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.

What are the best human services programs of 2020? Here are our top 10:

Rank School Location
1 University of Illinois Springfield Springfield, IL
2 California State University, Northridge Northridge, CA
3 Concordia University Chicago River Forest, IL
4 University of Nebraska Lincoln Lincoln, NE
5 Liberty University Lynchburg, VA
6 University of Oklahoma Norman, OK
7 Bellevue University Bellevue, NE
8 Saint Mary's University of Minnesota Winona, MN
9 University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Oshkosh, WI
10 Saint Leo University Saint Leo, FL

Choosing a Program

WILL THIS PROGRAM PROVIDE ME WITH THE SKILLS I NEED TO ADVANCE MY CAREER?

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.

DO I NEED PREVIOUS WORK EXPERIENCE TO GET IN?

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.

CAN I WORK WHILE I COMPLETE MY ONLINE MASTER'S IN HUMAN SERVICES?

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.

WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES TO EARNING MY MHS ONLINE?

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.

WHAT ARE THE BEST ONLINE MASTER'S IN HUMAN SERVICES PROGRAMS?

Rank School Location Cost Graduation Rate Description Toggle
1

University of Illinois Springfield

Springfield, IL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 51%

The University of Illinois Springfield offers an online master of arts in human services that prepares graduates to deliver human services to communities, families, and individuals. Students can choose from concentrations in alcoholism and substance abuse, child and family studies, gerontology, and social services administration.

This 44-credit master's in human services includes core coursework that covers critical perspectives in human services, interviewing and assessment skills, and social policy. The curriculum also incorporates a supervised internship in a human services environment where students complete 100 hours of fieldwork per academic credit. Students must earn a "B" or higher in each course or it will not count toward their degree.

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree and submit transcripts. UIS is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

2

California State University, Northridge

Northridge, CA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 54%

California State University, Northridge offers an online master of science in assistive technology and human services for working professionals. The program is available entirely online, and graduates are prepared to assist individuals who rely on assistive technologies.

This 30-credit MS in assistive technology and human services can be completed in two years. Core courses include assistive technology across the lifespan, research methods and design, and counseling in assistive technology services delivery. Students must also complete directed comprehensive studies to satisfy the culminating experience requirement.

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution and have a minimum 2.5 GPA, though a GPA of 3.0 or higher is preferred. California State University, Northridge is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

3

Concordia University Chicago

River Forest, IL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 49%

Concordia University Chicago offers an online master of arts in human services that prepares learners to work in community mental health centers, family services agencies, and related organizations. This program emphasizes the areas of psychology, gerontology, and advocacy.

This online master's degree in human services can be completed in two years. Students take 33 credits of classes, including core courses in human service systems, intervention and direct services, and administration of human services. Students must also complete an internship and a capstone research project. Courses are available entirely online.

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution and have earned a minimum 2.85 GPA. Students may qualify for probationary admission if they have a GPA between 2.25 and 2.84. CUC is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

4

University of Nebraska Lincoln

Lincoln, NE Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 69%

The University of Nebraska Lincoln offers an online master of science in child, youth, and family studies with a specialization in human and family services administration. Graduates are prepared for careers in community health and child services, as well as with other human services organizations. The child, youth, and family studies department participates in the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance, and participants can take courses offered through a consortium of universities.

Learners who earn this online master's degree in human services administration take 36 credits of coursework, including classes like theories of human development and family relations, foundations in public service, and family professionals as consumers of research.

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution, have competitive GRE scores, and submit a resume or curriculum vitae. UNL is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

5

Liberty University

Lynchburg, VA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 50%

Liberty University offers an online master of arts in human services counseling that combines coursework in psychology, sociology, counseling, and social work to provide students with an understanding of human behavior. Graduates are prepared to become human service workers.

This online master's degree in human services requires 30 credits and can be completed in 1.5 years. Core courses include human growth and development, studies in interpersonal communication, and group dynamics. Students can choose from a variety of specializations, including addictions and recovery, criminal justice, and crisis response and trauma. The school offers substantial tuition discounts to military students.

