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A human services degree prepares students for a career assisting individuals, families, and communities. Human services graduates often work in nonprofit or government agencies — professions like probation officers earn an average yearly salary of $61,800, social workers earn about $58,380 per year, and substance abuse and mental health counselors earn $53,710 annually.

Most human services careers require an associate or bachelor’s degree, though advancement opportunities increase for master’s degree holders. A two-year associate degree program prepares students for entry-level positions. Completing the 120 credits needed for a bachelor’s in human services can take up to four years, and completing a master’s program can take an additional two years.

The average yearly tuition for a human services bachelor’s degree is $14,688, and $20,513 per year for a master’s degree.

How to Choose a Human Services Degree Program

Choose your area of study

Consider your personal and career goals, which will influence your program choice. Degree options include an Associate of Science in human services, a Bachelor of Arts in human services, a Bachelor of Arts in health and human services, and a Bachelor of Arts in human services with a concentration in your chosen area of study. Specializations include:

  • Child and family services
  • Substance abuse and mental health
  • Gerontology
  • Human services administration
  • Community organization and advocacy

Working professionals who want to advance their careers and already have an undergraduate degree may choose to pursue a master’s in human services degree. These programs typically focus on helping students develop the leadership skills necessary to run nonprofit organizations, for-profit social service providers, and government agencies.

Research schools and programs

As you research, focus on accredited institutions and programs. Accreditation is given to schools and programs that meet a quality standard set by the Department of Education, influencing your eligibility for funding and the ability to transfer credits. Many employers prefer applicants who graduate from accredited institutions and programs.

You can learn about the school or program by visiting its website or in person. Contact an admissions counselor or program representative to learn about student support and to get answers to specific questions. You can also follow the school and program on social media to get an idea of the school’s culture and environment.

Prepare for tests and applications

You can apply for a human services program through an institution’s online portal or application system. The application process varies by institution and program, but you can usually get help through an online chat system or by contacting an admissions counselor. Most human services programs do not have an interview or pre-exam process.

Prepare to submit your application by gathering your information. Standard application materials include:

  • Transcripts
  • SAT or ACT scores
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal essay or statement

Select your program

When it’s time to decide on your program, review your goals and needs again. Set your parameters for logistical needs, including full-time or part-time enrollment, in-person or online classes, and synchronous or asynchronous online coursework.

There are benefits to all options. For example, students who excel at self-directed study and often study outside of regular class hours might prefer asynchronous online coursework, whereas students who prefer real-time engagement and structured learning might benefit from in-person lectures or synchronous online coursework.

For additional guidance, contact an admissions counselor, who will review your choices and help you find the best fit.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

If you need funding assistance, you have options. Start by submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to be considered for federal and state financial aid. Many schools also use the results of this application to determine your eligibility for scholarships, grants, and loans.

If you are already working in the field, you can speak to your employer about the possibility of tuition reimbursement. Employee reimbursement programs are a part of some benefits packages and typically involve a work contract after graduation.

Best 50 Accredited Human Services Degree Programs

Best Human Services Degree Programs_2024 badge

Siena Heights University

New York City College of Technology

Rowan University

Western Washington University

Wingate University

Quincy University

Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College

George Washington University

Northeastern University

University of Alaska Anchorage

Loyola University Chicago

University of Scranton

University of Delaware

University of South Carolina Beaufort

Indian River State College

University of Oregon

CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Fisher College

University of Bridgeport

California State University Dominguez Hills

St. Joseph's University, New York

Empire State University

University of the Cumberlands

Washburn University

California State University, Fullerton

University of North Texas at Dallas

Old Dominion University

Northwest Indian College

East Central University

Southern Oregon University

Southwestern Assemblies of God University

University of North Georgia

Shorter University

Spelman College

University of Minnesota Morris

University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Sinte Gleska University

Calumet College of St. Joseph

Southeastern University

Metropolitan State University of Denver

Valley City State University

Keiser University

Ohio Christian University

University of Wisconsin Oshkosh

Metropolitan State University

Discover More Options

How we rank schools

This list covers associate and bachelor’s programs in human services. Graduates study the psychology of human behavior and learn ways to help people effectively deal with life’s challenges. Degrees offered include an Associate of Applied Science in human services, a Bachelor of Arts in human services leadership, and a Bachelor of Arts in health and human services. Students can choose from in-person, online, and hybrid learning formats.

All of the schools on this list are regionally accredited, and many of these options also have programmatic accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). Accreditation ensures that you will receive a high-quality education and be prepared for your future career.

We evaluated each program on the basis of flexibility, faculty, course strength, cost, and reputation. Then, we calculated the Intelligent Score for each program on a scale from 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out our ranking methodology.

What Can You Expect From a Human Services Degree Program?

Students in a human services degree program can expect to learn how to provide a variety of services to a diverse population. Depending on their area of focus, coursework can include:

  • Social, political, and historical trends
  • Communication strategies
  • Human services policies and advocacy for underserved communities

An associate degree in human services is a two-year program, while a bachelor’s degree can take up to four years of full-time study. A master’s degree in human services takes an additional two years.

Most human services degree programs are lecture-based and involve a research or capstone project. Because there are no lab or clinical components, this program lends itself to an online delivery method. Whether online or in-person, many human services programs utilize a virtual environment or cloud-based platform with access to virtual desktops and software applications.

Potential courses you’ll take in a human services degree program

  • Sociology of Social Problems. This course examines contemporary social problems such as ageism, race and ethnic relations, sexism, economic limitations, class and poverty, and environmental and population concerns.
  • Communication Skills for Human Service Professionals. Students learn how to communicate effectively, efficiently, and compassionately. This course focuses on establishing rapport, dealing with conflict, and articulating issues.
  • Public Policy and Advocacy. In this course, students examine the role of advocacy in influencing policy for various populations. Discussions focus on the legislative and private sector policy development processes within human services.
  • Case Management in Human Services. This course provides an overview of the roles and functions of a case manager through the lens of human services. Students learn to assess client needs, make referrals, document service delivery, and develop treatment plans for individuals and families.
  • Digital Fluency for Life in the Workplace. Students examine the impact of digital technology on social, personal, and diversity issues. The course offers an overview of digital fluency for the workplace and teaches the digital skills to enhance financial, academic, personal, and professional success.

Human Services Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to a human services degree program?

Most institutions accept applications through an online system that offers step-by-step instructions. Visit the school or program website, follow the prompts, and be prepared to submit an application fee with your completed application.

Most programs require official transcripts, letters of recommendation, test scores, and a personal essay or statement. The application process varies by school and program. Contact an admissions counselor for the most up-to-date information.

How much does a human services degree cost?

The yearly tuition for a bachelor in human services degree averages $14,688. Costs vary between online, private, and public institutions. The average tuition for a postgraduate degree increases to $20,513 per year.

Plan for additional costs, including housing, meals, transportation, course materials, and personal expenses. Grants, scholarships, and loans will decrease your total out-of-pocket expenses.

How long does it take to earn a human services degree?

A human services degree can take up to four years of full-time study to complete the required 120 credits of a bachelor’s degree program. If you choose to pursue a master’s degree, you can add up to two more years of study.

Many institutions offer a dual-track option that allows you to work on your bachelor’s and master’s curricula concurrently, shortening the completion time to five years.

Online programs can offer timeline flexibility, either shortening or extending the program. Students who continue to work full-time can work toward their degree when time allows. Those who excel at self-directed study can fast-track their course load.

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