Best Human Service Master’s Degrees Online

Discover this year’s leading online master’s degrees in human services and explore how these programs can help open the doors to careers that allow you to improve lives for some of society’s most vulnerable people.

Online Human Services Master’s Degrees

Getting a human services master’s degree online gives people in the healthcare and social services sectors a chance to earn leadership roles that develop and implement positive changes at medical facilities or social welfare agencies.

At the same time, there’s a good chance you’re already working 40 or more hours per week and don’t have the bandwidth to devote to school full-time. That’s where an online degree program can help, allowing you to earn your master’s at your own pace, while still managing clients or counseling patients.

In this guide, you’ll find a rundown on some of the best online master’s in human services programs, learn about options for specializations, and get answers to common questions about these specializations, your career options, financial aid, and more. Read on to begin your journey toward an online master’s in human services.

College Spotlights: Best Online Human Services Master’s Degree Programs for 2021

While there are several excellent affordable and accredited human services master’s degree online programs, this guide initially targets three that provide you the flexibility, accreditation, and affordability needed to expand your knowledge while still keeping on top of your day-to-day life.

Keep in mind that this list isn’t meant to be comprehensive, but rather a preview of some of the top online master’s in human services programs. Check back to review our full list, which is scheduled for publication later in 2021.

University of Nebraska – Lincoln

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The University of Nebraska’s online master’s of human and family services administration program is designed to give students the skills and understanding they need to oversee human services organizations.

Students will come through this program with an understanding of:

  • Administration and management skills in areas such as public policy, human resources, and program management.
  • Ethical and legal issues
  • Principles of family theory
  • Program design and evaluation (fundraising, data collection, grant writing, measuring outcomes)

It’s a good program for:

  • Professionals looking to move from jobs such as a caseworker or program manager to an agency director or program director.
  • Professions who need the skills to manage non-profits, foster care agencies, or early childhood or adolescent intervention programs.
  • Workers in the field who want to better understand effective agency administration methods.
  • People who have family-related expertise and want to blend it with the administrative experience necessary for managing a human services organization.

The courses in this human services master’s degree online program include three family content courses, two program design, evaluation and resource courses, and two administration and management courses, along with a professional issues course and a capstone project.

This 36-credit program costs $2,406 for every three credit-hours ($1,227 for Nebraska residents). To gain acceptance, applicants must have:

  • A bachelor’s degree and a GPA of at least 2.5
  • Transcripts from past schools
  • Taken the GRE
  • Taken the TOEFL or IELTS (for students whose English is not their first language)
  • A resume or statement of professional goals and three letters of recommendation

University of Illinois – Springfield

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This online master’s in human services program allows students to focus on four specializations: alcohol and substance abuse, child and family studies, gerontology, and social service administration.

According to the university, students who complete the program will:

  • Examine their lives and their families to better understand their beliefs and prejudices, building the self-awareness that’s crucial for those working with vulnerable communities.
  • Learn to appreciate modern and historic human characteristics and issues, and to plan how to deliver human services.
  • Understand how to design, plan for, manage, and work with people, groups, and agencies that need or use human services.

In addition to the basic degree, the program also offers students the chance to earn certificates in Human Services Fundraising or Alcohol and Substance Abuse. Students can also attain a joint degree in human services and public health.

This 44-hour program requires students to take courses in interviewing and assessment skills, social policy, ethics, and professional development, as well as an internship. Applicants should also have completed courses in either human behavior in the social environment or life-span development psychology, along with a course in either statistics or research methods.

Recent graduates have gone on to work for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, Illinois Department of Aging, Illinois Department of Correction, Methodist Medical Center, Heritage Behavioral Health Center, and Gateway Foundation.

St. Mary’s University of Minnesota

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This online master’s in health and human services program is perfect for graduates hoping to become medical and health service managers or nursing home administrators. It helps students understand how to execute human resource management in a way that ensures quality care, as well as the myriad regulations and policies in play.

Classes in this 36-credit, two-year program include human resources in health and human services, financial practices in health and human services, and aging, illness, and the continuum of care, as well as a three-credit capstone project.

