Derick de Souza
Written By - Derick de Souza

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Online master’s in human services degree programs give a strong foundation for studying human behavior and prepare students with the skills they would need to make a long-lasting impact on other individuals around them. This program is designed for prospective students dedicated to improving the quality of life for all individuals. An online human services master’s ranges between 30 and 46 credits and can be completed within two years. This program focuses on accessibility, design, deliverance of services, and evaluations of human service interventions. This guide explains the online master in human services degree program and all its components, including curriculum, specializations, careers, etc.

online master in human services

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Featured Online Programs

Southern New Hampshire University

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Southern New Hampshire University is a private, nonprofit, accredited institution with more than 3,000 on-campus students and over 60,000 online students, making us one of the fastest-growing universities in the country. Founded in 1932, we’ve been relentlessly reinventing higher education ever since and have gained national recognition for our dedication to helping students transform their lives and the lives of those around them.

We’re proud to provide affordable, accessible education that students can pursue on our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH, over our innovative online platform or at our regional centers in Manchester, Nashua, Portsmouth and Salem, NH, and Brunswick, ME.

SNHU has earned the Best Buy and Best of Business – Best Online Degree awards and is consistently ranked as a top Military Friendly® School by G.I Jobs®.

Best Online Master’s in Human Services Programs

When choosing a master’s program, a student should consider critical aspects to make an informed decision. The tuition fee of the degree, curriculum, electives, concentrations, geographical location of the college, availability of student services, and quality of the faculty should be examined and compared across options. Based on these and other considerations, here are the best online master’s in human services ranked by Online Master’s Colleges teams:

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College Name & AddressTuitionGraduation Rate
Purdue University Global
2550 Northwestern Avenue, Suite 1100, West Lafayette, Indiana 47906
Arizona State University Digital Immersion
1365 N Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale, Arizona 85257
University of Oklahoma-Norman Campus
660 Parrington Oval, Norman, Oklahoma 73019
Oklahoma State University
107 Whitehurst, Stillwater, Oklahoma 74078
Kansas State University
1453 Mission Street, San Francisco, California 94103
Regent University
2300 Adams Ave, Scranton, Pennsylvania 18509
Liberty University
1 Seton Hill Drive, Greensburg, Pennsylvania 15601
East Tennessee State University
3960 San Felipe Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87507
Saint Leo University
263 Alden St, Springfield, Massachusetts 01109
Lenoir-Rhyne University
200 Willoughby Ave, Brooklyn, New York 11205
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
1400 R Street, Lincoln, Nebraska 68588
California State University-Northridge
18111 Nordhoff St, Northridge, California 91330
Bryan College-Dayton
900 Dayton Street, Yellow Springs, Ohio 45387
Minot State University
100 Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York 11549
University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh
1 St Mary of Woods Coll, Saint Mary of the Woods, Indiana 47876
Nova Southeastern University
700 Prospect St, New Haven, Connecticut 06511
Walden University
1001 South Cedar, Ottawa, Kansas 66067
University of Northwestern-St Paul
219 Meadville Street, Edinboro, Pennsylvania 16444
University of Illinois Springfield
720 Northern Blvd, Brookville, New York 11548
Capella University
220 Grove Ave, Prescott, Arizona 86301

Source – Integrated Post Secondary Education Data System & University Data
*Tuition rates are for in-state and per year. Program specific rates may apply.
**NA – data not available

Understanding Online Master’s in Human Services Programs

The Master’s in Human Services online degree helps students learn the techniques and skills needed to work in public resources, policy-based programs, and social services. This program is offered in both online, on-campus, and hybrid modes (offering both online and offline classes). The curriculum focuses on theories, specific research, and techniques to help a diverse population of families, children, older adults, and so on. Many institutions also include residency, internship, or practicum where students can participate in different fieldwork experiences before completing their degrees. An online human services degree could take up to two years and range between 30 and 46 credits; the duration could differ from online vs in-person classes.  While the on-campus program can be completed in a shorter time, the online program could be completed part-time and with asynchronous coursework. This program’s instruction is offered through synchronous and asynchronous learning. In addition to the core coursework, the program offers concentrations in fields like child and family studies, gerontology, counseling, and social service administration. After completing this degree, students can be employed in various professions like human services manager, social program developer, etc.

