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Best Online Master's Degrees in Human Services

By OnlineU Staff Writers | Updated 8/1/2023
2023 Best Online Master's Degrees in Human Services Badge

Studying in the human services field involves a multidisciplinary approach, encompassing a broad spectrum of subjects aimed at enhancing one's understanding of human behavior, social welfare systems, and the complex interplay of various societal factors. Students pursuing an online master's degree in human services can expect a well-rounded curriculum that delves into psychology, sociology, counseling, public policy, ethics, and more. This comprehensive knowledge equips graduates with the insight and tools necessary to tackle diverse challenges faced by individuals and communities seeking assistance and support. A graduate degree in human services typically attracts individuals who are passionate about making a positive impact in the lives of others. 

This page serves as a guide for those seeking the best online master's degrees in human services. Online learning provides a flexible and accessible pathway for individuals to elevate their careers while accommodating their personal and professional responsibilities. Whether you aspire to advocate for social justice, drive policy changes, provide counseling and therapeutic support, or spearhead community-based initiatives, these programs offer the ideal stepping stone to propel your career in the realm of human services to new heights. View our methodology for more details about rankings or learn more about OnlineU.

2023 Best Online Master's Degrees in Human Services Badge
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Liberty University

  • Annual Tuition: $11,700
  • Locations: Lynchburg (VA)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Liberty University is one of the largest online colleges in the country, serving more than 96,000 students each year through online and campus-based programs. The private evangelical Christian school offers a broad range of online master's programs in human services, including degrees in human services counseling, pastoral counseling, clinical mental health counseling, and humanitarian action and human rights. Students can also choose from a range of specializations to tailor their degree to their career goals, including areas such as addiction and recovery, business, military resilience, Christian ministries, criminal justice, crisis response and trauma, and life coaching. The master's programs require between 30 and 60 credit hours and typically take between one to two and a half years to complete, depending on practicum requirements and the number of classes included in each degree.

Classes are offered completely online in eight-week sessions, and the university offers eight start dates throughout the year. Students can log in and complete classwork when they have time rather than logging in to meet with their class at a set time each day. Resources for online students include a virtual writing center and an online community to help students connect with their peers.

Capella University

  • Annual Tuition: $14,148
  • Locations: Minneapolis (MN)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Capella University offers two online Master of Science in Human Services degrees, with specializations in Leadership and Organizational Management and Program Evaluation and Data Analytics. Both MS in human services programs require 48 credit hours to graduate and include a capstone course where students can apply what they've learned in a culminating project. The curriculum includes classes in social change and public policy, leadership skills, diversity and inclusion, and analytics for human services professionals. Social and community services majors will also need to complete a human services internship. These programs are designed to prepare students for advanced positions in human services by teaching skills in leadership, professional ethics and cultural competence, professional communication, and problem-solving. Students can also pursue a Master of Science in Multidisciplinary Human Services.

Capella is a private for-profit university that serves nearly 40,000 students each year. The university has an open admissions policy.

Purdue Global

  • Annual Tuition: $14,436
  • Locations: Indianapolis (IN)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Purdue Global, the online branch of the Purdue University System, offers an online Master of Science in Human Services with concentrations in Organizational and Social Services or Family and Community Services. Students complete 45 credits in online classes such as professional ethics and personal values, skills and practice in human services, and multiculturalism in human services. Students also need to complete a master's internship in human services in order to graduate. Purdue's online master's in human services aims to give students a strong understanding of organizational roles and functions and methods of advocacy, as well as the ability to conduct research, assess things using a theoretical framework, understand the history of human services, and develop strong values, ethical practices, and self-care strategies necessary for careers in the field. The university also offers an online Master of Public Administration requiring 55 credits to complete. Both programs take an average of one and a half years to complete.

Purdue Global is a public four-year university serving more than 45,000 students each year. The university has an open admissions policy and only serves online learners.

Nova Southeastern University

  • Annual Tuition: $34,570
  • Locations: Fort Lauderdale (FL)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Nova Southeastern University (NSU) offers a wide range of master's degrees in human services, including a Master of Human Services in Child Protection with concentrations in administration, juvenile justice, crisis management, emergency preparedness, public health, and other areas of study. The program requires 33 credits, including core classes in child protection law, family diversity and conflict resolution, child development, and program evaluation. Students interested in a career in criminal justice may be interested in the Master of Science in Criminal Justice - Child Protection and Juvenile Justice, requiring 30 credit hours. NSU's online Master of Science in Developmental Disabilities - Child Life Specialist program is designed for professionals who want to work with children in healthcare settings. The program requires 30 credits in classes such as working with hospitalized children and families, medical terminology, family-centered care, and nine credits of fieldwork. The university also offers an online Master of Science in Forensic Psychology - Forensic Psychology for Mental Health Workers, First Responders and Disaster Teams, requiring 36 credit hours in suicide prevention, crisis intervention, trauma-informed assessment, and substance abuse and mental illness. The program culminates in 90 hours of field experience through an internship.

