Most Affordable Online Master’s in Human Services Programs

Explore our ranking of the most affordable online Master's in Human Services programs. Earn your degree from a high-quality school with lower costs.

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by Bethanny Parker

Published on March 8, 2022 · Updated on May 6, 2022

Edited by Taylor Gadsden
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A master's in human services is a two-year graduate program that helps human services professionals expand their skills in coordinating and planning programs, managing interventions, and delivering services.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the average cost of graduate school tuition and fees was $19,792 per year during the 2019-20 school year. Based on this, the average cost for a two-year graduate program would be $39,584. Some online schools are less expensive than on-campus schools, but that is not always the case.

Payscale reports that the average base salary for those with a master's in human services was $66,000 per year as of February 2022. Some of the most common job titles for degree-holders are human resources manager, human resources generalist, human resources director, human resources business partner, and executive director.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported a median salary of $63,490 per year for human resource specialists in 2020, while the median salary for human resources managers was $121,220. The BLS projects 10% job growth for human resources specialists and 9% for human resources managers from 2020-30. This growth rate is about average.

How Much Does an Online Master's in Human Services Cost?

NCES reports the average cost of graduate school tuition and fees as $12,410 per year for public institutions and $26,597 for private institutions for 2019-20. Among private institutions, the average cost of attending a nonprofit school was $28,430 in 2019-20, while the average cost of attending a for-profit school was $14,289.

The cost varies from one school to another. For example, Purdue University Global charges $420 per credit, while Bellevue University charges $620 per credit.

Keep in mind that these figures are for tuition only. To determine the true program cost, you'll need to add in costs for books and supplies, room and board, transportation, and lost wages.

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

During an online master's in human services program, students develop the skills and traits to become effective human services professionals. They practice active listening skills and learn to be sensitive to other people's needs. They must possess emotional intelligence and have the ability to bond with other people.

The program typically requires around 30-36 credits and takes 18-24 months to complete. Depending on the school, this degree may or may not meet the requirements for licensing for those who want to work as counselors.

Many schools offer concentrations within the master's in human services program. Some of these concentrations available include:

Some graduate schools offer a master of arts (MA) in human services, while others offer a master of science (MS). An MA tends to focus more on the humanities, while an MS focuses more on science.

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Popular Online Master's in Human Services Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

What Courses Will I Take in an Online Master's in Human Services Program?

Introduction to Counseling

This course introduces the counseling process, legal and ethical issues, the history of counseling, and the roles of professional counselors. Students learn about trends in counseling, the responsibilities of counselors, and the laws and policies surrounding counseling.

Human Growth and Development

Students in this course examine the research, concepts, and theories regarding human development. They learn about developmental milestones over the human lifespan, including social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development.

Assessment and Assessment Techniques

This course teaches students how to administer assessments and evaluate the results. It covers the development of assessments, administration, and scoring. Students learn to interpret the results objectively and integrate them into a treatment plan.

Research Methods and Program Evaluation

Students learn to understand research on education, psychology, and counseling. They examine common designs for research studies and analyze published studies. Students learn how to develop good questions for research and design research paradigms.

Substance Use Disorders and Process Addictions

This course gives students an understanding of substance misuse disorders and process addictions. Students examine factors that contribute to substance misuse disorders, including contextual, spiritual, environmental, environmental, and psychological factors.

Find the Tools You Need to Get Started on Your Degree

Financial Aid Guide for Graduate Students Your Guide to College Loans Your Guide to the FAFSA

What Are the Admission Requirements for an Online Master's in Human Services Program?

For most schools, graduate admission requirements are the same whether you plan to attend in person or online. To qualify for admission to a graduate program, you'll need to prove that you've completed your bachelor's degree. Some schools may require a bachelor's degree in human services or a related field. If your degree is in another field, you may have to complete some prerequisites before beginning your online master's in human services.

Application

When you applied for admission to your undergraduate program, you might have used a college application system such as the Common App to apply to multiple schools at once. However, this service is not available for graduate schools. You'll have to submit an application and fee to each school separately.