Curriculum and Skills Gained in Online Master’s in Human Services Programs

An online master’s in human services requires 30 to 46 credits, but this requirement could differ from institution to institution or program to program, depending on the curriculum and other factors. Students must select different electives, thesis options, and concentrations. Some human services master programs also require the students to complete a capstone project and internships in the field before completing the program. Most colleges will have a similar selection of standard human services courses, such as:

Overview of Human Services
This course provides a foundational understanding of the field. Covering key concepts, ethical considerations, and diverse service models, it prepares students for advanced studies by offering a comprehensive insight into the multifaceted nature of human services practice.

Cultural Diversity and Individual Differences
This course explores the significance of diversity in service provision. Addressing cultural nuances, identity, and individual differences, it equips students with the knowledge and skills needed for culturally competent and inclusive practice in the dynamic human services field.

Nonprofit Management in Human Services
This course explores principles of effective leadership and strategic planning specific to nonprofit organizations. Focusing on financial sustainability, program development, and ethical practices, it equips students with skills essential for successful human services nonprofit sector management.

Decision Making for Human Services Organization
This course emphasizes critical decision-making skills essential for effective leadership in human services. It covers strategic planning, resource allocation, and ethical considerations, providing students with the expertise needed to navigate complex organizational challenges within the human services sector.

Professional Ethics, Standards of Practice, and Law
This course explores ethical principles, legal considerations, and professional standards crucial for practitioners. It equips students with the knowledge to navigate complex ethical dilemmas and legal frameworks, ensuring ethical and lawful practice in human services.

Some of the other common courses in a Master’s in Human Services program may include:

  • Life Span Developments
  • Theories of Behavior in Human Services
  • Developing Team Collaboration in Human Services 
  • Human Services Delivery Processes and Skills
  • Research Design and Methods
  • Professional Communication in Human Services
  • Group Theories and Human Systems
  • Program Development and Evaluation in Human Services
  • Integrative Project for Human Services
  • Management and Leadership in Human Services
  • Public Policy in Human Services

Along with these courses, students might be required to complete a thesis, capstone, or end-of-the-year comprehensive exam, depending on the college’s specific requirements. Based on the college’s location, students must also complete certain hours of on-field internship. 

On graduating from human services master programs, students will be efficient enough to take up roles and responsibilities in different dimensions of human services. Some of the skills they would have acquired are the ability to: 

  • analyze the ethical standards required in human services as a professional;
  • advocate on behalf of those individuals who need an understanding of the function, methods, and roles that human services play;
  • analyze high-quality information and data to interpret and evaluate the findings and deliver appropriate human services to those who need them the most;
  • demonstrate high adaptability to the field and understand the history and impact that present and past policies have had on human services;
  • implement and identify efficient strategies that can be incorporated theoretically and with a philosophical bent in mind to reflect the values that the profession of human services represents; 
  • evaluate and recognize the values, expectations, and strategies of self-care available in this field;
  • understand the needs of individuals and analyze the scope human services would have on the population;
  • demonstrate a level of knowledge across all specializations and hold essential positions in the administration field of human services;
  • effectively communicate knowledge and expertise through visual public and written presentations; and
  • effectively design, implement, and evaluate the diverse programs in human services.

Online Master’s in Human Services Degree Types

There are many online master’s in human services degrees available across different regions in the United States, the two most prominent being the Master of Science or MS in Human Services Online and the Master of Arts or MA in Human Services Online. These degrees vary in curriculum and requirements.

Master of Science in Human Services

The Master of Science in Human Services or MA Human Services degree program is developed for individuals who want to improve the quality of life of people and communities. This program’s curriculum will help students advocate for change and implement programs in different human services areas. They focus on designing, implementing, and evaluating intervention and coordination of programs.

Master of Arts in Human Services

The Master of Arts in Human Services or MA Human Services (also known as the MAHS degree) provides prospective graduate students the skills to become leaders at human services-related organizations. In this degree, students understand employees’ and service consumers’ different goals, values, and lifestyles. Students can develop an understanding of the historical paradigms of human services and hone their management skills.

