Professionals who are interested in earning an online Master's in Human Services are ready to become change agents for the United States' most vulnerable populations. With a graduate degree in human services, students will enter the workforce ready and able to work in a variety of public and private sector jobs. This allows them to pursue change where they feel it is needed the most.
But working professionals who want to become change agents don't have the time to attend a traditional school. With so many working full-time jobs, an online option is the only way forward for them. These programs often provide the best of both worlds: a high-quality education with the flexibility and affordability these professionals need.
This ranking counts down the top ten most affordable graduate degrees in human services. It was created by using the National Center for Education Statistics' College Navigator database. After combing through tuition rates, gainful employment disclosures, and online program satisfaction, an initial pool of 30 schools was built. From there, the final ten, which you see below, were chosen based on in-state graduate tuition rates.
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These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online graduate degree programs. Figuring out where to apply? Consider one of these online Master’s or PhD programs.
Most Affordable Online Human Services Master's in 2021
Lenoir-Rhyne University confers an excellent online Master's in Human Services. This is an advanced degree that was designed specifically for working adults in mind; the entire program is 100 percent online and courses are taught in the asynchronous format. Students can also enroll at the beginning of any term, allowing them to choose when they start work on their degree. There are two tracks in this MAHS degree: Addictions Counseling, Career Development, and Human Services Management. Each track requires a practicum that takes place in a student's community. Students will also be given the opportunity to engage in applied research, enabling them to build a portfolio of work prior to leaving school. This program also enables students the chance to earn HS-BCP certification following graduation. Graduation requirements include 33 credit hours of coursework, a practicum, and a comprehensive exam. Sample courses include Theoretical Foundations and History of Human Services, Human Systems, and Human Services Delivery Systems.
Students interested in an accelerated Master's in Human Services online degree will find what they're looking for at Saint Leo University. The degree is 100 percent conferred online with no residency requirements required and it can be completed in one year will full-time study. This program is built with a particular focus on nonprofit work; courses teach students about grant writing, fundraising, how to build a nonprofit, budgeting, and more. The MAHSA at Saint Leo also offers students an optional practical experience; while not necessary for graduation, it can help students find work in the field after they have graduated. If an online student decides to take on the practical experience, they will be paired with an organization in their community. Students can expect to complete 36 credit hours of coursework, a capstone project, and a comprehensive exam. Sample courses include Grantsmanship, Marketing in Human Services Administration, and Legal and Ethical Issues in Human Services.
Bellevue University offers both working and pre-service professionals the chance to earn an online Master's in Human Services. The MAHS program was designed to give all students a firm understanding of the field of human services, enabling them to combine theory and concepts with administration and management skills. Courses are taught by campus faculty and are delivered asynchronously. While this is a 100 percent online program of study, some students may decide to complete a work experience for their capstone project. These experiences are always done within a student's community. Students will note that this is a non-licensure degree; professionals who want to be licensed for mental health counseling are advised to search for another degree. This program requires 36 credit hours of coursework, a research project, a capstone project, and a comprehensive exam. Sample courses include Ethics for Human Services, Community Engagement, and Introduction to Human Services Administration.
The University of Northwestern at St. Paul
Faith-based professionals will find a Christ-centered online Master's in Human Services at the University of Northwestern at St. Paul. This is an applied professional degree that does not lead to licensure; professionals interested in licensure are advised to see UNWSP's other online degrees. The program is delivered 100 percent online or in a hybrid program and comes with a concentration in Family Studies. All courses are delivered asynchronously and the program requirements can be met in as little as 18 months. Research plays a large role in this curriculum, providing students with the chance to see how concepts work in the field. Students will be expected to complete 36 credit hours of coursework along with a research project and a comprehensive exam. Sample courses include Theories of Human Development, Human Services Foundations and Systems, and Multicultural and Diversity Issues in Human Services.