NSU is a private four-year university in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with an admissions rate of 76%. Nearly 21,000 students enroll each year, with most enrolling in hybrid classes or attending on-campus.

Regent University Online

  • Annual Tuition: $18,820
  • Locations: Virginia Beach (VA)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The online branch of Regent University offers an online Master of Arts in Human Services with concentrations in human services counseling, trauma and crisis counseling, student affairs, life coaching, grief counseling, criminal justice and ministry, addictions counseling, biblical counseling, and other areas of study. Master's students at Regent complete 30 credit hours in core courses such as behavioral science, professional ethics, helping skills, and multicultural awareness. Students also need to complete a semester of internship experience to apply their new skills in real-world settings. This degree is designed to give students core skills in group work, research, professional ethics, practice, and evaluation, as well as prepare them to address legal, ethical, and liability issues that may arise in human services. Potential career opportunities for graduates include elder care coordination, medical management, nonprofit administration, life coaching, or pastoral counseling.

Regent is a private Christian university serving around 10,000 students each year. The university has a 32% acceptance rate and serves a majority of online learners.

Saint Leo University Online

  • Annual Tuition: $26,050
  • Locations: St. Leo (FL)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The Master of Science in Human Services Administration at Saint Leo University teaches students core skills necessary to create and operate human services organizations, including how to develop a nonprofit, business skills for for-profit human services organizations, fundraising and budgeting, and assessing community needs. Students will be prepared to hold leadership positions at human service organizations or start their own, with career opportunities as social services and community managers, community outreach advocates, program managers, and other pathways. Students take core classes in management and leadership, law and ethics, program evaluation, marketing, advocacy and policy analysis, and other areas of study. They finish their program with a graduate project where they can apply their skills in a real-life scenario with a community organization. The program requires students to complete 36 credit hours and typically takes one to two years to complete.

Saint Leo is a private nonprofit university based in Tampa Bay, Florida and serves more than 10,000 students annually. The university has an 80% acceptance rate, and more than half of students are enrolled in online programs.

Wilmington University

  • Annual Tuition: $11,760
  • Locations: New Castle (DE)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

Wilmington University is a Delaware-based school serving around 14,000 students each year. The university offers an online Master of Science in Human Services with specializations in Administration of Human Services or Human Services Practice. The 33-credit program includes core classes in program design and evaluation, law and practice in human services, a capstone project class, and a supervised practicum where students complete 120 internship hours at a community organization. Students can also choose electives to customize their degree. The program is designed to prepare students for leadership roles at nonprofits, government agencies, and for-profit organizations in human services. Students will develop decision-making, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills necessary to ensure operations run smoothly, alongside an understanding of information technology and management in human services, budgeting and fundraising skills, the ability to manage people and teams, and legal and ethical issues in human services.

Wilmington offers start dates every eight weeks. The university is a private nonprofit school with an open admissions policy and serves a majority of online learners.

Bellevue University

  • Annual Tuition: $8,310
  • Locations: Bellevue (NE)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Bellevue University offers two online master's degrees for human services majors. The university's Master of Arts in Human Services degree is a 36-credit cohort program that emphasizes leadership development and hands-on learning. Core classes cover topics including communications, cultural diversity, ethics, community engagement, sustainable funding, career development, and nonprofit management. Students can gain experience through their capstone course, where they can complete fieldwork or an independent project. Bellevue also offers an online Master of Science in Child, Youth, and Family Studies that prepares students to work in social services with children and families. The 36-credit program offers an accelerated cohort option where students can take one class at a time with the same group of students. Core classes cover child development, contemporary issues, program design, administration and management, and a capstone course.