Test Scores

Although many schools no longer require GRE or other test scores for admission into graduate school, some schools do. If you need to take the GRE, prepare well ahead of time by using a study guide and taking practice GRE tests. The score required varies from one school to another, but you should probably strive for a combined score of 310-315 or higher.

Letters of Recommendation

If you have work experience, you should ask your work supervisors for letters of recommendation. Their familiarity with your work puts them in a good position to gauge how likely you are to do well in a graduate program and how it will positively impact your career. If you don't have work experience, ask your favorite undergraduate professors.

Resume and Work Experience

If your school asks for your resume and work experience, be sure to include all relevant work experience. The same goes for your educational experience. Include all schools you've attended, even if you did not receive a degree. If you have been involved in any research, be sure to make a note of it.

Essays

When writing your graduate school essay, be sure to stick to the word count provided. Your school may provide a topic, or they may ask for a certain type of essay, such as a personal statement, statement of purpose, or letter of intent. A compelling essay helps the admissions team at the school understand why you are a good candidate for the program.

Official Transcripts

You'll need to request official transcripts from any college you've attended. If you've taken any graduate courses, your new school will evaluate those credits and decide whether to offer transfer credits. If you are given transfer credits, you may not need to take as many courses to complete your master's in human services.

What Can I Do With an Online Master's in Human Services Degree?

Career Outlook

According to Payscale, people with a master's in human services earned an average of $66,000 per year as of February 2022. The most common titles were human resources generalist and human resources manager.

The BLS projects 9-10% growth for human resources specialists and managers from 2020-30. Human resources specialists made a median salary of $63,490 in 2020, while human resources managers earned $121,220.

Other job titles for people with this degree include executive director, case manager, program manager (nonprofit organization), talent acquisition specialist, and social services director. People with a master's in human services often work in employment services, individual and family services, professional and technical services, and corporate management.

See where a master's in human services can take you. Learn more about human resources careers.

Career Paths

Human Resources Specialists

Human resources specialists work with managers to determine hiring needs and then advertise to attract applicants for the available jobs. They screen applications and resumes and interview the candidates they feel are most likely to qualify for the position. They inform applicants of the job's duties and benefits during the hiring process.

Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $63,490

Human Resources Managers

Human resources managers plan and direct the hiring for their organizations. They plan how to best use the employees' talents and manage benefits programs. They help develop and implement policies on issues like sexual harassment and equal employment opportunity.

Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $121,220

Social Workers

Social workers determine who needs help and try to get them the help they need. They protect children and provide support for families who need help. Social workers evaluate the needs of their clients and help them set goals. They help people adjust to life changes such as unemployment, divorce, or illness. They also help people get the resources they need.

Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $51,760

Social and Community Service Managers

Social and community service managers work with community members and donors to discuss social programs. They identify needs and determine what services will help fill those needs. They oversee social programs in accordance with the stakeholders' goals and make suggestions for improving those programs.

Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $69,600

Case Manager

Case managers listen to their clients to determine their needs and then work to meet those needs. They work to benefit both their clients and their employer's social service programs. Those who work in a supervisory role must be able to motivate their team members to reach the organization's goals.

Median Annual Salary (February 2022): $40,160

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Continuing Education

Some people who earn a master's in human services may go back to school to earn a doctorate in human services or a Ph.D. in human services. A Ph.D. is useful for those who want to work in academia, either as a postsecondary teacher or researcher.

Alternatively, some people with a master's in human services may want to pursue a second master's in counseling, especially if their master's in human services did not prepare them for the licensing exam to become licensed clinical social workers.

How Do I Choose an Online Master's in Human Services Program?

Cost

According to NCES, the average cost of tuition and fees for one year of graduate education was $19,792 in 2019-20. The average for public schools was $12,410, while the average for private schools was $26,597. Public schools often charge lower tuition rates to in-state students than to out-of-state students, although online learners may qualify for in-state rates no matter where they live. When comparing the costs of graduate programs — whether online or on campus — consider the true program cost, including room and board, transportation, and lost wages.