The University of Illinois at Springfield
The University of Illinois at Springfield confers a human services master's online degree that comes with four concentrations: Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, Child and Family Studies, Gerontology, and Social Services Administration. The Alcohol and Substance Abuse Concentration is accredited by the Illinois Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Professional Certification Association. This degree is designed for and admits students with previous educational and work experience in the field of human services; it is an advanced, multidisciplinary professional degree that provides professionals with a path towards advancing their careers. The program does require that all students partake an internship that amounts to 400 hours of work experience; those with three years of validated work experience in the field may waive this requirement upon the approval of the department. Students can also expect to complete 44 credit hours of coursework as well as a capstone project. Sample courses include Ethics and Professional Development, Social Policy and Human Services, and Critical Perspectives in Human Services.
Concordia University at St. Paul
Students interested in forensic science within the field of human services will want to check out Concordia University at St. Paul. This school confers an online Master's in Human Services with an emphasis in forensic behavioral health; the program was designed in partnership with the American Institute for the Advancement of Forensic Studies. It is a 100 percent online program that offers asynchronous courses as well as faculty that are also working professionals in the field. This program was built for students who already work in behavioral health or law enforcement and provides them with an advanced professional degree in this field. Students can expect to complete 36 credit hours of coursework, an internship, and a research project. Sample courses include Special Populations in Human Services, Risk Assessment in Human Services, and Forensic Behavioral Health Law for the Human Service Professional.
Wilmington University offers an online master's in human services that is designed for scholar-practitioners who have a foundation of work or education experience in the field. The program focuses on the organizations of human services, including the government, nonprofit agencies, and for-profit companies. This 100 percent online program delivers both asynchronous and synchronous courses for students as well as a seven-week term, enabling most students to complete the requirements in just over a year. A practicum is required for this degree for those who don't choose the thesis option; students can complete it in their own community upon approval of the department. Students will be expected to complete 36 credit hours of coursework, a research project, and a comprehensive exam. Sample courses include Survey of Human Services, Legal and Ethical Issues in Human Services Administration, and Financial Management in Human Services.
Saint Mary's University of Minnesota
Nurses who are interested in becoming nursing home administrators will want to check out the online Master's of Health and Human Services provided by Saint Mary's University of Minnesota. This 100 percent online program was designed specifically for nurses, providing them with the opportunity to earn a degree that is accredited by the Minnesota Board of Examiners for Nursing Home Administrators. This is a unique program in that it provides students with the chance to earn clinical certification through its set of practicum experience options. Practicum options include field experience in a community setting, general practical experience, clinical practicum, health services executive practicum, or administrator-in-training for medical settings. Students will also be expected to complete 33 credit hours of coursework, a research paper, and a comprehensive exam. Sample courses include Finance for Health Services Administrators, Health and Human Service Systems, and Health Informatics and Application.
Lubbock Christian University
Lubbock Christian University offers an online Master's in Human Services that was built for both working and pre-service professionals. As a 100 percent online program, students will be guided through their asynchronous coursework by faith-based educators who are also working professionals. The MHSC program offers two specializations: Non-Profit Leadership and Family Life Educator. Either specialization within the degree can be completed in two years with part-time study; both concentrations do require either a practicum or a capstone project. The program has no residency requirements, making it a perfect fit for students who are interested in part-time study while working full-time. Students will be expected to complete 36 credit hours of coursework and their specialization's required capstone. Sample courses include Helping Professions and Public Policy, Social Development of Individuals and Families, and Human Services Theory and Practice.
Post University delivers a cheap online Master's in Human Services degree that focuses on counseling within the human services field. The degree offers four concentrations: Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Alcohol and Drug Counseling, Non-Profit Management, and Forensic Mental Health Counseling; students should note that this is a non-licensure degree, although it can provide a pathway towards licensure with another degree. The MSHS is a 100 percent online program that delivers all of its courses asynchronously. Students will be required to complete 37 credit hours of coursework, an internship, a practicum, and a research capstone project. Sample courses include Human Services Ethics and Diversity, Human Services Policy, and Applied Research Methods in Human Services.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the Career Options for an Online Master's in Human Services Degree?
A master's degree in human services can open up a lot of career pathways for students, but many of these pathways require additional post-graduate work, certification, or licensure. It is important to keep that in mind because many options cannot be obtained with a graduate degree alone.
Many jobs in the field come from health and human social services providers, such as nonprofit organizations and the American government. While the workload can be challenging, students will find the work to be rewarding; government benefit packages are also available, making these careers seem a little more in reach.
