Best Online Master’s in Human Services Programs

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Badge (Online) with 2-Line TitleMaster'sin Human Services2017
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Online master’s in human services degrees launch students into rewarding careers supporting and strengthening health, education, and housing resources for individuals and communities. Human services professionals help communities navigate the evolving social services and policies that impact their area, and as a result, the need for these human services experts continues to grow. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this occupation is growing 11% per year — a notably faster pace than the national average. Below is a list of online master’s degrees that prepare students for this dynamic and demanding field. Different aspects of human services online master’s degrees — including concentrations, program length, curriculum, and career trajectories — are included for you to consider.


If you are interested in a career in nonprofit administration, community services, program management, or social work, an online master’s in human services provides the necessary skills to advance your career. Look into the specific courses and concentrations offered by each school, as many online programs provide specializations that may align with your career interests.


Most online master’s in human services programs don’t require students to have previous work experience for admission. Prospective applicants are typically asked to submit a combination of bachelor’s degree transcripts, GRE test scores, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement. Some schools also require students to submit a resume along with their application materials.


If you want to work while you complete your online master’s in human services, consider programs that are offered asynchronously or on a part-time basis. Many online programs allow participants to complete coursework when it suits their schedules.


There are several advantages to earning your master’s in human services online. In addition to asynchronous and part-time coursework, many online degree programs offer tuition at discounted rates. To further offset the cost of school, online students save by not having to pay on-campus housing fees or transportation costs commuting to campus.

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Rank School Name Relative Cost Location Description
1 University of Illinois at Springfield Springfield, IL

UIS has been ranked as one of the most affordable online schools in the U.S. and offers its students over $7 million in research funding each year. The university offers a master’s degree in human services with four concentrations for students to choose from, but only the social services administration track is available fully online. To apply for this online master’s in human services, students must have maintained a GPA of at least 3.0 throughout their undergraduate education. Once enrolled in the social services administration concentration, students must maintain a grade of "B" or higher in all classes. This program requires students to complete 44 credits, with 24 of those credits devoted to core curriculum classes, and 20 to the concentration. Earning a master’s in human services prepares graduates to manage public and private institutions of human interest and welfare.

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2 Northeastern University Global Network Boston, MA

NUGN delivers a 100% online master’s degree in human services on an asynchronous schedule through the NU Online learning system. The specific objectives of the program are to explore the ongoing development of service in human interest industries and to examine issues in leadership and behavior. Additionally, graduates of this program know how to engage communities to facilitate involvement and outreach. Full-time students can complete their coursework in two years, while part-time students generally earn their degree in three. Out of the 45 total credits required for this master’s degree, 21 of those credits are devoted to the core curriculum, nine to elective classes, and 15-16 hours are dedicated to a concentration. NUGN offers three concentrations within the human services degree: global studies, leadership, and organizational communication. Students may apply for financial aid in the form of loans, grants, scholarships, and employer reimbursement programs.

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3 Concordia University-Nebraska Seward, NE

CUN offers a master's degree in human services, with a leadership and management concentration available fully online. This master’s in human services online degree program requires students to complete 36 credits: 24 credits in the core curriculum, nine credits toward a concentration, and three credits dedicated to a capstone course. CUN allows students to transfer up to 70 credits from an accredited two-year institution toward their degree. Students who are enrolled full time can expect to earn their degree within two years. While not mandatory, CUN encourages applicants to have a background in sociology, psychology, and/or community service. In efforts to streamline enrollment and course completion, the university has created a system of "concierge registration" where a team of specialists orchestrates the enrollment process for students to ensure that they take all classes required for them to graduate in a timely manner.

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4 Saint Mary's University of Minnesota Winona, MN

Located in Minneapolis, SMUM delivers a variety of graduate degree programs on campus and online. The university has a limited transfer policy, allowing students to transfer a maximum of six semester credits.

SMUM’s online master’s in human services program has foundations in both theoretical and practical learning methods. Full-time students can expect to earn their degree, consisting of 36 required credits, within two years. SMUM offers concentrations within the program; students can specialize in human services, health care administration, or both. However, completing this program does not certify students for clinical work; students should look into their specific state’s requirements for related licensure. Upon enrollment in the online program, students are given an iPod preloaded with SMUM’s mobile learning platform. By accessing this platform, students can take part in interactive exercises involving real-world scenarios. Additionally, the platform provides an open channel of communication among online classmates.

