelor's degree but do not need to send standardized test scores to apply for the program.

  8. Wayland Baptist University

    Plainview, TX

    A private university founded in 1908, WBU offers an online master of arts in human services. Students complete 36 credits in core requirements and electives.

    Learners begin with courses such as an introduction to human services, social and cultural foundations in counseling, ethics and legal issues in counseling, and theories in human services. From there, students choose a blend of electives from each field of study: counseling, criminal justice, human services and sociology, and public administration.

    Applicants need a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0 to qualify for admission.

  9. Warner Pacific University Professional and Graduate Studies

    Portland, OR

    A private Christian university founded in 1937, Warner Pacific offers an online master of arts in human services. Students complete the 39-credit program in convenient six-week formats.

    Students examine the field from a holistic perspective, including the application of human services across society, essential research and practice skills, public policy and legal services, and the methods to assist vulnerable populations. A capstone experience allows students to complete research projects and receive guidance.

    Applicants need a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0 to qualify for admission.

  10. Bellevue University

    Bellevue, NE

    A private university founded in 1966, BU offers an online master of arts in human services. Students complete 36 credits in this non-licensure track.

    Required courses include an introduction to human services administration, communications for human services, statistics and quantitative research methods, and leadership and application for human services. Students can choose an applied learning project or an internship to satisfy degree requirements.

    Applicants need a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 2.5 in the last 60 credits or a 3.0 cumulative GPA to qualify for admission.

Best Online Master's

Online Master's in Human Services Programs Ranking Guidelines

We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.

Our Methodology

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Our proprietary, multi-criteria ranking algorithm analyzes key data indicators — as collected by the federal government — for each school or program. What data we use depends on the focus of each specific ranking, but in all cases, our ranking methodology is impartial: Schools cannot buy better rankings at TBS.

While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.

  • Academics
  • Affordability
  • Online Enrollment

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The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is our primary source. Its data comes from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Every college, university, or technical school with access to federal financial aid must participate in these surveys, which include questions about enrollment, graduation rates, finances, and faculty qualifications. This is publicly available data, which you can access yourself through the College Navigator.

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Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology

About Our Ranking Factors

Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.

Each of these factors are further broken down into weighted subfactors. For example, retention rates are weighted more heavily than availability of program options because they are a better indicator of student success.

We chose the following factors for our rankings because of their influence on learning experiences and graduate outcomes. However, students should always balance our rankings against their personal priorities. For instance, a learner who needs a fully online program may prioritize online flexibility more than our rankings do. Our rankings are designed to help you make a decision — not to make a decision for you.

Academics - 75%
Affordability - 15%
Online Enrollment - 10%

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Featured Online Human Services Master's Programs

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
Degree Level Average Salary
Bachelor’s in Human Services $39,000
Master’s in Human Services $57,000

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.

true Social and Community Service Managers $52,750

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.

true Health Service Managers $63,250

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.

true Rehabilitation Counselor $46,500

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.

true Marriage and Family Therapist $60,500

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.

true Health Educator $47,250

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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