Specializations in Online Master’s in Human Services Programs

Selecting a master’s program specialization is crucial as it will allow students to gain expertise in a specific area within the human services domain. The curriculum of the specializations is oriented towards a particular area of study that the graduate student is interested in. Human services specializations help prospective graduates gain better industry recognition, higher salaries, and career prospects. There are numerous human services specializations, which include, but are not limited to:

Area of Specialization Description 
Marriage and Family This specialization focuses on equipping students with expertise in addressing the unique dynamics of relationships. It explores counseling techniques, intervention strategies, and family-centered approaches to prepare professionals for supporting the well-being of individuals within the context of marital and familial relationships.
Human Services Nonprofit Administration This specialization emphasizes skills for effective leadership and management in nonprofit organizations. It covers strategic planning, fundraising, and program development, preparing professionals to navigate the distinct challenges of administering human services within the nonprofit sector.
Family Studies and Interventions This specialization focuses on understanding and enhancing family dynamics. Students explore evidence-based interventions, counseling techniques, and strategies to support families in diverse contexts. This specialization equips professionals to address challenges and promote the well-being of individuals within family systems.
Social and Community Services This specialization centers on community-driven solutions. It covers social advocacy, community development, and program planning to empower professionals with the skills needed for effective collaboration, engagement, and leadership in diverse social settings, contributing to positive societal change.
Family and Community Services This specialization focuses on the overall well-being of families and communities through various human services they would require. Students learn about helping diverse populations like disabled older adults or other underrepresented populations.
Disaster, Crisis, and Intervention In this specialization, students examine strategies and theories to respond to the initial needs of individuals and communities in an emergency and how to assist victims after the initial response.

Some examples of other specializations include:

  • Organizational and Social Services
  • Military Families and Culture
  • Studies in Aging
  • Professional Life Coaching
  • Addictions Counseling

Timeline for graduating from Online Master’s in Human Services Programs

The duration of the master of human services program online could range from 16 to 24 months. This timeline would differ depending on the number of credits the program requires, mode of program delivery, full-time or part-time student status, electives, concentration, coursework, and synchronous or asynchronous learning. Typically, the program ranges between 30 and 46 credits, which full-time students could complete in about two years or less, and part-time students in 3 to 4 years.

Accelerated Online Master’s in Human Services Programs

Accelerated online master’s programs help students obtain their degrees on a shorter timeline, with lower cost and a more tight-knit curriculum. Some colleges allow students to combine their undergraduate and graduate degrees, enabling them to complete them in five years instead of the usually required six; others allow students to take higher course loads to graduate quicker. Here are two examples of accelerated online master’s in human services: 

Online Master’s in Human Services Programs Admission Requirements

When applying for an online master’s in human services, students must follow admission guidelines and fulfill specific criteria. It is crucial to closely observe deadlines and ensure the submission of required documentation with the application. Typically, students are expected to meet requirements such as a formal application, standardized test scores, and transcripts. Across programs, here are the most common master’s in human services admissions requirements:

  • Application form and fee
  • Bachelor’s degree (does not need to be a degree in human services)
  • Minimum GPA between 2.0 and 3.0 in undergraduate coursework
  • Official transcripts from previous institutions attended
  • Letters of recommendation (many institutions require 2 or 3)
  • Graduate Résumé 
  • Statement of Purpose or Personal Statement
  • Standardized test scores such as the GRE or GMAT

No GRE Online Master’s in Human Services Programs

When applying for graduate programs, students must complete the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and submit their scores as part of the admissions process. However, some institutions have eliminated the GRE requirement for their degrees. When a master’s program has no GRE requirements, it allows consideration of applicants from diverse fields. Many students also appreciate avoiding the GRE, as it can be a demanding and stressful component of the application process. Some universities that offer master’s in human services with no GRE programs are Bellevue University3, University of North Georgia4, and Capella University5.

Accreditation for Online Master’s in Human Services Programs

Accreditation is a quality assurance process for institutions. Doing a master’s degree from an accredited institute is very important as it could verify the authenticity of the degree, the quality of teaching, the institution’s reputation, transferability of credits, employability, and so on. Employers prefer candidates from accredited universities as they meet a set quality of education standard and professionalism. There are predominantly two types of accreditation in the United States – Regional and National Accreditation. Colleges are commonly accredited by regional accrediting bodies, which are:

Some colleges may also provide accredited master’s in human services. These program-accredited degrees are usually accredited by the Council for Standards in Human Service Education6, recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation7 or CHEA. Programmatic accreditation assures a high-quality human service education through a peer-based accreditation process and evidence-based standards. 
To understand more about accreditation, students can go through the Accreditation Guide.