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5 St. Joseph's College of New York Brooklyn, NY

SJCNY's online master’s degree in human services, completed through a series of 10 courses, emphasizes the importance of working with the homeless, the aging, veterans, and victims of domestic violence. To be considered for this master’s program, applicants must have a baccalaureate degree from an accredited university with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Additionally, applicants may be required to hold full-time employment before they are granted admission to the program. The school also delivers a hybrid B.S. and master’s program in human services, allowing students to earn their bachelor’s and master’s degrees concurrently. Additionally, students can choose to pursue an advanced certification in human services.

SJCNY bases coursework on a leadership model with three domains: values, mediation, and fulfillment. To finish each of the 10 courses in the master's program, students must complete a competency application project that focuses on skills covered in the course.

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6 Liberty University Lynchburg, VA

LU delivers an online master’s in human services counseling degree through its Department of Community Care and Counseling. While the degree does not directly lead to licensure for professional counseling, it does prepare students for certification in the field. To complete a master’s degree in human services at LU, students must choose one of eleven specializations, including addictions and recovery, business, criminal justice, and executive leadership. Each of these specializations, along with core degree requirements, can be completed fully online. Students can also complete this program in a hybrid format, taking classes both online and on campus. As an alternative to completing the degree entirely online, LU delivers some of the required courses as on-campus intensives, which are accelerated programs led by professors. If students choose to enroll in any of these intensives, LU offers temporary housing options on and off campus. The school also provides scholarships and financial aid to students in need.

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7 University of Northwestern-St Paul Saint Paul, MN

A Christian faith-based institution, UNSP offers a fully online master's degree in human services. This program caters to students with a Christian background who seek to combine faith and work in both private and public sectors. Like many other master’s programs in this field, UNSP's master's degree in human services does not directly lead to licensure to practice counseling professionally. Students can choose to complete their coursework entirely online or in a hybrid format; the latter option offers a primarily online curriculum but requires students to attend a select number of classes on campus one day a week. To earn UNSP's online master’s in human services degree, students must complete a total of 36 credits and can expect to do so within 18 to 22 months. Throughout their time in this program, students develop a personalized human services philosophy with foundations in biblical ethics and their Christian-influenced worldview.

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8 Wilmington University New Castle, DE

WU provides students multiple ways to earn a master’s in human services degree, including the option to complete courses in a semester format or a block format. Each semester runs for a period of 15 weeks, while a blocks takes only seven weeks. The primary difference between these two structures is intensity; block students will be expected to learn the same information as semester students, but in less than half the time. Through the university’s online learning platform, students have twenty-four hour access to all course materials. WU's online master's in human services program has no mandatory in-person components and can be completed entirely online. Though students generally finish the program in 18-24 months, they can choose to earn the degree in as few as 12 months on an accelerated track. Students are required to complete a minimum of 33 credits in this program, in addition to at least 120 hours of guided practicum or a capstone project.

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9 Southeastern University Lakeland, FL

A "Christ-centered partner in higher education" located in Georgia, SU delivers a master's degree in human services entirely online and encourages students to select a concentration based on the industry in which they plan to work. Classes run over eight-week sessions, and students can earn a master's in human services at SU in as few as 12 months. To graduate, students must complete at least 36 credits. Of those 36 credits, 24 are dedicated to core courses, while the remainder come from the chosen specialization and a capstone project. SU offers five specializations within this master’s program: administrative, gerontology, children and family, emergency management, and ministry. To be admitted into this online master’s degree in human services, applicants must have received a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution and have graduated with a GPA of 3.0 or higher. SU allows students to transfer up to nine credits toward a graduate degree.