Nonprofit jobs can be quite lucrative but are often competitive and require a solid understanding of a subfield in human services. Languages, too, can also be a requirement for professionals if the organization works internationally or in diverse populations in the country. These jobs are incredibly rewarding, which is why so many students focus their eye on the sector.
Professionals who specialize have a variety of options; they can be specialists in their fields, directors of departments that focus on that particular issue, or even become a politician with a platform focused on their specialization.
There are a lot of career options, but here are just a few that may be interesting to students:
- Social Worker
- Forensic Behavioral Health Analyst
- Human Services Manager
- Mental Health Counselor
- Director of a Non Profit Organization
- Social Services Manager
- Case Manager
- Public Health Administrator
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How Much Can You Earn in this Field?
The median salary range for a professional in the human services field is $37,000 to $72,000, which is about a 40 percent boost in salary across all careers from those who only hold an undergraduate degree.
The salary range denotes every career option available to students with this degree and includes private and public sector jobs. At the low end are human service manager positions while on the higher end are supervisors and senior-level administrative positions. Salaries fluctuate depending on a student's previous work and educational experience as well as the region in America that they are located in.
What are the Various Disciplines of Human Services?
Human services is a multidisciplinary field. It is rooted in history, social services, human services, psychology, anthropology, healthcare, law, business, and economics. Professionals in this field work within all of these disciplines and more in order to complete their duties and responsibilities.
Many professionals in this field are also specialists, meaning that they have different disciplines at play in their work. For instance, someone who works in human services with a law enforcement background may focus on psychology and criminology while a mental health counselor may focus on counseling and healthcare.
Can an Online Degree in Human Services be a Pathway to Licensure?
An online degree in human services alone rarely offers a pathway to licensure. In human services, the most common forms of licensure are as a counselor or a social worker. These are specialized fields that require a great deal of advanced training, something which a degree in human services is not designed to offer.
Many students think that an online Master's in Human Services that provides a concentration in mental health or substance abuse counseling will lead them to licensure. Unfortunately, very few programs, traditional or online, can offer this. The best path for these students is to enter into a master's in counseling program for licensure. The same can be said for those seeking social worker licensure.
There is another reason that a degree in human services does not provide any type of licensure: it is a general field made up of specialties. Students who choose to go into forensic behavioral health would not require the same licensure as someone who is interested in becoming a counselor and vice versa. It is impossible for every degree in human services to provide each student with the licensure they require to meet their goals.
It is possible to find some programs that can help students with licensure, including some on this ranking. While graduation may not lead directly to licensure, credit hours could be used in conjunction with a stand-alone certificate to open the door to sitting for the appropriate exam. Students are advised to speak with the graduate admissions office about what they would need to do to take on a graduate degree in this field and earn credit hours to put towards licensure.
Why is Work Experience Required for an Online Graduate Degree in Human Services?
Human services professionals who earn a graduate degree often question the need for extra work experience, particularly if they are already actively working in the field. They may also question why, for the most part, they can't waive the requirement if they can prove they have experience.
This is for a very good reason: work experiences are critical for online students. Because they do not study in traditional classrooms, it's important for them to get some practical experience in the field with the advanced concepts that they are learning in the curriculum. And because practical experience is supervised, the program can get an accurate picture of how the student is doing.
Practical experience also provides something else that an online program can't do through its virtual portal: actual experience in the field in an advanced position. Working on concepts in a classroom is one thing, but putting those concepts into practice in a real-world scenario and understanding the consequences is something else entirely. And the truth is that practical experience can't be replicated online; it must be lived.
One final reason that work experience is required prior to graduation is that many students need the chance to network before going out into the field. This is especially true for pre-service professionals; they may not have any contacts in human services once they graduate from their program. Work experience opens these students up to the world of human services and provides them a few networking opportunities that may end with a job offer.
Human services is an incredible field that desperately needs more passionate graduates. With a wide range of career options and a chance to make a real difference in the lives of other Americans, it's a choice that will ultimately benefit every professional's life. All interested students should check out these online Master's in Human Services degrees and begin the path towards earning their graduate degrees.
This concludes our ranking of the Top 10 Most Affordable Master's in Human Services Online.