Program Format

Synchronous programs require you to log in at specific times, whereas asynchronous programs do not. Asynchronous programs may be better than synchronous programs if you need flexibility in your schedule due to work or other commitments. Part-time schedules can also provide increased scheduling flexibility, especially if you can take classes in the evenings or on weekends.

Location

If you're looking for an online master's in human services, you may not care about location. However, if the school is far away, ensure the program is offered 100% online, with no in-person requirements. Unexpected travel costs could make a big difference when choosing an affordable online master's in human services.

Accreditation

There are two kinds of accreditation: institutional and programmatic. It can be very difficult to get your credits transferred if you attend a school that is not institutionally accredited. The Council for Standards in Human Service Education provides accreditation for some of the top human services programs in the United States.

Student Support

Different schools provide different types of student support services. If you need mentorship services or help finding an internship, make sure the school you're considering offers those services. Also check to make sure you will be able to access student services online or over the phone. Student services may include career services, academic advising, tutoring, or alumni connections.

How Do I Pay for an Online Master's in Human Services?

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

The first step to qualify for many forms of financial aid is to fill out and submit the FAFSA. The FAFSA is used to determine whether students qualify for federal or state financial aid, as well as a variety of grants, loans, and scholarships., The government uses the FAFSA to determine a student's expected family contribution, which is used to determine their eligibility for need-based financial aid.

Loans

Graduate students may qualify for federal grad PLUS loans. There are also private student loans available for those who do not qualify for PLUS loans. If you work for a government or nonprofit organization, you may qualify for student loan forgiveness under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.

Grants

Grants do not have to be repaid, so you should apply for as many relevant grants as possible. Fellowships are a special type of grant designed for graduate programs. Students who receive a fellowship usually take on some teaching and/or research responsibilities at their school. In exchange, some or all of their tuition is paid. They may also receive a stipend for living expenses.

Work-Study Programs

Work-study jobs are available to low-income undergraduate and graduate students. These jobs are usually located on or near campus — if you do not live on campus, you'll have to pay for transportation to get there. As a result, work-study jobs may not be available to online students. Information from the FAFSA, along with a student's skills and experience, determines their eligibility for work-study jobs.

Scholarships

Like grants, scholarships do not need to be repaid. Unlike grants, scholarships are typically awarded to students based on merit. Competition for scholarships can be fierce. Some scholarships are set aside for people with specific majors or ethnic backgrounds. Others are for people who are the first in their family to go to college.

Most Affordable Accredited Online Master's in Human Services Programs

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Most Affordable Online Master's in Human Services Programs

  1. California State University, Northridge
    Location

    Northridge, CA

    Tuition

    $8549

    California State University, Northridge offers an online master of science in assistive technology studies and human services that positions graduates for successful careers in a fast-growing field. Students develop technical skills alongside humanitarian sensitivities to serve the nation's rapidly aging population.

    CSUN's program is the first of its kind offered by an accredited Southern California school. The curriculum introduces the underlying design principles that power the more than 4,000 adaptive, assistive, and access technologies currently used in the United States.

    Degree-seekers can complete this 10-course master's program in two years. Applicants do not need a science background; the program accepts learners with a four-year degree in any field.

  2. University of Nebraska-Lincoln
    Location

    Lincoln, NE

    Tuition

    $17315

    The University of Nebraska-Lincoln offers a master of science in child, youth, and family studies program. Degree-seekers can select an entirely online concentration in human and family services administration.

    The institution features some of the most complete and advanced family studies research infrastructure in the Midwest. Students in the program enjoy full access to the university's Family Resource Center and Child Development Laboratory, both of which offer comprehensive teaching and learning resources.

    These facilities engage in service delivery research for forward-looking initiatives, such as telemental health programs for rural populations. This program also holds specialized accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children, which applies to just 9% of relevant programs nationwide.