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10 Lubbock Christian University Lubbock, TX

A Christian university located in Texas, LCU delivers an online master's degree in human services that has no on-campus or residency requirements; students can live anywhere and still pay in-state tuition. LCU's master's program in human services is grounded in Christianity and biblical ethics; coursework aims to assist students in spiritual, intellectual, and emotional growth in addition to preparing them for a career in human services. Additionally, the program allows students to choose from one of two specializations: administration or family life education. Through its curriculum, the university endeavors to produce graduates prepared to work in human services jobs in the nonprofit sector. To earn a master's degree in human services at LCU, students complete a total of 36 credits and generally graduate within two years. The university allows students to transfer a maximum of 12 credits towards this master's degree.

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Some of the best online master’s in human services programs offer concentrations and curriculum that caters to a student’s specific career goals. Many programs feature courses on human services policy, program development, and nonprofit management, but specific program details may vary depending on the school and program chosen.


Concentration Description Careers This Concentration Prepares For
Nonprofit management Students in nonprofit management learn how human services organizations work and thrive. Courses discuss best practices for creating successful, volunteer-based programs that support human services work. This concentration also can teach ways to effectively manage volunteers and work with community members. Nonprofit administrator, nonprofit program manager, volunteer manager
Mental Health Administration This concentration teaches students the foundation of being a mental health worker. Courses help students develop effective decision-making skills to solve problems relevant to the field of human services. Students learn about what motivates personal change and how mental health administrators can impact people and help them make personal changes. Mental health administrator, volunteer manager, human services department administrator
Life Coaching This concentration prepares students for careers that guide and motivate people to meet goals related to personal or professional ambitions. Students in this field develop relationships and effectively communicate with clients to help them meet their personal goals. Life coach, job coach,
business consultant


While each master’s degree in human service has different course offerings that depend upon the various requirements and concentrations, most programs cover similar content relevant to human service careers. Below is a sampling of courses that online master’s in human services programs tend to offer.

Policy Issues in Human Services: Offered through some of the best online master’s in human services, this course covers current social policy issues with respect to the human services field. Students analyze the impact of policies on topics such as welfare, education, immigration, and reproductive rights. The course prepares graduates to work as nonprofit administrators and social workers.

Human Service Management and Development: Often an entry-level course in online master’s in human services programs, human service management and development covers the dynamics and issues in human services organizations. Students learn about the policies and planning that come into play in these organizations, preparing them for leadership roles in this field.

Grant Writing: Ideal for students pursuing careers as grant writers and fundraisers for nonprofits, this course teaches students to conduct effective research for grant writing. Students also learn the elements of a good proposal and strategies for requesting grant funding.

Community Building: This course teaches the value of community involvement in human services. Students learn to engage and empower diverse groups of community members in human services improvement projects, preparing them for careers as program administrators and community service managers. Topics cover community economic development, health services, and housing equity.


Online master’s in human services degrees have different completion timelines that correspond with school and program requirements. The length of an online master’s degree depends on whether students take courses synchronously or asynchronously, if the program requires any additional internships, field experience, or research, if certain concentrations within the degree require more credits than others, and how many total credits are needed to graduate. Given these requirements, it takes an average of 36 credits, or two years, to graduate from a master’s degree in human service.

Some online programs assign students to a cohort in which students take classes together and graduate on the same timeline. Other online master’s in human services programs, however, give students the flexibility to complete coursework on their own individual pace. Those taking courses asynchronously often continue working and enroll in classes on a part-time basis, and therefore complete their degree over a longer period of time.


  • Human Services-Board Certified Practitioner: Professionals looking for additional credentials to demonstrate their knowledge of the human services field can apply for the Human Services-Board Certified Practitioner (HS-BCP). Professionals earn the HS-BCP credential after they complete 350 hours of postgraduate human services work and pass a national exam developed by the Center for Credentialing and Education.
  • Licensed Professional Counselor: Students with a master’s degree in human services can begin a career in counseling by becoming a Licensed Professional Counselor. The certification, which varies in requirement from state to state, requires applicants to have a master’s degree and job experience related to human behavior and development and pass the National Counselor Examination or equivalent state-mandated exam.

One of the most important features to consider about an online master’s in human services degrees is the school’s accreditation. Institutions with accreditation demonstrate they meet education standards set by a board, organization, or government. It is most common to see schools accredited at the regional level by organizations such as the Higher Learning Commission, Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, or the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, among others. These regional accrediting agencies are held to specific standards by the U.S. Department of Education.

