Online Master’s Programs in Human Services

ASO Staff Writers
Updated October 23, 2023
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If you want to pursue a career that helps people, a master’s in human services can prepare you for fulfilling roles in government or nonprofit settings. Discover program options, specializations, and typical courses in this guide to the best online master’s in human services programs.

Popular Online Human Services Programs

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What to Know About Online Master’s in Human Services Coursework

The interdisciplinary curriculum of a master’s in human services typically pulls from social sciences, counseling, social work, and family studies. Students learn to design, deliver, and evaluate programs for individuals and communities.

Core coursework develops an understanding of the origins and theories that drive human services, along with practical experiences in administration and leadership, assessment and data collection, ethical and legal issues, and grant writing.

Some programs offer specializations in crisis intervention, policy analysis, family services, or nonprofit administration. Most include internship opportunities, field experiences, capstone projects, and opportunities for comprehensive research. In online programs, students still get practical, relevant professional experience.

What Common Courses are Offered in a Master’s in Human Services Program?

All master’s coursework varies depending on the university and specialization. However, there are commonalities among the best master’s degrees in human services. Typical courses include:

  • chevron-rightIntroduction to Human Services: Students explore the foundations of human services, including history, development of the profession, and relevant theories. Coursework examines the strengths and weaknesses of service delivery systems and how human services efforts respond to the needs of a constantly changing society. Enrollees also consider ethical standards for the profession.
  • chevron-rightHuman Services Administration: Coursework examines the competencies needed to administer human services programs and the challenges of providing services to individuals and communities. This class also introduces students to the foundations of human services administration, including communication, organizational behavior, evaluation of services, and leadership.
  • chevron-rightIntroduction to Research: Evidence-based practice is critical to human services. Coursework surveys different methodological practices for conducting research and evaluation, including design, implementation, and assessment. Enrollees connect theory to practice through case studies, discussions, and research projects. Other topics include ethical issues in research or how cultural differences affect research and evaluation of services.
  • chevron-rightSocial Change and Advocacy: Students identify issues at the local and national level that affect communities and explore how to effectively advocate for social change. Coursework examines ways to encourage community involvement and engage diverse populations in issues of social change.
  • chevron-rightLife Span Human Development: This course analyzes social issues and the challenges people face at various developmental stages, including physical, biological, and psychological changes over time.
  • chevron-rightFundraising/Grant Writing: Instructors deliver courses on sources and strategies for funding, creating proposals, philanthropy, and managing funds. Assignments develop skills like proposal writing throughout the grant cycle.

What Specializations are Available in a Master’s in Human Services Program?

The best master’s programs in human services typically require enrollees to choose specializations that align with their intended patient populations. The following section includes several common concentrations:

  • chevron-rightSocial Services Administration: This class prepares learners for executive leadership roles. Coursework covers leadership and organizational theory, along with strategic planning, program development, challenges in leadership, and communication.
  • chevron-rightAddictions and Recovery: This concentration prepares students for work in addiction treatment programs. Enrollees study the theoretical foundations of addiction counseling, ways to assess substance misuse, and methods to assist clients in recovery.
  • chevron-rightHuman and Health Services Administration: Enrollees explore administrative topics such as management, governmental factors, legal and ethical issues, and outcomes assessment.
  • chevron-rightChildren and Families: Coursework for this concentration focuses on human development, family dynamics, and techniques for assisting families through challenges.
  • chevron-rightLaw and Justice: This concentration prepares students for work in corrections, policy, rehabilitation, victim support, and other interactions with the justice system. Assignments explore the correctional system, support for victims, and ways to prevent recidivism.

What Exams or Projects Should I Expect?

A master’s in human services typically culminates in a capstone, internship, or field experience where students integrate their learning and apply new skills in the human services field. These culminating courses typically require a community services program proposal or assessment, service-learning project, or professional portfolio of work from an internship. Some programs also include thesis or research projects.

The Best Human Services Master’s Programs

#1 Online Master’s Programs in Human Services

Lenoir-Rhyne University

  • Location-markerHickory, NC
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$39,900
  • Out-of-state$39,900
  • Retention Rate73%
  • Acceptance Rate77%
  • Students Enrolled2,686
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment53%
  • AccreditationYes
#2 Online Master’s Programs in Human Services

Touro University Worldwide

  • Location-markerLos Alamitos, CA
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$14,400
  • Out-of-state$14,400
  • Retention Rate75%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled2,131
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment99%
  • AccreditationYes
#3 Online Master’s Programs in Human Services

Bellevue University

  • Location-markerBellevue, NE
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$7,176
  • Out-of-state$7,176
  • Retention Rate51%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled13,059
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment96%
  • AccreditationYes
#4 Online Master’s Programs in Human Services

Purdue University Global-Indianapolis

  • Location-markerWest Lafayette, IN
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$10,080
  • Out-of-state$13,356
  • Retention Rate33%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled43,927
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment100%
  • AccreditationYes
#5 Online Master’s Programs in Human Services

Warner Pacific University Professional and Graduate Studies

  • Location-markerPortland, OR
  • 4 year
  • Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$12,240
  • Out-of-state$12,240
  • Retention Rate0%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled483
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment81%
  • AccreditationYes

How Can I Choose a Quality Online Master’s in Human Services Program?