  3. University of Illinois Springfield
    Location

    Springfield, IL

    Tuition

    $10733

    The online master's in human services at the University of Illinois Springfield features four specialized concentrations. Students can customize their learning by following highly focused tracks in alcoholism and substance abuse, child and family studies, gerontology, and social services administration.

    All four specializations prepare human services professionals to help their clients overcome challenges and improve their lives. Programmatic accreditation from the Illinois Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Professional Certification Association applies to the alcoholism and substance abuse track.

    This 44-credit program also features an intensive internship requirement. Degree-seekers participate in 100 hours of supervised, hands-on learning in a real human services environment. This requirement allows students to apply their learning and develop their professional network.

  4. St. Joseph's College New York
    Location

    Brooklyn, NY

    Tuition

    $16973

    Degree-seekers interested in leadership roles with community-oriented organizations can prepare for career success by earning an online master of science in human services leadership at St. Joseph's College New York. Designed to build organizational management and supervisory proficiencies, the program emphasizes applied information technology and helps learners better understand advocacy, fundraising, community-building, and multicultural issues.

    This master of science program requires all learners to participate in a competency application project. Students use self-guided assessment paradigms to evaluate their skills against a master list of desired learning outcomes. These assessments help ensure learners' professional and academic development remains on track throughout the program.

    To be considered for admission, candidates must hold a four-year degree from an accredited institution with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0. Applicants must also submit a current resume and at least two letters of recommendation.

  5. University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
    Location

    Oshkosh, WI

    Tuition

    $12819

    Designed to be accessible and affordable, the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh's master of science in human services leadership emphasizes organizational analysis, sustainability, inclusivity, and the achievement of meaningful change through sound professional practice.

    Students in this master's in human services program explore root causes for international issues, as well as the subsequent impacts on communities at a local level. Learners also examine multiculturalism, social marketing, and operational essentials related to topics like cover staffing, financial management, and strategic development.

    This 30-credit, fully online program is delivered asynchronously. Students can begin in the fall, spring, or summer. Applicants do not need to submit standardized test scores or letters of recommendation.

  6. Wake Forest University
    Location

    Winston-Salem, NC

    Tuition

    $27354

    The online master's in counseling and human services at Wake Forest University features two specialization options. Learners can concentrate their studies in clinical mental health counseling, preparing for future careers in community settings, or earn an emphasis in school counseling to help provide direction to young people.

    The clinical mental health counseling concentration covers issues including substance abuse, addiction, family counseling, and marriage counseling. School counseling specialists focus particularly on the unique needs of at-risk youth.

    Based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Wake Forest was founded in 1834 and ranks among the region's best-known schools. The school embraces a community-oriented campus culture and enjoys high levels of faculty engagement for a major research university.

  7. University of Oklahoma
    Location

    Norman, OK

    Tuition

    $21158

    The University of Oklahoma's master of arts in human and health services administration prepares degree-seekers for careers in the management and administrative sides of community services. Designed to meet the growing demand for healthcare administrators, this program explores issues related to physical and mental health service delivery.

    Students pursuing this online master's degree in human services take 16-week classes in the fall and spring, and summer semesters include eight-week terms. Learners complete 33 credits of classes.

    Incoming students should have an existing academic or professional background in a related area. Core coursework covers topics like ethics, strategic asset management and planning, diversity, and cultural sensitivity.

  8. Bellevue University
    Location

    Bellevue, NE

    Tuition

    $9635

    Bellevue University's online master of arts in human services program prepares graduates for careers in nonprofit and community-based organizations. Learners build strong collaboration, advocacy, and leadership skills.

    The curriculum includes 36 credits, and core courses cover topics like statistical analysis and qualitative research, ethics, community engagement, funding and fundraising, nonprofit administration, and leadership topics. Additionally, each student concludes the program with an applied learning project or an internship/fieldwork experience.