Applicants must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution and a minimum 2.0 GPA. However, GRE scores are not required. Liberty is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

6

University of Oklahoma

Norman, OK Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 67%

The University of Oklahoma offers an online master of arts in human and health services administration that provides learners with a broad understanding of healthcare and human service delivery systems. Courses are available entirely online in a synchronous format.

This 33-credit degree takes two years to complete. Core courses include interdisciplinary foundations, strategic planning and evaluation, and ethics in human and health services administration. Students can complete a thesis or non-thesis pathway. To graduate, students must maintain a 3.0 GPA.

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution and have earned a minimum 3.0 GPA. OU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

7

Bellevue University

Bellevue, NE Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 0%

Bellevue University offers an online master of arts in human services that prepares learners to work with nonprofits and other human service organizations. This program is a non-licensure degree and is not designed for individuals seeking mental health counseling licensure or certification.

This online master's degree in human services features 36 credits of coursework, covering topics like communications for human services, social and cultural diversity, ethics for human services, and statistics and quantitative research methods. Students can choose to complete one of two capstone options: an internship or an applied learning project.

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited university or college with a minimum 2.5 GPA. Students who already have a master's degree may be accepted without needing to provide undergraduate transcripts. BU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

8

Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

Winona, MN Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 61%

Saint Mary's University of Minnesota offers an online master of arts in health and human services administration that prepares graduates for leadership roles in healthcare and human services delivery. Graduates can pursue careers as nursing home administrators, medical and health services managers, and social service managers.

To earn this online master's in human services degree, students complete 36 credits over the course of two years. Core courses include advanced health policy and ethics, health and human services systems, and human resources in the health and human services sector. Students seeking Minnesota nursing home licensure can complete a series of nursing home requirements as electives.

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution and have a minimum 2.75 GPA. Saint Mary's is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

9

University of Wisconsin Oshkosh

Oshkosh, WI Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 53%

The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh offers an online master of science in human services leadership that prepares learners to lead sustainable organizations that positively impact communities. Courses are available entirely online.

This 30-credit degree features coursework that emphasizes a global perspective,such as global issues in local communities, transcultural leadership, transnational fiscal management, and social marketing in human services.

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution and have a minimum 2.75 GPA. Prospective students also need to submit a 500-word essay and transcripts as a part of their application. However, GRE scores are not required.

The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

10

Saint Leo University

Saint Leo, FL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 51%

Saint Leo University offers an online master of science in human services administration that prepares graduates for leadership and executive roles within human services agencies.

Full-time students can earn this 36-credit degree in one year, while part-time learners can graduate in two years. Core courses include management and leadership in human service organizations, community needs assessment and program evaluation, and funding sources for human service organizations. Courses are available entirely online in eight-week terms.

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution and have a minimum 3.0 GPA. GRE scores are not required. Prospective students should submit their application materials at least 60 days before their desired starting term. Saint Leo is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

What Else Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Human Services Program?

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.

CONCENTRATIONS OFFERED FOR AN ONLINE MASTER'S DEGREE IN HUMAN SERVICES

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

CURRICULUM FOR AN ONLINE MASTER'S DEGREE IN HUMAN SERVICES

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.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET AN ONLINE MASTER'S IN HUMAN SERVICES?

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.

CERTIFICATIONS AND LICENSES A MASTER'S IN HUMAN SERVICES PREPARES FOR

  • 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.

Accreditation for Online Master's in Human Services Programs

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.

Employment Outlook for Master's in Human Services Graduates

MASTER'S IN HUMAN SERVICES CAREERS AND SALARIES

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%

JOB PLACEMENT

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

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.

Financing Your Online Master's in Human Services 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.

AN OVERVIEW OF FINANCIAL AID

Approximately two-thirds of today's college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.

UNDERSTANDING THE FAFSA

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.

FINANCIAL AID FOR ONLINE STUDENTS

Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you'll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn't always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR SINGLE PARENTS

Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family's financial future. We've compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.

FINANCIAL AID FOR VETERANS AND ACTIVE MILITARY

Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.