Always seek schools and programs with accreditation. During the accreditation process, an independent agency reviews programs for academic quality, student resources, and outcomes.

The Council for Standards in Human Service Education (CSHSE) accredits human service education programs and maintains a list of accredited programs. Accreditation is vital to demonstrate a program’s quality and the value of the degrees it confers.

Most programs do not accept transfer credits from applicants with degrees from non-accredited schools, and employers usually require degrees from accredited institutions.

Human services programs should:

  • Incorporate theoretical learning with relevant fieldwork that applies to students’ professional goals
  • Hold accreditation
  • Follow CSHSE curriculum standards

Career Opportunities with a Master’s in Human Services Degree

Human services is a broad field with diverse career opportunities. Professionals work in varied settings, including nonprofits and government agencies, and may have many different titles during their careers. Some job titles include:

  • Caseworker
  • Substance abuse counselor
  • Client advocate
  • Probation officer
  • Mental health aide
  • Community outreach organizer
  • Social services manager

While the following job descriptions include median annual pay, obtaining a master’s degree may increase opportunities for pay and advancement.

Social Services Manager

Social services managers may handle many responsibilities within nonprofit and government organizations, such as program planning, impact analysis, program promotion, and writing proposals.

  • Median Annual Salary (2022): $74,240
  • Currently Employed: 178,400
  • Projected Job Growth (2022-2032): +9%

Substance Abuse Counselor

Substance abuse counselors assess client needs and readiness for treatment, counsel patients recovering from addiction, document progress, and plan for client discharge. They may also educate family members on how to support recovery and educate the community on substance abuse and recovery.

  • Median Annual Salary (2022): $49,710
  • Currently Employed: 388,200
  • Projected Job Growth (2022-2032): +18%

Probation or Parole Officer

Probation or parole officers work with people on probation or parole, parole boards and other functions in the correctional system, their families, other care providers such as social workers, and employers or potential employers. They help clients to rehabilitate or re-integrate with society by evaluating progress, tracking client activities, connecting them with necessary resources, and managing case files.

  • Median Annual Salary (2022): $59,860
  • Currently Employed: 91,300
  • Projected Job Growth (2022-2032): +3%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2023

What’s the Expected Job Outlook for Human Services Careers?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for human services careers will grow by 9% from 2022-2032, which is faster than the projected growth rate for all jobs. Factors driving this growth include retirement-age staff leaving the workforce, staff changing careers, and growth in the number of older adults and people with substance use disorders.

Both groups need human services at a higher rate than the total population. In addition, as people with substance use disorders are increasingly likely to be directed to treatment rather than sent to jail, this increases the need for substance abuse counselors.

Professional Organizations for Careers in Human Services

Joining a professional organization can open opportunities for scholarships, professional development, conferences, and peer-reviewed academic journals. Some scholarship and award opportunities are only open to members, and membership usually provides a discount on professional development resources and conferences.

Students often receive membership discounts. Joining a professional organization allows learners to access job boards, explore internship opportunities, and stay up-to-date on the latest research happening in the field.

  • National Organization for Human Services: Guided by principles of social justice advocacy, collaboration, and accountability, this organization strengthens the human services community by promoting professional development and certification opportunities. The organization sets industry standards, offers awards and scholarships, and publishes the Journal of Human Services.
  • American Public Human Services Association: APHSA represents state and local human services agencies and leaders. This organization influences policies at state and local levels to support families and build communities. It offers opportunities for professional development and education through conferences and publications.

How to Pay for a Master’s in Human Services Degree

Attending a master’s in human services program creates a significant financial investment. Each prospective student should start by filling out a FAFSA form to determine aid eligibility at the federal and state levels. Many scholarships require students to complete FAFSA forms before they are eligible to receive additional scholarships. Below, you’ll find some scholarship options for human services students:

National Scholarships

There are several human services scholarships that students can apply for. The David C. Maloney Scholarship, the Harold McPheeters Scholarship, and the Davis Putter Scholarship are all available to eligible candidates.

School-Sponsored Scholarships

Some schools offer department-based scholarships to human services students. For example, California State University and other Bay Area schools sponsor the New Leader Scholarship for students enrolled in human services master’s programs.

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