Graduates of the program go on to work in leadership roles in:

  • Behavioral health facilities
  • Governmental health and human services agencies
  • Home health providers
  • Hospitals, clinics, and long-term care centers
  • Non-profit agencies
  • Nursing homes and assisted living centers

Tuition for their online master’s in health and human services program is $665 per credit. Applicants should have a GPA of at least 2.75 and a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited school.

Top Advantages of Earning an Online Master’s in Human Services

Earning an online master’s degree in human services provides you with the flexibility, affordability, and convenience that you might not get from a traditional classroom program. But beyond that, there are specific ways getting this degree can help your career:

  1. Leadership

    Human services master’s programs often promote leadership training, helping students take a broader view of the issues impacting human services and teaching them to address the types of challenges facing administrators in their field.

  2. Practical experience

    Many programs provide students the chance to learn from real-world scenarios or take internships to help prepare for future careers.

  3. Specializations

    Human services is a “big tent” where social work, non-profit administration, family services, and other areas all intersect. A master’s program often allows students to choose a specialization so you can focus on areas such as criminal justice, children and youth, or gerontology.

What You’ll Learn in an Online Master’s in Human Services Program

Master’s in human services programs prepare students for careers that include social workers, counselors, school or hospital administrators, or leadership roles in various public sector or nonprofit human services jobs. Courses examine everything from fundraising to drug and alcohol treatment, with many programs requiring students to develop capstone projects that integrate the various skills students learned along the way.

Popular Courses

  • Fundamentals of Human Services

    Many programs include an overview course that looks at the history and function of human services, as well as contemporary trends in the field. Students learn what to expect in their career and examine the best way to deliver services to individuals, families, and communities.

  • Child Abuse and Neglect

    These courses examine child abuse and teach students to recognize and report abuse, the role of child protective agencies, and available community resources. Students also learn how to improve the well-being of families who appear to be at risk.

  • Aging and Human Services

    Many people seek a career in human services out of a desire to help senior citizens. Courses such as this one help these students gain an understanding of the programs that help older people, as well as the ability to analyze current policies designed for seniors and a chance to see these programs in action.

  • Ethics and Leadership

    Courses on ethics are part of several human services master’s degrees, as ethical behavior is considered crucial to public services. These classics examine decision-making processes, the relationships between elected officials and public and nonprofit sector professionals, and the role of public servants in society.

  • Public Finance/Fundraising

    Some programs include courses that deal with fundraising and financing in the human services sector. This includes examining how fundraising methods can be used and how it operates in public and not-for-profit entities. Other classes focus on public finance administration or on how to write grants for human services programs.

Specialization Options

You’ve chosen a human services career out of a desire to help people, but who do you want to help? Some people want to work with children, others with families, others with seniors, and still others with people dealing with addictions. If this is the case, choose a specialization that allows you to better concentrate on your chosen career path.

Common human services specializations include:

  • Criminal Justice

    In these courses, you’ll learn various approaches to intervention and rehabilitation as they apply to offenders and their victims. Examine the biggest challenges to the modern criminal justice system and how human services professionals can help overcome them as a leader in a prison, probational, or rehabilitation system.

  • Family Interventions

    Human services professionals need to know how to meet the needs of diverse cross-sections of underrepresented people, whether that means LGBTQ families, low–income families, or single-parent families. These courses give you a wide range of clinical and theoretical intervention approaches, helping you recognize the right steps for treatment.

  • Gerontology

    America’s growing senior population has created an intense demand for professionals who can meet their needs in terms of housing, healthcare, and finances. This specialization prepares you for several different careers, including elder residence administrator, housing placement advisor, elder–care case manager, and financial or policy advisor, just to name a few.

  • Non-Profit Administration

    Gain the skills you need to lead or even establish a nonprofit as you learn how nonprofits operate and are organized. These courses examine topics such as ethical and legal issues, resource development, and board management.

Accreditation for Online Master’s in Human Services Programs

Before you set out to earn your master’s in human services online, you should make sure the program you’re considering has achieved accreditation. This means they’ve met educational standards set by a government or an organization, either at the regional or national level.