Bellevue University is a private nonprofit university in Nebraska that serves nearly 14,000 students, most of whom enroll online. The university has an open admissions policy

Webster University

  • Annual Tuition: $28,700
  • Locations: St. Louis (MO)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Webster University, a private nonprofit school in St. Louis, serves more than 6,000 students each year through online and campus-based programs. Webster's online Master of Arts in Human Services program is designed to prepare students for leadership roles in social and community services, including nonprofits, government agencies, healthcare facilities, education settings, and other organizations. Students should graduate with skills in policy analysis, research, human services ethics, and the ability to assess programs and improve outcomes. The master's program requires 33 credit hours in classes such as human development, social welfare policy, research and assessment, organizational behavior, and 200 hours of field experience.

Potential career opportunities include jobs in case management, community education, grant writing, community outreach and development, advocacy, and student support services. Webster is somewhat selective with a 55% acceptance rate.

Concordia University - Saint Paul

  • Annual Tuition: $23,900
  • Locations: Saint Paul (MN)
  • Accreditation: HLC

The Saint Paul campus of Concordia University offers an online Master of Arts in Human Services - Forensic Behavioral Health designed for professionals who want to work in human services with a focus on criminal justice. Students will gain a deeper understanding of forensic behavioral health and the different factors that impact health and wellbeing for people in the criminal justice system, including trauma and substance use disorder. The program prepares students for careers such as courtroom advocates, child welfare and protection workers, correctional caseworkers, crisis intervention specialists, domestic violence counselors, probation officers, and juvenile justice specialists. The program includes 36 credit hours in core classes such as family violence and trauma, psychopathology, substance use and co-occurring disorders, sexual offending, and forensic behavioral health law. Students will finish their program with a capstone research paper.

Concordia is a private Christian university with locations across the country. The Saint Paul campus serves about 5,500 students each year through campus-based and online programs. The university has a 69% acceptance rate, and about one-third of students are enrolled completely online.

List Of Accredited Online Human Services Schools

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What Is a Master's in Human Services Degree?

An online master's degree in human services prepares students to hold professional leadership positions at nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and other groups that provide services to those in need. 

Human services organizations help people access resources to improve their quality of life and meet basic needs. That can include community and social services, such as homeless shelters, domestic violence and sexual assault services, food banks and clothing drives, mental health services, addiction treatment, healthcare, education access, and child and youth services.

Graduate students in human services programs learn how to assess their community's needs, develop or improve programs, and manage organizations that provide those services. Students will learn about the different social, economic, and cultural factors that impact access to resources. At the same time, they'll gain the leadership skills necessary to lead organizations, secure funding, and build community partnerships.

Degree Requirements

A master's degree in human services usually requires between 30-45 credit hours and typically takes one to two years to finish when enrolled full-time. Students will take core classes in human services and electives related to their professional goals. They'll typically finish off their program with a capstone course, final project, or internship where they can apply their new skills in the field.

Students will need a bachelor's degree to get into a master's program. Having a bachelor's in human services can be helpful, but a bachelor's in any field will meet education requirements for graduate school.


Core human services classes cover the different social issues these services are designed to address and how to meet community needs. Students will explore how different communities are impacted and how cultural, social, and economic differences create unique needs in various communities. Students can also choose electives to help tailor their program to specific goals, such as classes on family systems or working with older adult populations.

Here are some common graduate courses for human services majors:

Law and Ethics for Human Services Professionals

This class covers the legal requirements for human services professionals and the industry's ethical standards. Students will use an ethical framework to work through common issues and ethical dilemmas faced in the industry.

Management and Leadership for Nonprofit and Government Organizations

Many human services are administered through nonprofit organizations and government agencies. Students will learn the core skills needed to effectively manage and lead a nonprofit or government agency, including professional communication, collaboration, problem-solving, and working with stakeholders.

Public Policy in Human Services

Students in this class will explore the current issues and public policies in place that impact the human services sector, including child welfare, social services, and poverty.

Diversity and Inclusion in Social Services

Understanding how race, culture, gender, religion, disability, socioeconomic status, and other factors impact community needs and access to resources is crucial in human services. Students will learn how to consider different people's experiences when providing services and how human services can help bridge the gap for disadvantaged groups.

What Can You Do With a Master's in Human Services?

A master's in human services can lead to careers in leadership and administration at a wide range of social services organizations. Some graduates also pursue further education by earning their doctorate or a post-graduate certificate.

Further Education

Pursuing a doctorate in human services or another field can open up opportunities for research, advanced careers in academia or clinical work, or leadership positions in government or social services organizations. A doctorate in human services can lead to a career as a college professor, the director of a nonprofit organization, a clinical services director, or another type of administrator.