In addition to regional accrediting organizations, students looking into human services master’s degree programs should make sure their program is accredited by the Council for Standards in Human Services Education. This organization holds hold human services educational programs to high standards of quality, consistency, and relevance. The best online master’s in human services programs should be connected to this council.

To confirm if a school is accredited by a legitimate organization, U.S. Department of Education has a searchable database of accredited postsecondary institutions and program. Using their database is a reliable way to cross-check the accreditations associated with online learning programs.

The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) is another trustworthy source to confirm if schools meet educational standards. The council is composed of 3,000 degree-granting colleges and universities and recognizes 60 organizations that give accreditation to institutions and programs. Their work upholds quality education standards. A list of all accredited schools can be found through the U.S. Department of Education or CHEA.


The variety of careers available to graduates of this degree makes it appealing to a wide range of students. From mental health counselors to social workers, online master’s degree in human service graduates work in areas such as psychology, health, social work, and rehabilitation. Human services professionals commonly work with children, families, people with disabilities, mental illness, and/or addiction, veterans, and the elderly. Supporting at-risk individuals and communities often requires a demanding work schedule that wrestles with difficult situations alongside rewarding outcomes.

Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorders Counselor

Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors provide treatment programs to individuals with health problems such as alcoholism, eating disorders, and drug addiction. The number of jobs in this field continues to grow as mental health counseling is increasingly covered by insurance, giving more people access to these services. These professionals typically have advanced degrees, giving those with a master’s degree an advantage over other applicants.

Median Annual Salary – $41,070
Projected Growth Rate – 22%

Social Worker

To become a social worker, earning a master’s degree and gaining licensure is essential — especially for clinical social workers. Licensed social workers play an important role in people’s everyday lives, and provide resources to help individuals deal with problems. Clinical social workers also diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional issues.

Median Annual Salary – $46,890
Projected Growth Rate – 12%

Social and Community Service Manager

Social and community service managers play an important role in human service organizations, often organizing programs that support a particular demographic, such as at-risk youth, people with mental illnesses, the elderly, or veterans. While some social and community service managers hold a bachelor’s degree, many employers require candidates to have years of job experience and a master’s degree.

Median Annual Salary – $64,680
Projected Growth Rate – 10%

Mental Health Counselor/Marriage and Family Therapist

Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists guide people through difficult changes in their lives, such as divorce or layoffs. They develop strategies for clients to improve their personal or professional situations. Professionals in this field are typically required to have a master’s degree and licensure to practice.

Median Annual Salary – $44,170
Projected Growth Rate – 19%

School and Career Counselors

A vital aspect of the education system, school and career counselors help students identify and improve social and/or behavioral problems so they can succeed in school. School counselors also support students in their academic and career endeavors after high school. The vast majority of school counselor positions require a master’s degree and state licensure.

Median Annual Salary – $54,560
Projected Growth Rate – 8%


Earning your online master’s in human services opens the door to more job opportunities and higher salaries. Many higher-paying career paths in the human services field — such as a social worker or school counselor — require licensure, and a master’s is often a prerequisite. According to a recent report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW), about 45% of people who study psychology or social work as an undergraduate obtain a graduate degree, which gives them an average earnings boost of 43%. These trends demonstrate that earning a master’s in human services gives candidates more opportunities for job placement and higher salaries.


Professional organizations in the human services field have a wealth of resources for current students and recent graduates of online master’s degree programs. These organizations provide networking opportunities for human services professionals who work in a variety of nonprofit environments, conferences that discuss relevant topics such as the impact of certain a social policies, and scholarships and grants to help member students fund human services educational programs.

Funding opportunities for online master’s in human services programs range from departmental scholarships to federal loans, and can greatly reduce the cost of one’s education. To fully understand federal scholarships, loans, grants, and work-study opportunities, prospective students must complete a FAFSA form. Students can also look to other funding sources to finance their education. For instance, professional organizations such as the National Organization for Human Services offer scholarships and grants to member students. Other organizations like the Bureau of Health Workforce give scholarships and loan repayment to students who are willing to work in certain locations.


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