Regional accreditation is the most common form of accreditation, with standards set by organizations such as the South Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges or the Higher Learning Commission. There are also program accreditations done by organizations such as the Council for Standards in Human Service Education and the Council on Social Work Education. Be sure to search the U.S. Department of Education’s accreditation database to check if the program you’re considering is accredited.

What You Can Do with a Master’s Degree in Human Services

As with many other fields, a master’s in human services can open the door to a wealth of new career opportunities. It can mean the difference between getting a job as a social worker versus crafting social policy or the difference between working with the elderly versus administering a nursing home.

From social work to elder care to behavioral health to human resources, an online master’s in human services prepares you for a range of in-demand, well-paying, and challenging positions. Read on to learn more about the career options available with this degree.

Rehabilitation Counselor

If your human services master’s degree program has a concentration in counseling, you can pursue a career as a rehabilitation counselor working with seniors, veterans, the disabled, or those recovering after an illness or injury. You can help them develop skills for independent living and help them find support services.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile
$23,820 $35,950 $63,790

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

Social Worker

Social workers help the most vulnerable among us, from senior citizens to children to people with mental health issues. Working in schools, healthcare systems, and government agencies, they help people cope with everyday problems, such as finding housing and food assistance, while also working to treat longer-term psychological or behavioral issues.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile
$31,790 $50,470 $82,540

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

Mental Health Counselor

Mental health counselors treat a host of different conditions, from stress to depression to anxiety, as well as emotional health issues and people struggling in their relationships. While having a master’s degree isn’t essential for people in this career, it can enhance your overall understanding of the systems in which you’re working.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile
$29,520 $46,240 $76,080

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

Nursing Home Administrator

As the name suggests, nursing home administrators oversee the staff, finances, and upkeep of nursing facilities to ensure the proper care of residents. Every state requires administrators to have a license, and some master’s programs offer the option to prepare for this license.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile
$58,820 $100,980 $189,000

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

Social and Community Services Manager

These professionals work for government agencies, non-profits, shelters, hospitals, and other organizations. Their role is to oversee social service programs and to hire and train employees. While people in these positions typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in social work or related fields, many positions require a master’s degree.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile
$41,220 $67,150 $112,480

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

Costs and Financial Aid for Your Online Master’s in Human Services Degree

Several factors can affect the cost of getting a master’s in human services online. To begin with, it depends on the program itself, as two different schools might have similar tuition rates but require a different number of credits to graduate. Private colleges typically cost more than public institutions, and students who live in the state often pay less than those who live out of state, even for online programs.

Lastly, it’s a good idea to determine your funding options before you apply by investigating whether you can access scholarships, fellowships, grants, or student loans. Students who are getting their degree while also working may want to see if their employer offers tuition reimbursement. Visit our financial aid page to find out more about your options for paying for graduate school.

What Your Online Master’s in Human Services Could Cost

School Name No. of Credits Cost/Credit Total Tuition Cost

University of Nebraska – Lincoln

36

$357 in state
$750 out of state

$13,000
$27,000

University of Oklahoma

33

$425 in state
$1,063 out of state

$14,025
$35,079

Bellevue University

36

$595

$21,420

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Master’s in Human Services Degrees

What are the admissions requirements for a human services online master’s degree program?

Although every college has different standards for admitting new students, applicants to online human services master’s degree programs should be prepared to submit a resume, academic transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose that explains how this program will help you reach your goals. Some schools ask students to submit GRE scores and require a minimum bachelor’s GPA, typically 2.5 or higher.

How long do master’s in human services online master’s degrees take to finish?

Most programs allow full-time students to earn their degree within two years, giving part-time students three to four years to graduate. In some cases, the program might give students a limit in which they need to complete their degree. For example, the University of Illinois – Springfield requires students to finish their human services program within six years of acceptance.

Can I earn a master’s in human services 100% online or do I need to visit campus?

While some schools require students to attend orientation sessions in person, there are a wealth of master’s in human services programs that are completely online, allowing you to earn your diploma without ever setting foot on campus.