Human Services Careers

Many people enroll in a master's in human services program to help advance their career in social and community services leadership. They often pursue careers in management and administration at nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and other social service organizations.

Social and community service managers work at agencies across the human services sector, including long-term care facilities for older adults, youth and family services, mental health facilities, and emergency relief agencies. Their main jobs are to oversee programs and manage staff. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job duties vary depending on how big the organization is. Professionals at bigger agencies might focus specifically on one program or manage a team within their organization, while those at smaller agencies often wear many hats. They might design and implement multiple programs, manage hiring, oversee staff, raise funds, and work directly with key stakeholders.

BLS data shows strong employment prospects for social and community service managers, with high growth potential over the next decade. As our population ages, the BLS projects our need for management professionals will grow by 12% through 2031, with an average of 18,000 job openings per year. Social service managers earn a median salary of $74,000 per year and earn more than the national average of $45,760 for all occupations.

Financing Your Master's Degree in Human Services

How much a degree will cost is one of the most important factors for many students when choosing where to go to school and what to study. While college is often a significant financial investment, few students pay the full sticker price when it comes to tuition. Many students use financial aid to help cover the cost of their degree.

Financial aid typically comes in the form of either gift aid or loans. Gift aid includes grants, scholarships, and fellowships, which can come from the federal and state governments, your college, or outside organizations.

Figuring out how much aid you might get can be difficult if you haven't applied to the school yet. However, a representative from your college can usually help explain what type of aid is available, if any, for your online program.

Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the most important step in applying for financial aid. This application goes to any school you might be interested in, where they will assess your financial need and award any aid available. Once you find out how much aid you qualify for, you can make your final decision about which program you want to attend. 

If you don't get enough grant aid from your school, you can apply for outside scholarships to help offset the cost of your degree. Some schools also offer assistantships for graduate students, where you can work for the school and receive a stipend.

It's also very common for graduate students to get tuition reimbursement from their employer. Many companies will help pay for a master's degree, especially if the credential will help benefit them in the future.

After exhausting all gift aid opportunities, many college students use either personal savings, income from a job, or student loans to pay for the rest of their degree. Most schools offer payment plans so students don't have to pay for everything all at once. When borrowing money to pay for college, it's generally best to use federal student loans rather than rely on private loans from banks or your school. 

Thinking of borrowing to pay for college? Our student loan guide can help you make informed decisions and reduce debt.

FAQs About Master's in Human Services Programs

How Long Does It Take to Get a Human Services Degree?

Most master's degrees in human services take between one and two years to complete. Programs that have an internship or practicum requirement may take longer. Students who enroll part time will also need more time to finish their degree.

Is a Master’s in Human Services Worth It?

For many students, a master's in human services is worth it because it opens the door to advanced career opportunities in a fulfilling and rewarding sector. It can also qualify you for a higher salary. 

However, there are some downsides to working in human services that may make it less worth it for some students. Human services jobs can be emotionally taxing and may require a lot of paperwork. Salaries in the sector also tend to be lower than salaries in other fields. Students may not see as high of a financial payoff as they might with a master's in a different field of study.

How Much Does a Master’s in Human Services Cost?

How much a master's in human services costs depends on the school. Some of the most affordable master's degrees in human services have tuition rates under $5,000, while others can cost more than $20,000 per year. Opting for an affordable bachelor's degree in human services can also help keep debt low. In general, online degrees tend to be more affordable than enrolling on campus, and some programs offer lower rates for their online students.

Can You Do Counseling with a Master’s In Human Services?

A master's degree is usually a requirement to become a licensed counselor, and students will need to make sure their master's in human services is designed to meet licensure and practicum requirements.  A master's in social work or a master's in counseling will also qualify students for licensure. Some jobs do not require a license to practice counseling, but in most cases, licensure is required.

What is the Abbreviation for a Master’s in Human Services?

The acronym MHS is commonly used to refer to a Master of Human Services, while MSHS stands for Master of Science in Human Services.

Bottom Line

A master's degree in human services is designed to prepare students for leadership and administrative roles in community and social service organizations and can lead to a fulfilling career helping others. Master's graduates also often earn higher salaries and experience lower unemployment rates. Human services professionals with master's degrees typically work in management positions, overseeing staff and developing and implementing programs to meet community needs. Students will also have the opportunity to tailor their program to their professional goals and needs. 

Students who are interested in working directly with community members, especially in a counseling capacity, should look for programs that prepare them for counseling licensure. They may also consider a master's in social work or a master's in counseling.

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