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Best Master's Degrees in Human Services

Nov 05, 2021

What Is a Master's in Human Services Degree?

Master's degrees in human services focus on providing a range of programs to the community. This is a broad field that can lead to working directly with people or in program management in public and private settings. Students in this field may choose to focus on family and child services, substance abuse disorders, or services to the disabled or the elderly. Degrees in this field are typically awarded as a Master of Arts (MA) or a Master of Science (MS).

The Best Masters Degree Programs in Human Services

School Tuition* Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
1 Winona State University $8232 68% 59% 90% Yes Yes AP / ACE / NCCRS Credits
2 University of Baltimore $15404 78% 41% 97% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
3 University of Illinois at Springfield $11206 77% 54% 96% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
4 University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh $9027 76% 61% 75% Yes Yes AP Credits
5 St. Joseph's College-New York $19692 71% 62% 99% No Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
6 Concordia University-Saint Paul $8550 98% 51% 98% Yes Yes AP / ACE Credits
7 Minnesota State University-Mankato $9992 60% 82% 65% Yes Yes AP Credits
8 University of Massachusetts-Boston $18888 76% 49% 86% Yes Yes AP Credits
9 East Tennessee State University $10559 86% 50% 95% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
10 Albertus Magnus College $20704 83% 61% 99% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
11 University of Northwestern-St Paul $8982 92% 68% 100% Yes Yes AP / ACE / NCCRS Credits
12 Saint Leo University $7296 72% 49% 100% Yes Yes AP / ACE / NCCRS Credits
13 Mercer University $15722 74% 66% 100% Yes Yes AP Credits
14 McDaniel College $9280 92% 69% 100% No Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
15 Webster University $13500 57% 58% 96% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
16 Chestnut Hill College $17270 65% 56% 98% No Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

To get a more in-depth look at our school ranking methodology, please visit our ranking methodology page.

*Tuition information is based on published tuition and required fees, per data by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

Common Undergraduate Degrees for Human Services

The majority of master's in human services programs do not require specific undergraduate degrees. This allows students from a variety of backgrounds to pursue a new path or for established professionals to make a career change. Beneficial fields to pursue at the undergraduate level can include psychology, sociology, counseling, or human services. However, students with educational backgrounds in business, communications, or English may find their undergraduate studies beneficial in positions that require skills in administration and writing.

Admissions Requirements for Human Services Master's Programs

Universities offering master's degrees in human services have a number of admissions requirements that students must meet to be admitted. While these requirements vary by institution, the majority ask for a bachelor's degree along with official transcripts from all prior universities attended. Students must also complete an online application. Additional items may include:

  • Resume or CV which demonstrates education and work experience
  • Between 1-3 recommendations from supervisors and/or present or prior professors
  • Personal statement or statement of purpose explaining reasons for pursuing the master's
  • Interview with program coordinator or other faculty members

Applicants may need to pay a non-refundable application fee.

Why Should I Get a Human Services Master's Degree?

Human services master's degrees are ideal for individuals who are interested in helping others. Jobs in this field aim to improve the lives of a range of people in the community. Human services professionals also enjoy continued job growth as the population ages and more individuals address substance abuse problems. The potential job satisfaction from bettering others' situations combined with increased job availability makes it an attractive field. Additionally, as it is a diverse field, graduates can work in a variety of settings serving unique client populations.

How to Choose a Master's in Human Services Program

Students seeking a master's in human services degree may want to consider the following when choosing a program:

  • Mode of delivery: master's in human services degrees are offered both online and on-campus. While online degrees may offer more flexibility, on-campus programs provide opportunities to connect face-to-face with classmates and professors. Students can also access campus amenities such as the library, gym, and career and guidance services.
  • Location: students may wish to attend school in their state or relocate temporarily or permanently. Location affects the cost of tuition.
  • Cost: in-state students will pay significantly less than out-of-state students at most public universities. Private universities tend to charge the same for all students regardless of residency.

Human Services Master's Degree Courses

Master's degrees in human services require a combination of foundational and elective classes to complete the program. Foundational classes, also known as core classes, generally teach skills in theory, ethics, and research, while electives are more customizable. Students typically complete coursework which includes readings, written assignments, and/or class discussions. Courses may include quizzes or exams. Depending on the university a student attends, they may complete a thesis paper, capstone project, or practicum at the close of their degree program.

Human Services Foundational Courses

Foundational courses in human services master's degree programs help introduce students to the basic knowledge needed to progress in the field. Although in some fields, foundational classes are relatively similar across a range of university programs, in human services, core classes depend on the type of focus. Overall, students can expect to explore ethical and professional considerations in human services alongside the major issues in research. Generally, students will undertake a capstone, thesis, or practicum. Regardless of the option, this component closes out the program by allowing the student to demonstrate practical knowledge and skills. This may be through a written work in the capstone or thesis or supervised practice hours completed in a real-world setting.