    Applicants must hold a bachelor's or master's degree and they may be asked to submit letters or recommendation and essays. Nebraska-based BU is a private institution that holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

  9. Saint Mary's University of Minnesota
    Location

    Winona, MN

    Tuition

    $21370

    Saint Mary's University of Minnesota offers a master of arts in health and human services administration that prepares learners to improve service delivery programs for community members in need. This program is credentialled by the Minnesota Board of Examiners for Nursing Home Administrators.

    While the program chiefly helps degree-seekers pursue careers in gerontology, graduates qualify for professional opportunities in many care settings. Alumni of the program have gone on to work as nursing home administrators, hospice administrators, medical and health services managers, and community service managers.

    Coursework is delivered entirely online, and students complete 36 credits to earn their degree. Practicum coursework is available to students who wish to pursue professional licensure as long-term care administrators.

  10. Concordia University Chicago
    Location

    River Forest, IL

    Tuition

    $16775

    Concordia University Chicago's master of arts in human services follows a psychology-oriented interdisciplinary approach. This online master's degree in human services may be particularly attractive to individuals seeking mid-level career opportunities in social services and community advocacy.

    The program focuses on human services in outpatient physical and mental healthcare settings, emphasizing skills in counseling, gerontology, organizational management, and administration. Graduates are also prepared for future doctoral studies.

    The curriculum covers topics like intervention strategies, ethics, and organizational evaluation. The program culminates in a professionally supervised internship that encourages students to synthesize and apply their learning in a pre-approved practical setting.

Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Human Services Programs

Is a master's in human services worth it? true

To determine whether a master's in human services is worth it, you need to figure out how much the degree costs and estimate how much you'll make per year after you earn the degree. For example, assume that it costs $20,000 per year for tuition, $20,000 for room, board, and transportation, and $30,000 for lost wages since you won't be working. That's a total cost of $140,000 for a two-year program.

You can subtract your current salary from your estimated salary to determine how much more you'll make each year with the degree. Then divide the program's cost by the amount per year to find out how many years it will take for the program to pay for itself.

What can I do with a master's in human services? true

A master's in human services can lead to a social service career, such as social worker, case worker, or social services director. A person with this degree could become a program manager at a nonprofit organization.

Many people who earn their master's degree in human services end up working in human resources. Positions in this discipline include human resources generalist, human resources manager, human resources specialist, human resources director, and vice president of human resources.

Are human services graduates in demand? true

The demand for human services graduates varies based on the job title. The BLS projects the demand for human resources specialists to increase 10% from 2020-30. The projected increase in demand for human resources managers is 9% over the same period, while the projected increase for social workers is 12% and for social and community service managers is 15%.

As of February 2022, Indeed had over 84,000 job listings for "human resources specialist" and over 43,000 listings for "human resources manager." There were over 106,000 job listings for "social worker" and more than 757,000 listings for "community service manager."

How much money can I make with a master's in human services?

According to Payscale, people with a master's in human services earned an average of $66,000 per year as of February 2022. The actual amount you can expect to earn varies based on your job title, experience level, and geographic location. Entry-level employees typically earn significantly less than their peers with 4-5 years of experience, and those with 20+ years of experience usually earn the most.

In addition, people who live in areas with a higher cost of living typically earn more than those in areas with a lower cost of living.

What are the highest-paying jobs I can get with a master's in human services?

Human resources managers are among the highest-paid people with a master's in human services. According to the BLS, they earn a median salary of $121,220 per year. They typically need at least a bachelor's degree and five years of related experience. A master's degree can also help these professionals climb the ladder. They work in many industries, including professional and technical services, scientific services, and manufacturing.

Human resources managers oversee a team of human resources specialists. They plan how to best use a company's human assets, serve as a liaison between employees and management, and implement benefits programs.

Coronavirus has highlighted the heroic efforts of front-line healthcare workers. Prospective healthcare students can expect jobs in this field to grow over the next decade. Learn about the differences between clinical social work and direct practice social work. Read on to find out which type of social work is right for you. A professional addiction counselor describes her business and discusses life in the field.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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