Free Courses for Online Master’s in Human Services Students

There are many free human services courses available online. Engaging in such courses can assist prospective students in understanding the program’s demands. However, these courses should not be seen as a replacement for a master’s degree; they essentially help gain additional knowledge that could be used for assignments and exam preparation. Here are a few free master’s in human services online courses:

CourseProvided by Description 
Substance Misuse Outreach Worker Training8AlisonThis course provides essential insights for social workers, teaching identification of substance misuse and understanding abused substances and their health consequences. Exploring reasons behind drug and alcohol abuse, the course outlines addiction factors and imparts strategies to aid recovery from substance use disorders, enhancing professional skills in this critical field.
Fundamentals of Health and Social Care9Alison The Fundamentals of Health and Social Care course facilitates understanding essential rules and regulations, highlighting distinctions between health and social care. Emphasis is placed on effective communication, delineating social workers’ roles, legal rights, and responsibilities in healthcare, along with the pivotal principles and policies necessitating adherence.
Areas of Social Work Practice10edX This course focuses on the social work profession’s mission to enhance human well-being, addressing the needs of vulnerable populations. It emphasizes empowering those facing injustice and introduces learners to the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics, guiding ethical decision-making in social work practice.

How to Pay for an Online Master’s in Human Services Degree

Various factors contribute to determining the cost of a master’s program. The average cost of a master’s degree increases annually, and the rising tuition fees pose challenges for students to afford their education. In addition to pursuing full-time jobs, online master’s in human services degree students can explore various avenues to finance their degree. Some of these options include:

Graduate School Scholarships

Graduate school scholarships cover the whole cost or at least part of the cost of a student’s degree. Universities can give out scholarships; however, other private companies and organizations also frequently provide them, usually based on academic standing and merit.


Grants are a form of financial aid provided to students in financial need or for a specific research or study area. They are usually not based on one’s academic accomplishments but mostly on specific needs.

Graduate Assistantships

Graduate assistantships allow students to work for institutions while pursuing their master’s programs. Students assist their faculty members in teaching undergraduate students, helping develop academic programs, and so on. In return, they are given a stipend, or their fee is reduced or waived.


Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA is a form that students must fill out and receive any form of financial assistance or aid from the United States government. FAFSA collects financial and personal information from students to determine their eligibility. FAFSA in itself is not financial aid but determines a student’s eligibility to secure grants, scholarships, and so on.

Note: Students should be aware of scholarship scams when applying for scholarships. Read the financial aid guide to know more about how to fund graduate studies.

Scholarships for Online Master’s in Human Services Students

Scholarships are an excellent way for graduate students to fund their education. They help students decrease their educational costs to a considerable extent. Students can apply for scholarships based on their academic merit or success in music, art, sports, or an area of study and research. Here are two scholarships for master’s degree in human services programs:

ScholarshipBecky Burrows Memorial Scholarship Fund11
DescriptionThis scholarship is provided to students enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs who want to pursue occupations that aim at improving human conditions and benefiting humankind. 
Application DeadlineVaries
ScholarshipOutstanding Human Services Student Award12
DescriptionThis award is presented to students who have contributed significantly to the human services field during their degree completion. Students should be a National Organization for Human Services member to be eligible for this award. 
Application DeadlineVaries

Careers and Salary Outlook for Online Master’s in Human Services Graduates

Online Master’s in Human Services graduates can expect promising career prospects, contributing to the betterment of individuals and communities. Their advanced knowledge in counseling, social work, and organizational leadership positions them for diverse roles. The demand for human services experts continues to grow, ensuring a stable and fulfilling career path for graduates in this field. Some job positions available include:

  • Child Welfare Worker
  • Caseworker
  • Drug and Alcohol Counselor
  • Court Support Workers
  • Social Worker
  • Public Policy Analyst
  • Rehabilitation Counselors
  • Youth Worker
  • Domestic Violence Advocate
  • School Counselor
  • Social And Community Service Management
  • Child Life Specialist
  • Family Court Advocate
  • Community Service Officer
  • Crisis Support Worker
  • Community Outreach Worker

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor of Statistics (BLS), human service professionals can expect a job growth of 9%13, which is much faster than average. The list below highlights the statistical data by the BLS on a few professional options for students to consider after earning a master’s in Human Services:

Occupation Median Annual Salary Job Growth (up to 2031) Job Description 
Social and Community Service Managers14$74,2409% (much faster than average)Social and community service managers supervise and coordinate programs in institutions that would support the public’s well-being. They could work at non-profit organizations, governmental agencies, and for-profit social services organizations.
Rehabilitation Counselors15$39,9902% (as fast as average)Rehabilitation counselors help people with mental, physical, emotional, and developmental disabilities to live with independent skills.
Social Workers16$55,3507% (as fast as average) Social workers can help individuals cope and prevent their problems in everyday life. They are employed in different settings, which include human services agencies, child welfare, healthcare agencies, schools, etc.
Childcare Workers17$28,520-2% (decline)Child workers usually take care of a child’s needs while helping the process of fostering. These professionals work in their own homes, private households, or childcare centers.

Certifications and Licensing for Online Master’s in Human Services Graduates

Online Master’s in Human Services graduates can enhance their credibility and marketability through certifications and licensing. These credentials signify their competence and commitment to their roles in improving individuals’ lives. State-specific requirements must be fulfilled, reinforcing the importance of certification in meeting industry standards. By obtaining these designations, professionals demonstrate their expertise and assure the public of their dedication to ethical and effective human services practice. Some of the common requirements would be:

  • An undergraduate degree from an accredited university 
  • Completion of a specific number of semester hours 
  • Completion of some field work with minimum specified hours 
  • Passing certification exams determining topic knowledge and expertise 

Human Services – Board Certified Practitioner (HS-BCP)18 was created by the Center for Credentialing and Education with the assistance of the National Organization for Human Services (NOHS)19 following the Council for Standards in Human Service Education20 consultation. This process of credentialization was designed for practitioners in human services who want to advance their careers by assessing their practical knowledge and educational background. 

An applicant with a technical certificate from the NOHS can obtain the credential by passing a national-level examination developed by human services practitioners. 

While some professions require licensure to carry out the roles and responsibilities of that profession, human services professions generally do not require any specific license. That said, each state has its requirements for certification/licensure for teaching positions. Therefore, individuals who want to teach human services can refer to the norms established by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards21.

Additional Resources for Online Master’s in Human Services Students

In an online Master’s in Human Services, students can receive valuable support by joining professional associations that offer certification and career assistance. These groups provide additional resources, fostering a better understanding. Accessing these tools equips students with practical insights, simplifying their academic journey and preparing them for successful careers in the ever-evolving realm of human services. Here are a few resources to get started:

  1. National Organization for Human Services (NOHS) – National Organization for Human Services (NOHS) membership looks at the professional development of individuals by providing job boards, evaluation of resumes, conferences, and volunteering opportunities. Membership in this organization also gives access to valuable resources and many publications.
  2. American Public Human Services Association (APHSA) – American Public Human Services Association (APHSA) is a nonprofit, bipartisan membership organization representing local and state health and human service agencies through leadership. They seek to influence modern-day practices and policies to support the well-being and health of all families and children and contribute to building stronger communities.  
  3. Council for Standards in Human Service Education (CSHSE) – The Council for Standards in Human Service Education (CSHSE)was established to give more direction and focus to training and education in human services and mental health services throughout the United States. CSHSE is recognized under the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). 
  4. National Council on Family Relations (NCFR) – The National Council on Family Relations (NCFR) is one of the oldest non-profit, multidisciplinary, and nonpartisan professional associations focused on family practice, education, and research. Members of this organization work in college teaching and pedagogy, program development, research, counseling, family life education, and human services. 
  5. American Counseling Association (ACA) – Some human services professionals work specifically in the field of professional counseling. For such individuals, being part of the American Counseling Association (ACA) can provide free access to conferences, publications, and continuing education. 

FAQs About Online Master’s in Human Services Programs

What is a master’s in human services? 

A master’s in human services degree focuses on the needs of humans and how individuals can improve the general population. Human services is an interdisciplinary study field that aims at meeting human needs by applying their knowledge base, focusing on remediation and prevention of the problem. It is designed for students who want to help others live their best lives and make a difference through advocacy and care.

What can you do with a master’s in human services degree? 

How long is a human services master’s? 

Is a human services master’s worth it?

Does a human services degree offer concentration?

Can international students enroll in online human service programs?