Human Services Specialist & Elective Courses

Master's degrees in human services offer a wide range of electives, which largely depend on what is offered by the individual university. Students may have the option to choose from a specialization track or may wish to choose standalone elective classes to complete their degrees. Degree programs could offer electives that lean more toward counseling or direct services while others focus on management. Areas of study for master's in human services include the following:

  • Addictions
  • Human services administration
  • Families and couples
  • Leadership

Licensure & Certification in Human Services

Students who wish to provide private counseling to clients affected by substance abuse problems must be licensed in the state they wish to practice. The requirements for private practice licensing vary by state, but most generally call for a master's degree and clinical supervised hours totaling between 2,000 to 4,000 hours. Additionally, they typically need to pass a state exam. Continuing education must be completed every year to ensure professionals are up-to-date with current best practices.

While most certifications for other human services professionals aren't mandatory, optional certifications will increase professional knowledge and may help improve job prospects. Some options include Certified Clinical Supervisor offered by the International Certification & Reciprocity Consortium and Case Manager Certification by the Commission for Case Manager Certification.

Practicums and Internships in Human Services Master's Programs

Master's in human services programs may include mandatory or optional opportunities for a practicum or internship. These opportunities are generally supervised and allow students to demonstrate proficiency in techniques learned through their studies. This may relate to substance abuse counseling or administration. Typically, students must work with their advisor or program directory to locate an approved site. Students who are working while studying may choose to undertake these hours at their current workplace. Length of the internship or practicum varies by school, but it tends to be at least 100 hours.

Internships and practicums are important for students to gain real-world experience and gain confidence in the field. They may also allow for networking, expanding job possibilities after graduation.

Post-Graduate Options After Master's in Human Services

Students who complete a master's degree in human services may choose to enter the workforce after graduation or may instead pursue further education. Those who wish to conduct research or teach at the postsecondary level generally need a doctoral degree. Students can earn a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Human Services. PhDs in this field require students to take a number of theory classes before undertaking a dissertation. Dissertations are written works focusing on pieces of original research.

What Can I Do with a Human Services Master's Degree?

Human services master's degrees are versatile and prepare students for a range of careers in helping fields. Graduates may choose to pursue roles that focus on direct service provision, such as those in the social work field. There are also career options geared more toward program management and administration. Human services master's degree graduates can work in a variety of settings, including the government, non-profits, health services administration, community services, or the criminal justice system.

Some careers open to human services master's degree graduates include:

Job Outlook for a Master's in Human Services

The job outlook for positions suited for master's in human services graduates is strong. Social and community service managers will see a projected growth of 17% between 2019-2029, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). During this time, an estimated 29,800 jobs will be added across the country. Many of these positions will serve the elderly as the U.S. population ages.

Students interested in working as substance abuse counselors will see a much faster than average growth of 25% over the ten-year period between 2019-2029. A growth of this size will add 79,000 jobs to the economy. Due to research that suggests that drug offenders are better rehabilitated through substance abuse counseling than incarceration, programs will likely continue to be created that will provide employment for professionals in this field.

How to Become a Community Service Manager

Community service managers are in charge of making sure programs delivered to people in the community work. They analyze program data and plan and implement changes when needed. These professionals oversee the work of community service workers and social workers. They may be involved in the recruitment and hiring of these individuals as well.

To become a community service manager, interested individuals need at least a bachelor's degree in a field such as social work, counseling, or human services. However, some positions may require a master's degree. Most managers in this field have worked in human services as a social worker, substance abuse counselor, or a related position.

According to the BLS, as of May 2020, community service managers earned a yearly median salary of $69,600. The highest paid worked in the government and made around $87,720, while the lowest paid were found in community rehabilitation services and earned 61,450.

How to Become a Substance Abuse Counselor

Substance abuse counselors work with individuals who have addictions to drugs and/or alcohol. Job duties vary by the scope allowed by each state, but substance abuse counselors typically meet with clients to evaluate their situation and formulate a treatment plan. They provide individual and group counseling sessions to discuss coping mechanisms. They may use principles of behavior modification to help clients change their habits and thoughts surrounding drugs and alcohol. Substance abuse counselors typically work with nurses, social workers, psychiatrists, psychologists, and other members of the medical and rehabilitation team.

The credentials needed to become a substance abuse counselor vary by state. Some professionals may be able to provide addictions counseling with a high school diploma, while others may require a master's degree in counseling. Depending on the university, master's in human services students may have the option to focus on substance abuse counseling. Additionally, substance abuse counselors wishing to see clients in private practice must be licensed. Licensing requirements also vary by state.

Substance abuse counselors made an annual median income of $47,660 per BLS data from May 2020.

Master's in Human Services Program Financial Aid & Scholarship Resources

Student loans, grants, and scholarships are a few of the aid options students have available to them. Students enrolled in a master's in human service degree may need to avail of one or more or these to fund their education. In terms of loans, graduate students can choose to borrow from a private company or from the U.S. government. By filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), prospective borrowers are on their way to receiving federal funds for their education costs.

Grants are a form of aid that do not need to be repaid. Disadvantaged students are eligible for grant money, which can come from a variety of sources, including the university, or public or private institutions.

Students must apply for scholarships, which can often be competitive and specific to a field of study. The National Organization for Human Services (NOHS) awards one scholarship annually to a student pursuing a human services degree at the associate, bachelor's, or master's level. The David C. Maloney Scholarship is geared toward high achieving students, with applicants belonging to minority groups or with special needs given preference. Interested students must be a member of NOHS and submit a completed application. The application should include a 500-word personal essay, two letters of reference, official transcripts, and a resume. The award amount is unspecified.

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